Teenage girls `were tied up and raped'

Rosemary West trial: Defendant `was like Jekyll and Hyde' as Miss A tells of assault on girls at Cromwell Street

WILL BENNETT

A harrowing account of a sex attack on two girls allegedly carried out by Rosemary and Frederick West at 25 Cromwell Street was given to Winchester Crown Court yesterday.

A woman identified only as Miss A wept as she told the court that she and another girl had been raped by Mr West and sexually assaulted by Mrs West after having their wrists and ankles bound with tape.

She said that during the attack Mrs West "was like Jekyll and Hyde. One moment she had an aggressive voice and then the next she was being all motherly again".

Miss A denied a suggestion from Richard Ferguson QC, defending Mrs West, that her account of the incident was a fantasy that she had invented. "I wish I had," she replied.

But she admitted that she had a history of psychiatric problems and that she had had hallucinations about Mr West.

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

The prosecution has alleged that seven of the victims were gagged with tape, tied up and kept alive while they were sexually abused. They were mutilated and dismembered before being buried, five of them in the cellar at Cromwell Street.

Miss A, 33, said that she was taken into care at the age of 13 and went for assessment at Russett House, Gloucester. While there, she became friendly with a girl who took her round to 25 Cromwell Street.

Mrs West was happy to talk to Miss A about the problems she was experiencing in care and the two formed a bond. Miss A said yesterday: "She was very nice. She was like a big sister-cum-young mum. Miss A was then transferred to Jordansbrook children's home in Gloucester but continued to visit Cromwell Street, going there eight or nine times.

On one visit, Mrs West answered the door dressed only in bra and pants. On another occasion, Mrs West made a sexual approach. Miss A said: "She came quite close and started kissing my neck and touching my breasts on the outside of my clothes."

Miss A told the court that in the summer of 1977, when she was 15, Mrs West answered the door wearing a see-through blouse with nothing underneath. They went upstairs and Mrs West led Miss A to a bedroom where Mr West was waiting with two young girls who were both naked. One was aged about 13 or 14 and the other, who had a tattoo on her arm, was 15 or 16.

Mrs West started undressing Miss A and then got undressed herself. She went over to the younger girl and started caressing her. Miss A said the girl "looked very distressed and frightened".

Miss A said that Mrs West then produced some brown parcel-type tape and Mr West taped the younger girl's hands and wrists together in front of her and bound her ankles so that her legs were apart.

The girl was then subjected to a sexual assault and Mr West had sexual intercourse with her. Throughout the attack the Wests were making sexual remarks and saying things such as "enjoy" and "it's good".

After they had finished with the girl, Mrs West pulled off the tape off harshly and was "like Jekyll and Hyde" alternating between aggression and gentleness, Miss A told the court. She went on: "During the sexual bits it was not a soft sexual voice like in passion. It was like `This is what we're going to do. This is how it's going to be.' Afterwards she was telling her `It's OK' in a very soft, gentle voice."

As the first girl sat and wept, Miss A said she realised "God, I'm next." She added: "I wanted to scream, I wanted to kick, I wanted to cry and I just felt numb," but she did nothing because she was frightened.

She said that Mrs West then tied her hands behind her back and bound her ankles with tape. Miss A was then subjected to several sexual assaults with a vibrator and what she believed to be a candle, which caused her pain. Mr West had intercourse with her.

Brian Leveson QC, for the prosecution, asked: "Was anything said?" Miss A replied: "Just enjoy, relax, and these sort of things all the time. Rose said to Fred `are you enjoying this'." Mrs West then pulled the tape off her rather brutally and Miss A said: "I felt horrible, dirty, and I ran to the bathroom and washed. I just wanted to scrub away."

After leaving the house, she said she did not know what to do. "I couldn't go to the police because there was a stigma because if you were in care you were bad. I couldn't go to my mum. I couldn't go to my dad. There was nobody." Later she stole a can of petrol from the children's home and planned to throw it through the letter-box of 25 Cromwell Street and set fire to it. But she lost her nerve.

Miss A told the court that she had asked a friend of hers to contact a newspaper after the Cromwell Street murder inquiry began last year and that she had signed a pounds 30,000 contract for her story.

Cross-examined by Mr Ferguson, Miss A admitted that there had been inconsistencies in her evidence. When police first approached her last year she denied going to Cromwell Street and in her original statement she told of the attack on the other girl but not the assault on herself. She agreed that there were differences in what she had said in statements and what she had told the court about the way her hands were tied and at what point in the attack she had gone to the toilet.

Miss A said that in 1977 she had run away to live with Graham Letts, Mrs West's brother, in Cheltenham, and that she had had a "crush on him". She said that when she went to Cromwell Street she did not know that he was Mrs West's brother.

Later, when she discovered that he had begun a relationship with someone else, she sent him a photograph of a baby and told him that it was his, which was untrue.

Miss A agreed that she had a history of psychiatric problems, had undergone electro-convulsive therapy and had twice attempted suicide. Since 1992, she had suffered hallucinations about "a man in black" who followed her around. She said the man was Mr West.

She denied claims by Mr Ferguson that she had made up the story of the sex attack at Cromwell Street. As she finished her evidence, she sobbed: "I know what happened. It is not a fantasy."

The trial continues today.

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