As described in part one of this article, the term folie a deux is used to describe two people who encourage negative behavior in one another. These couples can be lovers, spouses, friends or any two closely associated people that bring out the worst in each other. The first article discussed the horrific atrocities of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady; this one will discuss the lives and crimes of another depraved example of a folie a deux: Frederick and Rosemary West. They raped, tortured and murdered young girls, burying the bodies in their home and garden. The most disturbing detail of their horrific crimes is that their own children were the victims of many of them.
Frederick Walter Stephen West was born on September 29, 1941, the eldest of seven siblings. He was of below average intelligence and did not excel in school. He displayed an inclination towards incestuous relations at a young age and often molested his younger sisters. At the age of 17, he was in a motorcycle accident and was comatose for one week. A metal plate was permanently inserted into his skull. By the time he was twenty, he was an established thief and child molester. In 1961, he was fined for shoplifting and accused of raping a 13-year-old neighbor, whom he impregnated.
In 1962, he married a teenage prostitute named Catherine Costello. At the time of the marriage, she was pregnant with another man’s child. Her daughter, Charmaine, was born in March of 1963. She soon conceived a second daughter named Ann Marie, who was born in 1964. This was about the same time that Fred hit a young boy with his car, killing him. Although she was a prostitute, Catherine was disgusted by her husband’s sexual demands and grew weary of his deviancy. She told him that she was taking her daughters and leaving, but he insisted that the children remain with him. Catherine went to Scotland in 1965 and left her daughters behind. She was terribly miserable without them and it would not be long before she returned to claim them.
Catherine returned in July of 1966 to demand custody of her children. She found that her husband was living with another woman, Anna McFall. Catherine went to the police and stated that her husband was a pervert who was unfit to raise children. Several months later, Anna announced that she was pregnant and requested that Fred divorce Catherine and marry her. Fred responded by killing and dismembering Anna and their unborn child. Her toes and fingers were saved as a souvenir and she was buried in a nearby field. At this point, Fred began molesting and sexually abusing Charmaine. In 1968, he met Rosemary Letts, a teenage prostitute who would become his partner in life and in crime.
Rosemary was born on November 29, 1953. It is plain to see why she turned out the way that she did. She had a family history of mental illness. Her father was schizophrenic and her mother was clinically depressed. It has been confirmed that her mother underwent electroshock therapy while carrying Rosemary. Frequent beatings and saturation with cold water were her parents’ favorite methods of discipline. She was a social pariah as an adolescent due to her frequent daydreaming spells and obesity. She was often the object of ridicule and mockery by her peers. As per her father’s demand, she was not allowed to date. She often fondled and molested her younger brother; sibling molestation seemed to be a habit that her and her husband shared. She became a prostitute and was raped by a client on one known occasion. It was around that time that she met Fred.
Less than a year after the two met, Fred was sentenced to a short term in prison. This did not bother Rosemary in the least and she happily awaited his release. While he was in prison, she cared for Charmaine and Ann Marie. In 1970, when she gave birth to her own daughter, Heather, she began resenting and abusing the other two children. Rosemary murdered Charmaine and lied to Ann Marie, telling her that her sister was picked up by their mother. Fred was released from prison on June 24th, just in time to bury Charmaine’s body beneath their home and cover her grave in concrete. Before burying her, he amputated her fingers, toes and kneecaps.
Catherine returned to investigate the disappearance of her eldest daughter in August 1971. Upon arriving at the house, Fred strangled her, removed her toes and fingers, dismembered her and buried her in a field.
In January 1972, Fred and Rosemary married. Fred would frequently invite men to the house and watch as they had sex with his wife. At their new home, the Wests put on a façade of normalcy, but they were covertly living a secret life of inconceivable depravity. The two would hire babysitters to watch their children, while they prowled the streets looking for young girls. Later that year, the couple had another baby, Mae. Fred and Rosemary decided to move to a larger home to accommodate their expanding family. Fred turned the cellar of their home into a torture chamber. There he raped and tortured his daughter, Ann Marie. When he was not sexually molesting her, he was hiring other men to do it for him while he watched. At one point, he impregnated his daughter. She had an abortion due to the fact that it was an extrauterine pregnancy and the fetus was developing inside the fallopian tube.
