The horrific secrets of 25 Cromwell Street

The Gloucester victims: The 10 women and girls Frederick and Rosemary West are alleged to have murdered


The disappearance of Heather West, Frederick and Rose West's eldest daughter, led ultimately to the Cromwell Street murder inquiry, Winchester Crown Court was told yesterday.

Brian Leveson QC, for the prosecution, told the court: "In June 1987, when she was 16 years old, she disappeared. Her parents did not report her missing. The reason is simple. They knew that she was dead because both had been involved in killing her.

"Rosemary West, this defendant, was interviewed by the police. She said that she had heard from Heather on the telephone. The authorities continued looking and on 24 February 1994, armed with a search warrant, they returned to 25, Cromwell Street."

He said that they unearthed Heather West's bones under a patio in the back garden two days later. The head had been severed and the bones had been chopped up to reduce the space in which the skeleton could be buried.

"The police continued digging and what they found was more terrible than words can express. Over the days which followed, the skeletal remains of eight other young women were found, each under the ground at the home of Mr and Mrs West."

Thus began a huge investigation for Gloucestershire Police which discovered that girls who came and went to 25, Cromwell Street over the years had been subjected to "violent and degrading sexual activity".

Mr Leveson said that it was not suggested that Mrs West had acted alone. As far as all 10 murders were concerned, she acted together with Frederick West, her husband, who was found dead in his prison cell on 1 January this year.

Mr Leveson told the jury that Rosemary Letts met Frederick West in 1969 when she was 15 and he was 27. They began a relationship and their daughter, Heather, was born in 1970 when they moved with Fred West's other two children to a ground floor flat at 25, Midland Road, Gloucester. In November that year, Mr West was sent to prison for 10 months for dishonesty. Mr Leveson said: "At the age of 17, it cannot have been easy for Rosemary West to cope with Charmaine, only 10 years younger, Anne Marie, who was six, and baby Heather in a small flat."

Mr Leveson said that it was impossible to precisely date when Charmaine vanished but when people asked about her whereabouts, they were told that she had gone to Scotland with her mother.

On 25 April, 1994, the police extended their search from Cromwell Street to Midland Road, where they discovered a skull and bones which were later identified by experts as being those of Charmaine.

In January 1972 Frederick West married Rosemary and later that year they moved to Cromwell Street, where they lived for the next 22 years. Mrs West had seven more children.

Mr Leveson said that the Wests picked up a 17-year-old girl called Caroline Owens who was hitchhiking to Tewkesbury in the autumn of 1972.

During the journey the Wests offered Miss Owens a job as their nanny and she accepted and moved in to Cromwell Street. After a few weeks Miss Owen left but in December 1972 the Wests once again picked her up when she was hitch-hiking. Mr Leveson said: "As they left Gloucester, Rosemary West put her arm around Caroline Owens and started talking of sexual matters. She tried to kiss Caroline on the mouth and began to touch her hair and fondle her breasts."

Mrs West then sexually assaulted Miss Owens and Mr West stopped the car. He then punched her in the face knocking her senseless and when she came round she was being tied up and gagged.

"Thus gagged she was driven back to Cromwell Street with Rosemary West holding her down and continuing the assault upon her. She was bundled indoors and taken to the first-floor front bedroom. The tapes were cut free. She was stripped naked and was laid on the bed, Mrs West touched her vaginal area, she struggled and her hands were once more tied up behind her back. She was subjected to a series of sexual indignities."

The following morning Miss Owens was released after promising not to tell what had happened but she reported it to the police and the Wests were arrested. They were subsequently charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and with indecent assault and on 12 January 1973 they were fined at Gloucester magistrates court after pleading guilty to both charges.

Mr Leveson then told the horrific story of how a series of girls were murdered after being held captive and sexually abused. The first victim was Lynda Gough, 19, from Gloucester.

Miss Gough, a seamstress, left home suddenly on 19 April, 1973. Her parents did not hear from her and began to make enquiries which led her mother to Cromwell Street, where Mrs West told her that Lynda had gone to Weston-Super-Mare.

"The Crown contend that she had been murdered and buried in what had been an inspection pit in a shed or garage. There she stayed for nearly 21 years until 7 March, 1994.

The body had been dismembered and many of the bones were missing. Near the skull was a ring mask of wound adhesive tape, two loose pieces of tape, a length of string and some knotted fabric.

Mr Leveson said: "The circle of masking tape found with the remains provides the clearest evidence that she was naked but gagged." Mr Leveson said that another five victims were buried in a circle in the cellar of 25, Cromwell Street, clockwise in the order of their deaths over the next 18 months.

The first victim was Carol Ann Cooper, who was 15 when she disappeared. In November 1973, on a visit to her grandmother in Worcester, she ended up in Cromwell Street. Her remains were found on 10, March, 1994. She had been decapitated and dismembered.

The next victim of the Wests was Lucy Partington, 21, a student at Exeter University. In December 1973, she went home to Cheltenham for Christmas and went to visit a school friend.

She left her house just before 10.15pm on 27 December to catch the last bus home. She was never seen again and more than 20 years were to pass before her remains were discovered under the cellar floor at 25, Cromwell Street. She had been decapitated and among the bones there was a kitchen knife.

The next victim was a 21-year-old Swiss Therese Siegenthaler, who was studying sociology in London.

She was last seen when she set out to hitch-hike across England. She was never seen again and on 5 March, 1994, her remains were unearthed in the cellar of the Wests' home.

Shirley Hubbard, 15, a girl from a broken home went missing in November, 1974. Her remains were found at Cromwell Street on 5 March, 1994.

The last of this group of victims was Juanita Mott, 18, a rebellious girl who came from a broken home in Gloucester.

During 1974 she used to visit 25 Cromwell Street, but later left to live with friends. Her remains were found in the cellar in March, 1994. Like the others, she had been decapitated and dismembered and there was a plastic- covered rope wrapped around her bones and a band of fabric around her skull.

Mr Leveson said that one victim of the Wests who survived sexual abuse was a woman referred to in court only as Miss A. In 1977, aged 15, she ran away from a Gloucester children's home and visited Cromwell Street.

Six weeks later she returned and was taken into a room where there were two naked girls. She was then undressed by Mrs West and sexually abused before Mr West had sexual intercourse with her.

Afterwards the Wests let her go and, said Mr Leveson, "obviously made an assessment that this girl would not go to the police". She only revealed the incident after the bodies were discovered.

Shirley Anne Robinson, 18, was a lodger and had an affair with Mr West by whom she became pregnant. She was last known to be alive on the 9 of May, 1978. Sixteen years later her remains were found in the back garden of 25 Cromwell Street. The body had been dismembered and decapitated and with the remains were those of a foetus of about eight months gestation.

Alison Chambers, 16, was a typical West victim. After her parents' marriage failed, she was taken into care and in January, 1979, was transferred to a children's home in Gloucester.

During that summer she was seen to visit 25 Cromwell Street on several occasions: on 28 February, 1994, her remains were found in the garden.

The Wests' last victim was their own eldest daughter, Heather, who disappeared in 1987, aged 16. After she disappeared, the Wests gave various explanations as to why she had vanished.

But Mr Leveson said: "Heather did not leave home. She was murdered and buried naked in the garden. None of her possessions were recovered, none of her clothes, none of her belongings - not a trace."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas