GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND — Rosemary West was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 10 young women and girls on November 22, 1995.
Young Rosemary, born in 1953, had a difficult and traumatizing childhood. Her father had been prone to violence, and according to several reports had sexually assaulted her in her teenage years. When she started dating Frederick West when she was 15, Rosemary’s father reportedly threatened to call social services on them, as Frederick was roughly 12 years her senior.
Despite her father’s objections, Rosemary moved in with Frederick and was already caring for two children — Frederick’s daughter from a previous relationship as well as a stepdaughter of Frederick’s, when she found out in 1970 that she and Frederick were going to have a baby of their own.
Soon after, Frederick was sent to jail for ten months on petty-theft charges, leaving Rosemary alone with all three children, at only 17 herself. At some point during Frederick’s sentence, Rosemary started telling people that seven-year-old Charmaine had gone to Scotland with her mother. Charmaine’s skull and bones were later discovered buried on the grounds of the West home.
In 1972, the Wests picked up a hitchhiking 17-year-old named Caroline Roberts. The sexual assault began by Rosemary, while Frederick was driving. After Frederick pulled over, he beat and bound the girl and she was taken to the West home. As prosecutor Leveson said, Roberts was then “subject to a series of sexual indignities.” They released Roberts the next day, making her promise not to tell on them — but of course she went to the police. They were arrested and charged with indecent assault and were fined after they both pleaded guilty to the charges.
The Wests continued down an even darker path after this first run-in with authorities. They continued to capture, abuse, and rape girls, although they had now learned not to let any of them go. They murdered and dismembered them when they were finished with them. Five of the bodies were buried in the Wests’ cellar, in a circular pattern, corresponding to the order in which they were dispatched. One of the slain women had been eight-months pregnant with Frederick’s baby.
Rosemary worked from time to time as a prostitute, usually with Frederick watching as she entertained clients. Even after she had married Frederick, her father came back time and again for sex, with Frederick’s approval. Rosemary ended up giving birth to eight children. Five of the children were Frederick’s. The other three children were the children of her prostitution clients. It’s not clear if any of those three could have been fathered by Rosemary’s abusive father.
Their last victim was their own daughter, Heather. Heather had disappeared in 1987, with the Wests telling friends that Heather had gone off to work at a holiday village. Heather’s murder was discovered when Frederick was arrested in 1992 and accused of raping another of their daughters, the 13-year-old, multiple times. Rosemary was also arrested on child-cruelty charges. At that point, the children were taken from the family and placed into foster care. When Heather was nowhere to be found, police began to search for her. They ended up finding her remains in the garden, along with the remains of other female victims. Heather’s body had been chopped up and her head severed. Eventually, 12 bodies would be found that were linked to the Wests, but two were determined to be only Frederick’s work. The home of Frederick and Rosemary West at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester became known as a “House of Horrors.”Even as Rosemary reportedly insisted her innocence, stating time and again that she knew nothing of the crimes and blaming them on Frederick, when she finally went on trial for ten murders in 1995, there was enough circumstantial evidence alone for the jury to unanimously convict her of the murders. Not even a taped interview by the police with Frederick in which he insisted that he was the sole killer would be enough to keep her from prison.
Frederick managed to escape trial by hanging himself in his jail cell with a bed sheet. On November 22, 1995, Rosemary was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, and abandoned her attempts to appeal the verdict in September 2001.
In an odd post-script to Rosemary’s story, in 2003 it was announced in the press that she was to wed Dave Glover, the bass player for rock group Slade, with whom she’d been corresponding for a year. The wedding was called off just a few days later.
This 1995 clip from BBC News gives us a glimpse into the trial of Rosemary West.
To learn more about Rosemary West, watch the “Lethal Lovers” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women on ID GO now!
Recommended For You:
Main photo: Rosemary West mug shot [Gloucester Police]