House of Death: Haunting silence at West's rural birthplace

THERE COULD hardly be a village quieter than Much Marcle, where Frederick West grew up.

Yesterday, its stillness seemed almost unnatural. Few signs of life were evident among the cluster of houses, the church and the pubs scattered along the B4024, half an hour out of Gloucester towards the border with the neighbouring county of Hereford and Worcester.

Here Frederick West's brother, Douglas, a farm labourer, lives with his wife, Christine, and his children, in a modern housing development on the edge of the village, barely a mile from fields marked with a wooden stake where police believe more bodies may be buried. The farmland is under 24-hour guard by police, who are likely to begin digging there later this week. But Moor Court Cottage, the slate-roofed house near the village where Frederick West was brought up, showed no signs of life.

The West family in the village are said to have sold their story to a tabloid newspaper, and now refuse to comment on their association with what seems likely to be Britain's largest murder inquiry.

But Mrs West, Frederick West's sister-in-law, described their situation earlier this week as 'a nightmare'. One villager, drinking at lunchtime in the Walwyn Arms at Much Marcle, said: 'It's worst for their children. They're being teased at school.'

The family have changed their telephone number and at one point asked police to move journalists away. But they are attempting to carry on life as normal. Mr West went to work as usual yesterday, and the village remains supportive.

(Photograph omitted)

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