Fred West film deal prompts legal review

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The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, announced last night that the Government would be reviewing the law governing the duties of the Official Solicitor.

The move follows controversy over a decision by Peter Harris, the Official Solicitor, to sell the rights to the serial killer Fred West's memoirs to a production company which plans to make a film about his life.

The Lord Chancellor's Department confirmed the decision to undertake the review resulted from the Official Solicitor entering into a film option agreement contract with the Portman Entertainment Group. This gives it non-documentary film, television, video and ancillary rights to archive material from West's estate.

The Official Solicitor has the responsibility of maximising the financial return on the estate, which included the sale of the former family home at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester. Although early speculation suggested that the review was unlikely to stop the sale, it comes as the Attorney General Sir Nicholas Lyell is under growing pressure from MPs to do just that.

The review was announced as it emerged that more revelations are to be published about the secret life of John West, the killer's "gentle giant" brother.

They will be in a new, final chapter of An Evil Love, Geoffrey Wansell's official biography of Fred West, a self-confessed murderer, which will be published in paperback in the spring.

John West, a retired dustman, hanged himself in the garage of his Gloucester home on 28 November, the day before a jury at Bristol Crown Court was to be sent out to consider allegations that he raped his niece Anne Marie West about 300 times over several years at the family's Gloucester home.

It was a suicide which mirrored that of his brother. Fred West hanged himself in his remand cell at Birmingham Prison on New Year's Day 1995, while awaiting trial on 12 charges of murder.

The new chapter in the paperback edition of the Fred West biography will disclose details of the brothers' close relationship and of John's relationship with Fred's wife, the jailed serial killer Rosemary. Mr Wansell has already said in the hardback edition of Fred West's life that the builder claimed John had been involved "a lot" in the kidnappings and killings at 25 Cromwell Street.

Fred West also claimed that it was his brother John and his first wife, Rena Costello, who killed his lover and family nanny Ann McFall, 18, and that for some years his second wife, Rosemary - now serving life for 10 murders - and his brother had had a sexual relationship.

At his trial John West denied a specimen rape charge involving Anne Marie West, and another single rape charge concerning a girl who cannot be named for legal reasons. It emerged during the trial that John West had admitted having had sex with Rosemary West on several occasions.

Mr Wansell was commissioned to write the biography of Fred West for the Official Solicitor. The bulk of the royalties will go to Fred West's estate for the benefit of the younger children of his family.

The author was given unprecedented access to personal belongings, documentary and video material concerning the prosecution of Fred West. He also attended John West's rape trial. But the process prevented him from making disclosures concerning John West while he was unconvicted and alive.

Mr Wansell yesterday declined to give details of his revelations concerning John West in the final 12,000-word chapter of the revised paperback biography. But he disclosed: "I shall be revealing the extent that John West knew about his brother's activities over the past years and how much of a partnership he shared with his brother."