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Fred and Rose West timeline: What happened and how were they caught?

Case of Gloucester serial killers among most lurid and disturbing in British criminal history

Indy Staff
Wednesday 15 September 2021 16:12 BST
Related: Fred West biographer in ‘no doubt’ he killed Mary Bastholm and suggests he may have confessed to his mother

The arrest of Gloucester serial killer Fred West triggered one of the biggest police investigations in British criminal history.

Known to have risen from a background littered with incidents of sexual and domestic violence, West, 52, was detained on 25 February 1994 along with his second wife Rose by detectives investigating the disappearance of their daughter, Heather, last seen alive aged 16 in 1987.

A day later, police using mini-diggers found Heather’s remains buried beneath a patio in the back garden of West’s home at 25 Cromwell Street in the West Country town, the residence that would later become known as the “House of Horrors”.

Within days, two more bodies were found in the garden. One was identified as a former lodger of the Wests, Shirley Ann Robinson, who was 18 and pregnant at the time of her disappearance. The other body was not immediately identified but was later found to be that of Alison Chambers.

Further grim discoveries were to follow.

On 5 March, police using specialist electronic sensing devices found two more sets of human remains in the cellar at Cromwell Street. A day later, a sixth body was found, also in the cellar area.

On 7 March, searchers announced the discovery of a seventh body, also in the cellar area. Police also announced plans to begin digging at other locations connected to the Wests.

Nine bodies were eventually discovered at Cromwell Street in total, while another was found at his old home in Midland Road and two more were discovered in Letterbox and Fingerpost fields at Kempley on the Gloucestershire border with Herefordshire.

Fred and Rose West (PA)

The huge investigation put an immense strain on the resources of the Gloucestershire constabulary.

By the time the digging was over in June 1994, the bill had run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and the Wests were found to have murdered at least 12 people between 1967 and 1987, often for their own sexual gratification.

Here’s a timeline of the inquiry’s most significant events.

23 February 1994 - Police obtain a warrant to search the rear garden at 25 Cromwell Street.

25 February - Fred and Rose West arrested on suspicion of murdering their daughter Heather West.

26 February - First body found in their garden, which ultimately proves to be that of Heather West.

27 February - Rose West released on police bail.

28 February - Fred West makes first court appearance, charged with murder of Heather West. Second and third bodies (Shirley Anne Robinson and Alison Chambers) are found in the garden.

3 March - Fred West collapses in court as he is charged with three murders.

5 March - Ground penetrating radar used for first time, giving positive readings. Fourth and fifth bodies (Therese Siegenthaler, Shirley Hubbard) discovered in the basement of the Wests’ house.

6 March - Sixth body (Lucy Partington) found in basement.

7 March - Bodies seven, eight and nine (Juanita Mott, Lynda Gough, Carole Ann Cooper) discovered in the cellar and bathroom areas of the property.

10 March - Fred West in court charged with five murders.

14 March - Through her solicitor, Rose West denies any involvement in the alleged murders.

29 March - Police start digging at Letterbox Field in Kempley.

10 April - Tenth body (Catherine West) discovered at Letterbox Field.

13 April - Dig starts at Fingerpost Field, Kempley.

15 April - Gloucester inquest formally identifies the nine victims of Cromwell Street.

20 April - Rose West re-arrested.

25 April - She makes her first court appearance, jointly charged with murder of Lynda Gough. Police begin search at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester.

28 April - Search ends at Cromwell Street after 55 days.

4 May - Eleventh body (Charmaine West) found under the kitchen floor at 25 Midland Road.

5 May - Fred West in court accused of ten murders.

6 May - Rose West in court accused on five joint murder charges with her husband.

26 May - Search ends at Midland Road after 32 days. Rose West charged with murder of her daughter, Heather.

7 June - Twelfth body (Anne McFall) and foetus found at Fingerpost field after 56 days of digging.

17 June - Fingerpost field search ends.

30 June - Fred and Rose West appear together for the first time at Gloucester Magistrate’s Court.

3 July - Fred West charged with murder of Anne McFall.

27 July - Gloucester Coroner’s inquest formally identifies remains of Catherine West, Charmaine West and Anne McFall.

3 August - Fred West dismisses his solicitor, Howard Ogden, and appoints Bristol solicitors Bobbetts Mackan in his place.

2 November - All Souls Day service in Gloucester Cathedral for those affected by the events at Cromwell Street.

3 November - Tony Miles, a Bristol solicitor, confirms that Charles Barton QC and Martin Steen have withdrawn from the Fred West defence team. The junior barrister Martin Picton is appointed.

13 December - Rodney Klevan QC is confirmed as the leader of Fred West’s defence team.

1 January 1995 - Fred West found hanged in cell while detained on remand at HM Prison Birmingham.

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