Wife feared that West 'could murder'

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The Independent Online
Rosemary West warned her parents almost 25 years ago that her husband, Frederick, was capable of murder, Winchester Crown Court was told yesterday.

A dramatic account of a doorstep confrontation in 1971 was given by Daisy Letts, Mrs West's mother, on the second day of evidence in the trial.

She told the court that Mrs West, now 41, who denies 10 charges of murder, returned home briefly, apparently after she and Mr West had had a row.

Mr West then went to the Letts' house in Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and, as the family stood at the door he said: "Come along Rose, come on home."

Mrs Letts told the court: "She turned to her father. She just said 'You don't know him, you don't know him. There is nothing he would not do - even murder.' We just thought it was the words of a highly-strung girl. We did not take it seriously." However, despite the outburst, Mrs West returned to her husband.

Mr West, who was accused of 12 murders, including the 10 with which his widow is charged, was found dead in his prison cell in Birmingham on New Year's Day.

Mrs West is charged with the murders of 10 girls and young women whose remains were found at the Wests' home in 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, and at a flat in the city where they lived previously.

The prosecution alleges that seven of the victims were bound and gagged and kept alive for days while they were sexually abused. They were found dismembered and decapitated - five of them buried in the cellar at Cromwell Street.

Mrs West is also accused of murdering her eldest daughter, Heather West, as well as Charmaine West, the daughter of her husband's first wife, and Shirley Robinson, a lodger who was pregnant by Mr West.

Yesterday, frail and grey-haired, Mrs Letts, 76, did not glance at her daughter once as she gave evidence. Mrs West stared intently at her mother but showed no emotion.

Mrs Letts said her daughter met Mr West when she was 15 and working in a baker's shop. Her parents disliked him and at one stage had her put into care in an unsuccessful attempt to break up the relationship.

She said: "We just felt that he was not telling the truth. We did not take to him. He said that he had a hotel in Scotland and a caravan site in Scotland."

Shirley Giles, a former neighbour of the Wests at their previous home - 25 Midland Road, Gloucester - told the court that Rosemary West had a difficult relationship with Charmaine West, the daughter of Mr West's first wife, Rena.

Mrs Giles' daughter, Tracey, became friendly with Charmaine when the West family moved to Midland Road in 1970. One morning she sent the child down to borrow a pint of milk. Tracey burst in on a disturbing scene in the Wests' flat.

Her daughter, now Tracey Hammonds, told the court yesterday that Charmaine was standing on a chair with her hands tied behind her back with a leather belt and that Mrs West was holding a large wooden spoon with which she was apparently on the point of beating the seven-year-old girl.

Mrs Hammonds said that after they moved, they went back to Midland Road to see Charmaine and spoke to Mrs West. "I said 'Where is Charmaine?' and the lady there said 'She has gone to her mother's and bloody good riddance.' "

Earlier, Brian Leveson QC finished opening the case for the prosecution. He said that in every single set of remains found, there were bones missing, including many from the hands and feet and in seven cases, one or both kneecaps. The mutilation had been deliberate, he told the court.

"We know that the bodies were dismembered so that a smaller hole was all that was needed to make it easier to hide them in the ground. Each has already been mutilated.

"Fingers could well have been removed to render the task of identification more difficult. That again is mutilation. Why is one or both kneecaps missing from seven of the girls? The only answer we submit again is mutilation."

He said that the victims had clearly been sexually abused and that the masks and other restraining devices found with their remains "speak from the grave as to what had happened to them".

He told the jury of eight men and four women that Mrs West must have been involved in the murders with her husband and concluded: "Between 1971 and 1987, 10 dead bodies. All at Mrs West's home, one at Midland Road and nine at Cromwell Street.

"The Crown submits that on the evidence you can and will be sure that Rosemary Pauline West is guilty of murder in relation to each girl."

The case continues today.