Fred West film rights may be sold for estate

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The Independent Online

Arts Reporter

The Official Solicitor, Peter Harris, who commissioned the official biography of Fred West on behalf of the estate of the Gloucester builder, will have to consider whether to sell the tapes of the police interviews.

The estate also contains the valuable asset of the film rights in Fred West's handwritten autobiography, entitled I Was Loved By An Angel, which could be sold to Hollywood for a substantial sum.

Mr Harris is acting on behalf of West's children and is required to "maximise" profits of the dead man's estate. West hanged himself in Winson Green prison, Birmingham, on New Year's Day without making a will. Any money accruing from the estate will go to his wife, Rosemary - who has said she will not keep the money - and to his eight surviving children.

It is not clear whether Mr Harris intends to brave what would undoubtedly be a public outcry by selling the film rights or the 132 police tapes which are Rosemary West's property under inheritance laws.

However, according to statements he has made regarding his duty to make as much money from the estate as possible, he may feel obliged to do so.

One of the prime assets of the estate has been assumed to be West's autobiography, but publishers who were offered the chance to publish the "official" biography yesterday threw doubt on its value.

The promise of exclusive access to the 100-page memoir was a key selling point in the controversial deal brokered by Mr Harris, for which Hodder Headline agreed to pay a "six figure sum" - possibly about pounds 250,000 - two weeks ago.

But a publisher who turned down the chance to buy the biography, to be written by the former Times journalist Geoffrey Wansell, said: "One wasn't going to be allowed to see any of the material which Fred West had written, but I understood it to be very illiterate."

She said she asked the literary agency whether the manuscript dealt specifically with the alleged killings, and was told that it did not, but it "described the women he had known in his life - his mother, sisters and his first wife."

She had turned down the opportunity to bid also because she felt "uncomfortable" about the whole project. Her first reaction had been, she said: "Why on earth is the Official Solicitor trying to make a great deal of money out of this?"

Peter Grose, of the publishers Peter Grose Ltd, also expressed the opinion that I Was Loved By An Angel was unlikely to illuminate Fred West's life.

The publisher who is bringing out his own first-person book about the case, written by Stephen and Mae West, two of Fred's children, said: "I am astonished that the autobiography is being put forward as a valuable literary document. The letters by Fred West I have read are rambling and incoherent. You practically need an interpreter to understand them." The Gloucester builder had a very poor grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar, he added.

Another publisher who was offered the chance to bid said: "It was obviously going to be the official biography. I just didn't want to get involved."

Brian Masters, the author of a biography about the killer Dennis Nilsen, and who is now working on a book about the psychology of Fred West, said he felt unable to comment on the deal.

But Virginia Hill, who is also writing a book for the Daily Star, said that if she had known the Official Solicitor was seeking an author "I'd have applied myself". She added: "Jolly good luck to Geoffrey Wansell. I don't suppose they could have advertised in the Guardian - the response would have been absolutely overwhelming."