West believed suicide would save Rosemary

Murderer carefully planned cell death, inquest told
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The mass-murderer Fred West carefully planned and carried out his suicide believing his death would mean his wife Rosemary would be set free.

Insight into the final months of West's life and the reasons behind his death in a prison cell on New Year's Day last year were given at an inquest in Birmingham yesterday.

The inquest, the closing legal chapter of West's infamous life and death, heard from his son, Stephen West, 23, who visited his father in prison in Birmingham on a number of occasions. He told the inquest that when West was transferred from a police cell in Gloucester to Winson Green prison, Birmingham, his mood changed: "He was better, relaxed, more settled, although he still cried a lot."

During a meeting in October, however, his father revealed he intended to kill himself. West told his son that he loved his wife Rosemary so much he was willing to give his life for her. Stephen West could not change his father's opinion that if he killed himself the authorities would drop the charges against Rosemary.

Stephen West said he passed details of his father's suicide plan to Detective Chief Superintendent John Bennett, who was involved in the West case.

West was returned to a 15-minute "suicide watch" on 1 August after he started talking about making his own funeral arrangements, but a psychiatric examination four days later declared him free from mental illness and no longer at risk. According to Stephen, West said he had "conned the psychiatrists".

His daughter, Anne-Marie Davis, said her father had told her a different story. She told the inquest that he never mentioned suicide, although he had said he would get out of prison "one way or another".

Mrs Davis said that in the months leading up to her father's death West had been crying a lot. In letters he told her that - contrary to what he was telling Stephen West - "Rosemary was the main person" and that "she was to blame". He also warned that others were involved.

The Birmingham coroner, Dr Richard Whittington, heard that West appeared to have carefully planned how he would take his own life.

As a category A prisoner he would not have been required to work. But he was allowed to repair prison shirts. The work gave him access to a needle and thread. Using fabric from prison laundry bags and blankets, West was able to construct a rope complete with sewn-in knots.

Stephen West said his father was a "practical man" and was "good at knots".

When West's body was found the ligature had been attached to a grille above the cell door. The doctor who discovered West's body said he did not believe West had been engaged in sexually deviant behaviour involving partial strangulation for heightened arousal when he died.

The inquest continues.