Fred West film deal is condemned as sick

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The Independent Online
A deal to make a film of the life of the serial killer Frederick West was greeted with outrage last night by politicians and religious leaders, who condemned it as an insult to the relatives of his victims.

The Official Solicitor, Peter Harris, confirmed that he had entered into a contract with the Portman Entertainment Group which gives it non-documentary film, television, video and ancillary rights to archive material from the West estate.

West's elder brother Doug said yesterday that the plan was "sick" and would do nothing to help the relatives of the Cromwell Street victims to recover from the tragedy. Politicians urged the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, to intervene to stop the sale.

Much of the material given to Portman Entertainment, one of the oldest independent television production companies in Britain, was derived from the police inquiry which led to West being charged with 12 murders.

He hanged himself on New Year's Day two years ago before the trial could take place but his wife Rosemary was later convicted on 10 murder counts and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The material includes many hours of tape recordings with the police, copies of West's favourite pornographic films and pages of his memoirs written during his time in Winson Green prison before his death.

The Official Solicitor was appointed by the courts to look after the interests of the West children and has the responsibility of maximising the financial return on the estate. No details have been given about financial aspects of the film deal but it is believed to be in four figures, with extra payable if a film goes into production.

Portman Entertainment's past successes include acquiring the British rights to the Australian soap Home and Away, and in 1993 it bought Zenith Productions, makers of Inspector Morse.

The contract also includes an option agreement to An Evil Love, a biography of Frederick West by the former Fleet Street journalist Geoffrey Wansell.

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Rev David Bentley, said yesterday he "deplored" the news that a film could be made and Douglas French, Conservative MP for Gloucester, said: "This is another sordid example of commercial exploitation of tragic events which the residents of Gloucester would prefer to forget."

Alex Carlile, Liberal Democrat spokesman on justice and legal affairs, urged Sir Nicholas to step in to stop the sale of the film rights.

"It is deeply shocking that the Official Solicitor, who is a government official, is entering, in his public role, into a contract for the sale of material which is derived from one of the greatest public mischiefs of modern times," he said.

Doug West said: "The relatives of the victims have had enough, I have had enough. I was hoping to have a good New Year and put all this behind me. Now it will all come up again. It's a bit sick as far as I am concerned. Let's hope the idea drops off and the film never comes out."