Prayer for builder accused of killings: Officers resume dig at 'house of death'

A PRAYER was said at Gloucester Cathedral yesterday for Frederick West, who is accused of murdering eight women, and his family.

Mr West was mentioned in prayer by the cathedral chaplain, the Rev Vivienne Faull, during an intercession service. She told the congregation to pray not only for the people found dead at 25 Cromwell Street but for the police investigating the killings and also for Mr West and his relatives. 'And we must think of those mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who may be waiting for news of a missing loved one.'

The Dean of Gloucester, the Very Rev Kenneth Jennings, said: 'It was not a special service. We always try to reflect major tragedies and catastrophes of this kind in our prayers wherever they may be in the world.'

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev David Bentley, has already announced that he will conduct a special service for the Cromwell Street victims when the police investigation is over.

Police began their 16th day of digging at 25 Cromwell Street yesterday, amid speculation that a 10th set of remains had been pinpointed at the house that has been Mr West's home for the past 22 years.

Eight police officers arrived at the so-called 'house of horror' at 8am. The hunt for bodies had been halted on Saturday to give men a long-overdue day off. They recommenced the painstaking task of searching for remains using a small mechanical digger in the cellar of the three-storey Edwardian house where five bodies have been found buried at depths of up to six feet. Police were also sifting through a pile of earth and paving stones removed from the patio.

When work is completed at Cromwell Street - possibly early next week - police are expected to begin searching a field at Much Marcle, 17 miles away, where it is thought that the body of Mr West's first wife, Catherine Costello, is buried. The cornfield lies half a mile from Moor Court Cottage where Mr West grew up.

Speculation about the progress of the inquiry continued over the weekend with claims that the bodies found at the house had been dismembered.

Although Chief Inspector Colin Handy, spokesman for Gloucestershire Police, categorically denied reports, rumours persist that the nine women victims were strangled.