In December of that year, the couple attacked a young lady named Caroline Raine. She was a 16-year-old hitchhiker. They offered her a position as a live-in nanny. Raine was pregnant at the time and Fred frequently offered to perform an amateur abortion for her. When the couple tried to incorporate her into their perverse sexual activities, she was repulsed and attempted to leave. It was then that they abducted her. She was bound, raped and beaten senseless. As they attacked her, Fred warned her that if she did not cooperate, she would be “buried under the paving stones of Gloucester.” Luckily, a visitor called on the Wests that day and Raine screamed for help. The Wests were charged with rape and assault. Fred managed to convince the magistrate to waive the rape charges under the false pretence that Raine had consented to “rough sex.” The psychotic couple walked away with nothing more than a fine. At that point, Rosemary was pregnant with yet another unfortunate child. She gave birth to a daughter named Louise in November 1978. In September of 1979, Alison Chambers, 17, was tortured and killed.
When Ann Marie left home to live with a friend of hers, Fred began molesting Mae and Heather. He beat them horribly whenever they tried to resist him. In June 1980, the couple had a son, Barry. Two more children soon followed, Rosemary Jr. (1982) and Lucyanna (1983). Rosemary became increasingly abusive towards her children, beating them frequently for no reason.
No less than nine women fell victim to the Wests. One of these women was their 17-year-old daughter, Heather. The women were buried in the cellar; when the cellar reached its maximum capacity, the couple began burying their victims in the garden. They often threatened their other children, telling them that they would end up “buried under the patio … like Heather” if they misbehaved or defied them.
On August 2, 1992, police officers received an anonymous report that one of the West children was sexually abused by her father. An investigation of the West home at 25 Cromwell Street was immediately organized. At the home, police found a large collection of pornographic videotapes, some commercial and some homemade. They also found bondage paraphernalia, explicit photographs featuring their children and rubber-wear.
On August 6, 1992, the couple was taken into custody. On June 7, 1993, the couple was put on trial; Fred was charged with 3 counts of rape and one count of buggery. Rosemary was charged with aiding and abetting her husband and unlawful sexual intercourse. The youngest of their children were put into foster care and began divulging incriminating information about their parents. They told of how their parents threatened them, how they warned them that they would meet the same fate as their sister if they misbehaved. The reference to their dead sister prompted a more thorough investigation.
On February 25, 1994, Fred convinced to the murder of his eldest daughter, Heather. In addition to Heather’s remains, the skeletons of Shirley Robinson and Alison Chambers were also found. Shirley Robinson was six months pregnant at the time of her death. As per the advice of forensic psychologist, Paul Britton, police shifted their search from the garden to the house. Britton suggested that some of the bodies were buried in the garden because the Wests had run out of room in the house … he was correct in this assumption.
No sooner than police began searching the house did they find the remains of five more victims. Britton also suggested contacting any co-workers, employers or associates that they Wests may have had contact with. When they were unable to locate Catherine Costello and her daughter, Charmaine, Fred admitted to murdering them. Rosemary pretended to be shocked at her husband’s confessions, but the detectives knew that she had full knowledge of Fred’s deeds and possibly even participated in some of the crimes.
On January 1, 1995, Fred committed suicide via hanging while in prison, awaiting his trial. Rosemary was charged with ten counts of murder. The star witnesses for the prosecution included Caroline Raine and Ann Marie West. Despite her guise of innocence, she was convicted on all counts and sentenced to ten consecutive terms of life imprisonment. Her appeal was declined by Home Secretary Jack Straw on July 30, 1997. He declared that she was to remain in prison for the remainder of her life.
It seems that psychosis and mental illness may have run in both Fred and Rosemary’s families. Fred’s brother was jailed for child molestation and committed suicide in prison. Ann Marie attempted suicide, as did her brother Stephen. Both of Rosemary’s parents suffered from mental disorders. There is possibility that the couple was predisposed to such gruesome behavior. Whether it was a matter of genetics or environment, the two were severely disturbed and should be separated from society.
The following is a list of the known victims of Fred and Rosemary West and their ages at the time of their deaths: Anna McFall (18), Mary Bastholm (15), Charmaine West (8), Catherine West (27), Lynda Gough (19), Carol Ann Cooper (15), Lucy Partington (21), Therese Siegenthaler (21), Shirley Hubbard (15), Juanita Mott (18), Shirley Robinson (18), Alison Chambers (17) and Heather West (16).