House of Death: Residents cash in on street's fatal attraction: Neighbours trade with press as sightseers are drawn to newly notorious address
Tuesday 08 March 1994
Shain O'Connor, 27, an unemployed builder, is having T- shirts printed with the legend 'Freddy's Back: Nightmare on Cromwell Street.' He is planning to sell them for pounds 4.50 and to give the proceeds to charity.
Many of the houses in the street, which is fast becoming as notorious as Rillington Place, are divided into bedsits and some of their occupants offered coffees at 89p each and sandwiches for pounds 1. Others let the press into their cellars so they could estimate the size of the one running under No 25 - but for a fee.
In the square behind Cromwell Street, Ali Hussan, 20, had sold the right to his garden to a camera crew for pounds 100 and they filmed police digging Frederick West's back garden from a scaffold. Photographers were also charged pounds 25 a shot by Mr Hussan.
Some of the onlookers outside the Cromwell Street house had travelled from as far as Bristol and Monmouth to see the house at first hand.
Most expressed their revulsion, but they could not help watching with fascination the comings and goings of police and local people, who carefully laid bunches of daffodils and carnations behind the railings of the house in memory of the dead.
Kenneth Webb, 63, retired, who had lived near by 11 years ago, had come back to see what was happening. 'I probably saw the daughter in the past. I can't say I ever saw him,' he said.
Jean Brown, 59, who lives round the corner, appeared dismayed. 'I just can't believe it. Mr West was just an ordinary man, really. People are shocked. It's something you don't think will happen on your doorstep.'
The same feeling was dawning on residents of Midland Road, a third of a mile away.
'I own three houses in this road, all bedsitters,' Muriel Gough, 54, said. 'It's a quiet sort of area, the only trouble we had was car break-ins and burglaries. Now all of a sudden we've got all this worry. It's a shame.'
Out of the city centre at Bishop's Cleeve, the caravan site where Mr West lived in the 1970s, was quiet under the gloomy sky, with residents quietly mending cars or gossiping over thin wooden fences.
They pointed out the plots on which they believed Mr West had lived - one in the middle of the row of fixed residential caravans, which was occupied by a young couple, and another, which was surrounded by a well-kept garden and had a wagon wheel on its front wall.
'The only person who would have known for sure where he lived was the old site owner and we don't know where he is,' Brian West, 55, the warden, said.
The macabre discoveries appeared to be the only topic of conversation in the area as locals swapped anecdotes and brought each other up to date with what they had read in the newspapers and heard on the news.
But the shock and disbelief which had greeted the discovery of Heather West's body was also beginning to be replaced by weariness and cynicism among those who lived in Cromwell Street itself. At the sight of reporters, some residents closed their doors firmly.
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