'Garden of death' toll now five: Sensing devices reveal remains under concrete floor - More finds 'distinct possibility' - Search widens to other areas

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The Independent Online
THE SUSPECTED remains of two more people were found last night at a house in Gloucester where the bodies of three women have been discovered in the garden. Detective Superintendent John Bennett, who is leading the murder inquiry, said there was the 'distinct possibility' of further finds.

Police digging out the foundations of the house in Cromwell Street, Gloucester, said they found 'what we suspect is the remains of two further bodies'. Specialist teams excavating the 40ft by 15ft rear garden recovered the bodies of three young women last week. The first was found at the weekend and two more were uncovered on Tuesday.

Frederick West, 52, a builder, collapsed in court when he appeared on Thursday charged with their murders. Mr West, the father of 10 children from two marriages, is alleged to have murdered his daughter, Heather, who vanished seven years ago when she was 16. He is also charged with the murders of Shirley Ann Robinson, an 18- year-old pregnant lodger from Leicestershire, and an unidentified woman in her early twenties.

It is understood that the remains found yesterday were buried in the foundations of the three-storey, semi-detached house. Police located them using electronic scanning equipment designed to detect disturbances and large objects in the ground.

Det Supt Bennett said two families had been informed of the latest discoveries: 'We have contacted the relatives of two people who we believe may be able to help us. Both are from Gloucestershire. Only one of the two people has been officially reported to the police as missing.'

The officer refused to identify the two 'at the request of the families'. He gave no details of their age or sex, nor would he comment on why he believed more bodies would be found. But he dismissed reports of a possible tally of nine as 'pure speculation'.

He said: 'The remains were found in the cellar area of the house. We have reason to believe there may be other remains in the area but I will not explain that further.

'We are actively contemplating searching other areas elsewhere. We are not able at this stage to give any indications as to the number of bodies we are looking for. At the request of the families, we are unable to elaborate further on the question of identification at this time.

'Seismic radar equipment used to analyse the house gave a number of readings in the ground-floor area but the results of these are still being analysed. This equipment detectes disturbance of the ground and objects of size, including pipes, sewers, and debris.

'We will eventually search the entire ground floor of the house methodically but it is impossible to say at this time how long it will take.'

He said that the search would involve the complete excavation of the cellar. 'We will be making searches in two other areas of the county, which for operational reasons, we are not going to specify. These searches will be started when our search at Cromwell Street has progressed,' he added.

It has previously been suggested that the police are considering excavating the gardens of two other addresses, one in Gloucester and another nearby in Bishops Cleeve.

Last night police were still trying to trace Mr West's first wife, Catherine 'Rena' Costello and her younger daughter, Charmaine, who were last seen when the couple's marriage broke up in 1970.

'We still have no contact with Rena or Charmaine and we are actively pursuing this line of inquiry,' Det Supt Bennett said.

Strathclyde Police are assisting with efforts to trace Mrs Costello as she was thought to be living in Lanarkshire.

Det Supt Bennett emphasised that the finds would have to be confirmed by Professor Bernard Knight, the Home Office pathologist who last week worked to identify the three women's bodies that were found in the garden. The search was called off last night but was due to resume today. Prof Knight will tomorrowcarry out tests to try to identify the latest remains.

Mr West is due to make his third appearance before Gloucester magistrates tomorrow morning. Rosemary West, 40, his second wife, was interviewed and released on bail pending further inquiries.

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