Born in November 1953 in Devon, England, Rose or Rosemary Letts was not an intelligent child. She had certain peculiar traits even as a child which indicated that she was intellectually below average. So, she was not a great performer at school and was also a bit overweight, which made other children make rude fun of her. However, she had very attractive facial features complete with lusturous brown hair, big brown eyes and a clear complexion. However, her teasers did not get away by teasing her. She was a bad tempered and an aggressive girl. So, the one who teased her ran the risk of being chased down and beaten up badly.
When Rose entered teenage, she was different from other girls in terms of sexual maturity. She would walk around naked in the house after the bath and on a few occasions was also found fondling her younger brother sexually. Friendship with guys was barred by her father’s rules, and her own temperament and physical weight prevented the boys of her age from being interested in her. So, she chose older men of the village for sex.
In 1969, when, fed up of her husband’s unreasonable and violent behaviour, Rose’s mother, Daisy Letts, left him and went to live with her married daughter, Glenys and her husband, she took Rose along. Rose was scared of her father and obeyed him. Now, when he was not around she spent a lot of time outside at night in the company of men much older than she. Rose’s brother-in-law Jim Tyler claimed that she tried to seduce him, too. However, in 1969 itself, Rose returned to live with her father. Rose and Fred came close around this time while Rose was still a teenager, and finally, despite strong disapproval from her father, at the age of 16 Rose moved in with Fred to take care of him and his daughters, Charmaine and Anna Marie.
Rose got pregnant with Fred’s child and gave birth to Heather in 1970. Now, she had three daughters to take care of and Fred was in prison for some petty offence. Money trouble added to the misery. Rose also resented having to take care of Rena’s children, and did not treat them well. Then in 1971, Charmaine went missing, and Rose told Anna Marie that Rena had come for her, which was not true. Apparently, Rose lost her temper, and in beating Charmaine, as she regularly did, she went a little too far this time. Since Fred was imprisoned at this point of time, his participation was limited to burying Charmaine’s body under the floor of the kitchen at their Midland Road house, where it remained for the next 20 years. Before burying Charmaine, Fred cut off her fingers, toes and kneecaps.
Gloucester’s large population of West Indians brought extra money for Fred and Rose. Rose frequently invited West Indian men over to their place at Midland Road to have sex with her for money or for fun. Fred was a willing participant, who enjoyed watching the show through a peehole. For Fred, normal sex had no charm. To get him really involved in the act he wanted sodomy, bondage, vibrators, sadism or lesbianism. He also clicked some revealing pictures of Rose and ran them in his print advertisements in magazines for “swingers”.
Charmaine’s murder created a problem for the couple. Rena came looking for her daughter and also got in touch with Fred’s father, Walter West, in order to get some clue as to what had happened to her daughter. That proved futile.
There was no choice for Fred but to kill Rena. He strangled her at his Mildand Road house, dismembered her body removing her fingers and toes in line with his dismemberment ritual, and buried the parts of her body in the same area where he had buried the remains of Anna McFall. Rena’s fingers and toes were not buried with the rest of her.
Fred and Rose married in June 1972 when Rose was carrying Fred’s child. She gave birth to another daughter in June 1972, and they named her Mae West. The couple felt that they needed a better and bigger house to accommodate their growing family. Number 25 Cromwell Street was the place they moved to. The house did not look fancy from the outside, but was quite spacious inside with a garage and a spacious cellar. The duo decided to take in lodgers to help pay the rent.
The cellar in the house fired up Fred imagination, and he decided that the place would either be used for Rose to entertain her clients, or he would turn it into his soundproof, private “torture chamber”. The worse of the two came to pass in the worst possible fashion with Fred’s own 8-year-old daughter, Anna Marie, becoming the first to be tortured there. Fred and Rose undressed the little girl, and told her that she was fortunate to have such considerate parents, who cared to make sure that she was prepared in all respects to satisfy her husband when she got married. Her hands were tied and she was gagged, after which Rose held her down as Anna’s own father proceeded to rape her. For several days Anna could not go to school because of the severe pain, and when she could, she was told that if she told anything about what happened to her to anybody, she would get severe beating. It was not a one-time occurrence. Fred continued to rape her every now and then.
Fred and Rose picked Caroline Owens, a 17-year-old girl, in late 1972 and employed her as nanny assuring her family that they would take care of her. But Caroline did not like the Wests and wanted to leave, but the duo kept her against her wish, and Fred raped her. Fred warned her that if she did not comply with their wishes he would let his black friend “have her” and once they have had enough of her, she would be killed and buried. Caroline was scared. Finally, when she got back home, and her mother got to know of what she had gone through, the police was called.
The couple was charged and the hearing took place in January 1973. However, the Fred at thirty-one and a pregnant Rose at nineteen managed to make the m agistrate believe – despite Fred’s past — that Caroline was a willing participant and they were incapable of such violence as alleged. The couple got away with a fine. Then, in August the same year, Rose gave birth to Fred’s first son. 1973 proved to be a lucky year for the couple.
A seam-stress by the name Lynda Gough came in touch with the couple, and she moved in with the Wests to take care of the children. But something went wrong somewhere, and Lynda found her place among the dead, and her body was dismembered and buried in the garage with her fingers, toes and kneecaps removed. When Lynda’s family came to the Wests to inquire about her, they were told that she had left.
Next to be abducted was fifteen-year-old Carol Ann Cooper. She was taken captive sometime in November 1973, and after the duo had had enough of their sexual fun, she was killed by strangulation, dismembered and buried the way others had been. Fred kept on with his home improvement projects, which effectively covered the burials. He had enlarged the cellar already, and was taking the garage down to extend the main house.
The luck of Lucy Partington, a university student, ran out when she, after seeing her disabled friend on December 27, 1973, left to catch a bus back around 10 P.M. She was abducted by Fred and Rose, tortured for around a week and then killed, dismembered and buried like the others, but this time Fred injured himself in dismembering her body and had to visit the hospital on January 3, 1974, where his wound was stitched.
Carol and Lucy had been killed, but there was no evidence pointing at the Wests. Three young women—Therese Siegenthaler (21), Shirley Hubbard (15) and Juanita Mott (18) – joined the dismembered dead buried under Fred’s cellar between April 1974 and April 1975 after going through the same routine of rape, torture and death that others had undergone. Both Juanita and Shirley suffered extreme, torturous bondage at the hands of the Wests before breathing their last. Fred not only continued to rape his own daughter, but also brought his friends over to have sex with her.
In 1977, Shirley Robinson (18), a former prostitute entered the picture. She was a bisexual and was one of the lodgers in the house. She got into sexual relationship with both Fred and Rose, and got pregnant with Fred’s child while Rose was pregnant with one of her black clients. Fred did not have any problem with Rose carrying the baby, but Rose was not pleased with Shirley being pregnant with Fred’s kid. Shirley, on the other hand, thought she could replace Rose in Fred’s life, which complicated things, and Rose made it plain to Fred that Shirley had to be dispensed with. Shirley was dismembered and buried together with her unborn child in the backyard, as there was no space for another body under the floor of the cellar.
Another daughter was born to Fred and Rose in November 1978, and was named Louise raising the number of kids in the house to six. In May 1979, Rose’s father died of a lung disease, and there was a short lull for a few months, after which the Wests resumed. Anna Marie also got pregnant by Fred but the pregnancy had to be terminated due to medical complications. A teenager by the name Alison Chambers was the next. She too was raped, tortured, killed, dismembered and buried in the garden where Shirley was laid to rest.
Originally written for and published in LAWYERS UPDATE as a three-part ‘Crime File’ in August 2014.
15 May 2016