Young women tell of attacks by Fred West

Rosemary West trial: Witnesses say they recognised builder's photograph in media after becoming victims of stalking tactics
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The Independent Online
WILL BENNETT

Frederick West drove around alone following and sometimes assaulting girls and young women, Winchester Crown Court was told yesterday.

Seven women said they recognised Mr West as the man who had followed or attacked them on his own when his photograph appeared in the media after his arrest last year.

Another witness said that on several occasions he had seen Mr West sitting in a car with Mary Bastholm, who disappeared in Gloucester in 1968.

Mr West's widow Rosemary, 41, denies murdering 10 girls and young women whose remains were found at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester and at their previous home in the city. Her husband, who was charged with 12 murders, was found dead in his prison cell on 1 January. Mrs West has denied being involved in the murders.

Yesterday, a witness described as Mrs C said she was picked up by Mr West when she was hitch-hiking in Cheltenham in 1966. Shortly afterwards he turned off the main road.

Mrs C said: "He pulled into a lane. He grabbed my body. I can't remember the precise details but it was a sexual and physical attack ... I managed to get halfway out of the car and he had his arm around my throat dragging me back into the car."

She remained fully dressed and Mr West masturbated in front of her before taking her back to Cheltenham.

Janette Clarke told the court she had had twice been followed by a man in Gloucestershire in 1966. When shown a photograph of Mr West in court she said: "Oh God, that's the one."

Alison Clinton described being attacked by a man in 1968 when she was 13. She said: "He grabbed my wrist. I got free and ran to the nearest house." Twenty-six years later she recognised Mr West's face on television after his arrest.

Caroline Langman said in a statement that in 1972 when she was 16 she was repeatedly followed by a blue van as she cycled home from school in Gloucester and that she later received an obscene telephone call. When she saw Mr West's photograph last year she "went very cold and felt very strange".

Julie Coulson described in a statement how she was attacked in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, in 1975, aged 15. She said: "The man grabbed hold of my arm and tried to pull me into the car. I managed to get away and ran home." A statement from Theresa Davies was read out in which she said she was assaulted by a man who gave her a lift near Stroud, Gloucestershire, in 1975 and who last year she recognised as Mr West.

A woman referred to only as Mrs D said she had recognised Mr West on TV last year as the man who had masturbated in front of her and then assaulted her in Gloucester in 1975.

Vincent Oakes said he had seen Mr West in a car with Mary Bastholm who disappeared in Gloucester in January 1968 on four or five occasions. He knew Mary, who was a neighbour, but did not recognise Mr West until after his arrest.

The trial continues today.

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