'He's dead if I get my hands on him'

The Rosemary West trial: Mother's outburst after police break news of husband's murder confession
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The moment that Rosemary West was told that her husband Frederick had confessed to murdering their daughter Heather was revealed in a tape-recording played at Winchester Crown Court yesterday.

"What, so you know where she is?" replied Mrs West during the taped interview with detectives after she had been arrested on suspicion of murdering Heather who disappeared in 1987, aged 16.

Later, she was asked how she felt about Mr West now that "he has slain your eldest daughter". Mrs West replied: "Put it this way, he's a dead man if I ever get my hands on him."

The court was told there was a rumour in the West family that Heather was buried under the patio of their home, 25 Crom-well Street, Gloucester. Her remains were found two days after police began excavations.

Mrs West, 41, denies murdering the nine victims found at Cromwell Street, and a tenth discovered at the couple's former home in Gloucester. Mr West, who was charged with 12 murders, was found dead in his prison cell on 1 January.

Yesterday, the jury was played tapes of interviews conducted by Detective Sergeant Terence Onions and other officers after police went to Cromwell Street to search for Heather in February last year. The tapes revealed that police had become suspicious after failing to find any trace of her during an earlier inquiry into child abuse allegations.

In an angry first interview with detectives, Mrs West agreed that Heather had left home in 1987 and added: "We had had problems with her at school and things like that."

Mrs West said that she and Heather did not get on but she had given her pounds 600 before she left home. She went out shopping one day and when she returned her daughter had gone. She continued: "I had a problem with her because I knew what she was, and that is what made it really tricky because I had to think of the other children as well."

Det Sgt Onions asked: "And what was she then?"

Mrs West replied: "She was a lesbian as far as I knew."

She said she had not seen or heard from Heather since she left home but she thought her daughter had told her father where she was going.

Mrs West said: "I know he had several phone calls off her, but she didn't want to speak to me."

Det Sgt Onions asked: "Why didn't you report it to the police?" Mrs West replied: "So I have to snitch on my own daughter now, do I?"

Det Sgt Onions said: "The children have been saying that she is under the patio. Have you heard that?"

Mrs West replied: "Anna [Anne Marie Davis, her stepdaughter] said something."

Later, Det Sgt Onions said: "I've got a very strong feeling that she's been dead a long, long time and whether she is under the patio or not is neither here nor there, but she is somewhere, dust or bones, isn't she?"

Mrs West replied: "Oh, you're lovely, aren't you?" She said Mr West had told her that he had seen Heather in Bristol and Birmingham and she had no reason to disbelieve him.

In an interview on 25 February last year, the day after police started digging at Cromwell Street, Det Sgt Onions told Mrs West that her husband had confessed to murdering Heather, adding: "He told us where she is."

Mrs West said: "So she's dead, is that right?"

Det Sgt Onions: "I'm telling you, Fred has confessed to murdering Heather. That automatically implicates you."

Mrs West denied that she was involved.

Det Sgt Onions said: "Are you totally surprised about what happened today or have you known about it for some time? Or have you known about it since last night?" Mrs West replied: "Totally surprised."

The detective told her: "You are the wife of the person who has confessed to killing her. You live in the house on whose land the body is allegedly lying at this very moment and so you know.

"Fred has described to us the steps taken and what has happened to Heather and that didn't take minutes, it took somewhat longer and you would have been in the house in between times or at the time things were happening. Either you are blind, extremely naive or totally trusting of your husband or you are a liar.

"He has told everybody that has been near him today, his solicitor, the cell guard when he was initially brought in, Hazel Savage [a detective] at the house, everybody who were there on tape.

"He's gone into it in depth so he's told everybody so don't worry about telling the truth now because it's out and I still think you are hiding quite a lot."

Earlier Sgt Peter Maunder, a police search expert, told the court that Mr West had returned to 25 Cromwell Street four times after his arrest to tell officers where to look for human remains. On one occasion he went with them to the cellar where five victims were subsequently found.

The trial continues today.

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