Murder case couple 'driven by sex'

The West trial: Woman accused of 10 killings had 'open marriage', say Cromwell Street boarders
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The Independent Online
WILL BENNETT

Sex dominated the household at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, with Rosemary and Frederick West admitting that they had an open marriage and both of them sleeping with lodgers, Winchester Crown Court was told yesterday.

Shirley Robinson, a lodger whose remains were later found with those of a foetus at the house in Gloucester, became pregnant by Mr West. Mrs West had sex with two men on the first night they moved into a bedsitting room there.

"They used to embarrass me quite a lot by talking about their open marriage or sex," said Elizabeth Brewer, a lodger in Cromwell Street in 1977.

The court also heard that Lynda Gough, whose remains were found in the cellar, was a regular visitor to the house where she had affairs with several lodgers, and that Juanita Mott, another victim, rented a room there.

Mrs West, 41, denies murdering 10 girls and young women whose remains were found at Cromwell Street and at the Wests' previous home in Gloucester. Mr West, who was charged with 12 murders, was found dead in his prison cell on 1 January this year.

Mrs Brewer told the court yesterday that she moved into a room at 25 Cromwell Street when she was 17 and discovered that Mrs West had what she called her "special room" which was always kept locked.

She said: "I would constantly be informed about their open marriage and that Rose had her boyfriends and Fred had his girlfriends. They were quite happy to have an open marriage.

"There would be times when they mentioned that they knew about people's personal sex lives and Mrs West said that when she retired she was going to spend her whole retirement engaged in sexual activity."

Mrs Brewer said that both Shirley Robinson, 16, and Mrs West were pregnant at the time and that one day she saw Shirley and Mr West kissing and cuddling outside the girl's room. She became friendly with Shirley who asked her if she could stay in Mrs Brewer's room. She told the court: "She needed to keep away from Mr and Mrs West." She said "there was a breakdown in communication" between Shirley and the couple and that Mr West told her that Shirley was becoming too possessive towards him. Shirley vanished in May 1978.

Linda Greening, a neighbour who lived opposite 25 Cromwell Street, told the court she was pregnant at the same time as Mrs West and Shirley and was invited over for a cup of tea. She said she was shocked when Mrs West told her that Mr West was the father of Shirley's unborn child and that he later came in and confirmed this. She added that Mrs West did not seem upset by this.

Earlier, Benjamin Stanniland, another former lodger at the house, recalled how Mrs West got into bed with him and a friend called Alan Davies on their first night at the house. This was the only time that they had sex with her. "I can remember that in the morning we were a bit dubious about going downstairs, but Fred made it obvious that it was OK," he said.

Mr Stanniland told the court that he met Lynda Gough in a cafe in Gloucester and brought her back to Cromwell Street where she became a regular visitor over the next six to seven months. Their affair ended, but she then had sexual relationships with other lodgers there. Lynda did some babysitting for the Wests, but eventually he noticed she was no longer going to Cromwell Street.

He said that he also remembered Caroline Owens, who was the victim of a sex attack by the Wests for which they were subsequently fined. She was their former nanny and was held captive by the couple at the house overnight.

Brian Leveson QC, prosecuting, asked: "Did you see her after she had stopped living at the house?"

Mr Stanniland replied: "Only on one occasion. I went downstairs to bang on Mrs West's door to borrow the hoover to do some cleaning up and on opening the door she was there." He said Mrs West was in the room with her and "the reaction was shock and that I should not have been there, it was the wrong time to knock on the door".

Cross-examined by Richard Ferguson QC, defending Mrs West, he said Mrs Owens was not crying and that he did not notice any bruising on her face.

Mr Stanniland said that during the period of about 14 months he spent at Cromwell Street in 1972-73, Gloucestershire police had raided the house looking for drugs. This was confirmed by David Evans, another former tenant, who was convicted of possessing cannabis. He said drug squad officers came to the house three times during this period.

Asked about Mrs West, Mr Evans said: "She was the landlady but she would come upstairs now and again because she liked sex." He said they had sexual intercourse once. He said he had also had a sexual relationship with Lynda Gough for a time, but she suddenly stopped visiting the house. Mr Evans said: "Rose came up one morning and said that Lynda Gough had hit her daughter while babysitting and that she would not be coming back."

The last time he saw Lynda was when she had an argument with Alan Davies, another lodger, and it was after that that Mrs West told him that she had been sacked as the babysitter.

Another victim found in the cellar who had a direct link to 25 Cromwell Street was Juanita Mott, who disappeared while staying with friends at Newent, Gloucestershire, in April 1975.

Timothy Davies, who was a boyfriend of Juanita's, told the court that about 1974-75 she moved to 25 Cromwell Street as a lodger for a time. He used to pick her up and drop her off there but never went inside.

The jury was also read records from Gloucester Royal Hospital yesterday. The first showed that Mr West was admitted to the casualty unit at 25 minutes past midnight on 3 January 1974, with a severe laceration to his right hand.

This was a week after Lucy Partington, whose remains were found in the Cromwell Street cellar, disappeared in Cheltenham. A knife was found with her bones in the grave.

The second showed that Mrs West was admitted to the hospital on 13 August 1974 with a cut to her right hand. She spent two days in hospital and underwent surgery.

When she arrived at the casualty department she gave the reason for the wound as "playing around with knives". When she got to the ward she said that it was caused by "cutting wood".

The jurors will visit 25 Cromwell Street next Thursday. The judge, Mr Justice Mantell, said that he had reservations about the trip but granted their request to look round the house and garden.

The case continues today.

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