Family tale held truth about Wests' daughter

West trial: Rosemary was 'not worried' by stories of a body under the patio
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The Independent Online

A family story that Heather West was buried under the patio at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, emerged during a row between the West children, Rosemary West told Winchester Crown Court yesterday.

Mrs West admitted that she had been appalled by the story which was blurted out by Anne Marie Davis, her stepdaughter, and then passed on to her by two of her children.

Mrs West also said yesterday that she might "pay dearly" for being involved with her husband Frederick in a sexual assault on a woman more than 20 years ago. She insisted that her memory of the attack on Caroline Owens in 1972, for which the Wests were subsequently convicted and fined, was unclear.

Mrs West, 41, is pleading not guilty to the murders of 10 girls and young women whose remains were found at 25 Cromwell Street and at the Wests' previous home in Gloucester. Mr West, who was charged with 12 murders, was found dead in his prison cell on 1 January this year.

Under cross-examination by Brian Leveson QC, prosecuting yesterday, Mrs West told the court: "I would like to say that there was an incident with Caroline Owens. It was a mistake in my life, obviously now I tremendously regret it. I am going to pay dearly for this one mistake I made in my life. But the fact is ... I am on trial for murder, not indecent assault."

On her third and final day in the witness box Mrs West told the court that her memory of the attack during which Mrs Owens was stripped, bound, gagged and sexually assaulted was "practically non-existent".

"It was something that I wanted to forget and put completely out of my mind. It was very traumatic. As far as I was concerned it was something that had been dealt with in court." Asked if she recalled gagging Mrs Owens with tape, Mrs West replied "No sir, I was too terrified at the time."

Mr Leveson said: "Let me make it abundantly clear. This was the start of your career sexually abusing girls wasn't it?" Mrs West replied: "No, sir."

Mrs West denied knowing Lynda Gough, whose remains were found at 25 Cromwell Street, and said that it was not she and Mr West that Lynda's mother had spoken to when she said she went to 25 Cromwell Street to look for her daughter.

Mrs West told the court that she had never seen any of the five girls whose remains were found in the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street and who the prosecution alleges were bound, gagged and kept alive while they were sexually abused.

Mr Leveson asked her if she would like to see a photograph of the gag found with the remains of Lucy Partington, one of the five. Mrs West replied "No thank you, I have seen enough of the horror thank you." Mr Leveson said: "You were involved in her death as in the others." Mrs West replied: "I didn't kill anyone." She broke down and wept as Mr Leveson asked her why she had at first denied that she knew Shirley Robinson, a lodger at 25 Cromwell Street whose remains were found in the garden with those of an unborn child.

Mr Leveson said: "You knew perfectly well who the police were talking about." Mrs West replied "No sir. I was very shocked, I was in a state at the time." She said that she knew Shirley was pregnant but was not aware that Mr West was the father. Mr Leveson said that her husband had taunted Mrs West, saying that he had made another woman pregnant and that that would have been "extremely humiliating". He said: "This time - no sexual abuse, no binding, no mask, just kill. You were fully involved in that weren't you?" Mrs West replied: "No sir. The girl was pregnant sir, I could not kill a baby. I would not kill anybody. It took a really sick mind to do something like that."

Asked about evidence that she had given conflicting explanations for her daughter Heather's disappearance, Mrs West said: "It's all very well for someone to say I said this or I said that. I am the one in the spotlight. Fred West is dead and I have got to take responsibility for what he has done."

Mr Leveson said: "What is happening, Mrs West, is that it is not everybody dumping everything on you it is you dumping everything on Fred West." Mrs West replied: "Fred is responsible for these murders. I wasn't mixed up in murder, especially of my own daughter."

Mr Leveson asked her if she had ever gone to the police or any other authorities after Heather's disappearance. Mrs West said she had not, but she had kept an eye out for her in Gloucester. Mr Leveson suggested that in doing so she was hoping that Heather's murder had all been a "bad dream" and that her daughter might still be alive. Mrs West replied: "No, sir."

She also said that the remark about Heather being buried under the patio did not worry her because it was said in a fit of anger by children.

The trial continues today.