Step-daughter Charmaine was first to die

Will Bennett
Wednesday 22 November 1995 00:02 GMT


Heather West, Charmaine West and Shirley Robinson had three things in common. They were all - for different reasons - part of the West household, they did not get on with Rosemary West and they all suffered the same fate.

Yesterday, Rosemary was convicted of murdering all of them. The remains of Heather and Shirley were found at the Wests' home, 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, while Charmaine's skeleton was dug up at their former home in the city, 25 Midland Road.

Heather was her daughter, Charmaine was her husband Fred's step-daughter from his first marriage and Shirley was a drifter from a broken home who went to live at 25 Cromwell Street.

Charmaine was the first to die, disappearing at the age of eight in 1971. She was the daughter of Rena West - West's first wife, whom he later admitted murdering - by another man.

When West met Rosemary in 1969 he was looking after Charmaine. The couple went to live at 25 Midland Road in 1970 and the girl went to live with them as did Anne Marie, Rena's daughter by West.

In November 1970, Fred West was arrested for dishonesty offences and later sent to prison for 10 months. Rosemary West was only 17 and was left to look after Rena's two daughters and Heather, her first child by West, who was then a baby.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court was told by Brian Leveson QC, for the prosecution, that "there is clear evidence that Charmaine was greatly disliked by Rosemary West" because she loathed the child's rebellious nature.

One day Tracey Giles, Charmaine's best friend who lived next door, was sent by her mother to the Wests' to borrow a pint of milk. She walked in and saw Charmaine standing on a chair with her hands tied behind her back with a belt.

Rosemary West was holding a large wooden spoon and looked as though she was about to hit her. When Tracey's mother later asked her about it she said that Charmaine had been naughty and had to be punished.

Charmaine disappeared about June 1971 and the prosecution alleged that Fred West was still in prison when she vanished. Anne Marie Davis, Charmaine's half-sister, told the court that one day she came home from school and was told by Rosemary West that Charmaine had gone to live with her mother. She said that at the time her father was still in prison and that she and Rosemary West went to visit him there after Charmaine had vanished.

When Tracey Giles later asked where Charmaine was, Rosemary West said: "Gone to live with her mother and bloody good riddance." In fact she was buried at 25 Midland Road.

Shirley Robinson was a lodger at 25 Cromwell Street when she disappeared aged 18 in May 1978. She was pregnant by Fred West and when her remains were found at the house last year the bones of an unborn child were with them.

She came from a broken home and moved into Cromwell Street about April 1977. She began a sexual relationship with Fred West and the court was also told that she had lesbian sex with Rosemary West.

She flaunted her relationship with West and they were often to be seen hugging and kissing. Mr Leveson told the jury that Rosemary West's initial acceptance of this turned to jealousy and there was tension in the house.

Elizabeth Brewer, a lodger at Cromwell Street, said that Shirley was frightened of the Wests and that one day she returned to find Shirley had vanished. She told the court that Rosemary West was in the house that day and that Fred West and the lodgers were probably out at work.

She said that the next day the Wests seemed very happy and told her that Shirley had gone to live with relatives in Germany.

The remains of Heather, the Wests' oldest daughter, were the first to be found at Cromwell Street last year. She was 16 when she disappeared in 1987 and police later became suspicious when they could find no trace of her. Mr Leveson said: "It is quite clear that there were growing frictions between the Wests and their oldest daughter. This may have been the normal problems of adolescence, it may have been more serious problems."

Rosemary West said in evidence that her relations with Heather were not good but that she had loved the eldest of her eight children and knew nothing about her killing.

The Wests gave various explanations for Heather's disappearance after she vanished. They told one person that she had gone to Wales with a lesbian and another that she had left home after assaulting the younger children when she was baby-sitting.

Rosemary West said that she had spoken to Heather on the telephone after she left home. But when the police went to 25 Cromwell Street with a search warrant in February last year they found Heather's remains buried in the garden. She had been dismembered, like Shirley Robinson.

The victims: All of them had fallen foul of Mrs West and all three suffered a terrible fate

Charmaine West, aged 8.

The daughter of Rena, Frederick West's first wife, and another man believed to be an Asian bus driver. In and out of care after her mother and West split up. A rebellious, strong-willed child who was disliked by Rosemary West.

Last seen in June 1971 while West may still have been in prison. Rosemary said that she had gone to live with her mother. Her remains were found at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester, the Wests' former home, on 4 May 1994.

Shirley Robinson, aged 18.

Born in Leicestershire, she was the daughter of a British father and a German mother. Like many of the Wests' victims she was from a broken home. She was eight months pregnant by Fred West when she disappeared in May 1978.

Rosemary became jealous because West was so fond of Shirley and tension rose. She was never reported missing, and friends were told she had gone to Germany to visit relatives. A foetus was found alongside her remains in the Cromwell Street garden.

Heather West, aged 16.

The victim who began the murder inquiry. She was Frederick and Rosemary West's eldest daughter. There was growing friction between Heather and her parents. She was last seen in June 1987. Her parents' explanations included a claim that she had eloped with a lesbian. Police became suspicious when they could find no trace of her.

Detectives arrived at 25 Cromwell Street with a warrant to search for her remains on 24 February 1994.

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