The true story behind Rose West and Myra Hindley’s crimes as new ITV documentary with Trevor McDonald airs

Everything you need to know about Britain's two most infamous female criminals - Rose West and Myra Hindley

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Rose West and Myra Hindley

Following on from The Real ‘Des’: The Dennis Nilsen story, ITV are bringing a new documentary to screens.

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This time, the network will be looking at the untold story of two of Britain’s two most infamous female criminals –  Myra Hindley and Rose West – in a 60 min doc, titled Rose West & Myra Hindley: Their Untold Story with Trevor McDonald.

Both women were sent to prison for multiple murders, and met at the H ‘Hell Wing’ in HMP Durham, which is known for holding some of Britain’s most serious female prisoners, including IRA terrorists, sex offenders, and arsonists.

Here, West, 41, and Hindley, 52,  bonded over similar crimes, before having an affair and later becoming rivals to be “prison royalty”.

So what exactly did they do? And are they still alive? Here’s everything you need to know about them.

Who is Rose West and what did she do?

Rose, from Northam, Devon, was considered one of the most wicked women in Britain for the torture and murder of at least nine young women between 1973 and 1987.

Her husband, Fred West, who died by suicide in prison while awaiting trial in 1995, is believed to have collaborated with her on these crimes.

The majority of these murders were committed at the couple’s home at number 25, Cromwell Street, in Gloucester, which became known as the “House of Horrors”.

Rose was also convicted for the murder of her eight-year-old stepdaughter, Charmaine, in 1971.

When she was just a teenager, her parents separated, at the age of 16, she moved in with her father. Her father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was prone to extreme violence and repeatedly sexually abused her and her oldest sister.

Rose was said to be fascinated by her developing body growing up and would deliberately parade naked around the house in the presence of her younger brother.

Rose West
Rose West
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Rose met Fred when she was just 15-years-old. He was 12 years her senior and had two young daughters – Charmaine and Anna Marie. Rose’s parents disapproved of their relationship, but she defied, prompting them to visit Gloucestershire social services to explain that their 15-year-old daughter had a sexual relationship with an older man, and that they had heard rumours that she had begun to engage in prostitution at Fred’s caravan.

Rose was put into a home for troubled teenagers, but was released after her 16th birthday. Fred was riding out a 30-day sentence for theft and unpaid fines at the time. However, upon his release, Rose left her parents’ home and moved in with him.

In 1970, she was found to be pregnant and once again placed in a home. She was released upon the notion she’d be having a termination, however, in October the same year, she gave birth to her and Fred’s first child – a daughter they named Heather Ann.

Shortly after, Fred was imprisoned for the theft of car tyres and a vehicle tax disc. As he served this six-and-a-half-month sentence, Rose, having just turned 17, looked after the three girls, with Charmaine and Anna Marie being told to refer to Rose as their mother.

Fred West
Fred West
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According to Anna Marie, she and Charmaine were frequently subjected to physical and emotional abuse throughout the time they lived under Rose’s care.

By 1983, Rose had given birth to eight children, at least three of whom were conceived by clients. Fred willingly accepted these children as his own, and falsely informed them the reason their skin was darker than that of their siblings was because his great-grandmother was a black woman.

On 6 August 1992, Fred was arrested after being accused of raping one of his daughters three times, and Rose was arrested for child cruelty. This case against them collapsed on 7 June 1993 when their daughter refused to testify in court.

All five of the Wests’ younger children were removed from their custody to foster homes. This case brought to light the disappearance of Heather, who had not been seen since 1987 and triggered the major investigation that followed.

Fred and Rose West timeline

  • 1941 – Fred West born.
  • 1953 – Rosemary Letts born.
  • November 1958 – Fred is injured in a motorcycle accident. In a coma for seven days and is said to be prone to violent outbursts after his recovery.
  • April 1961 – Fred’s first court appearance. Along with his friend Brian Hill, Fred is pleads guilty to stealing a gold watch strap and two cigarette cases. They are both fined.
  • June 1961  Fred arrested on suspicion of child molestation after a 13-year-old local girl is discovered to be pregnant by her GP. It becomes clear that Fred has had sex with her on several occasions.
  • November 1961 – Fred’s first trial for sexual abuse. He appears at Herefordshire Assizes, charged with sexual molestation. The case collapses when the girl refuses to give evidence and Fred walks free.
  • November 1965 – Fred kills a four-year-old boy while driving an ice cream van.
  • November 1968 – Fred and Rosemary Letts meet on her 15th birthday.
  • November 1969 – Rosemary moves in with Fred.
  • October 1970 – Rose and Fred’s first child, Heather Ann West, is born.
  • January 1972 – Fred and Rose West get married.
  • June 1972 – The West’s second child, Mae, is born.
  • January 1973 – Both Fred and Rose are convicted of the sexual assault of their nanny Caroline Roberts – who escapes to tell the police. The couple are issued with fines.
  • February 1994 – The Cromwell Street search begins. Following the disappearance of their daughter, Heather, Police are granted a search warrant and begin to excavate the West’s garden.
  • March 1994 – Fred confesses to murdering nine women.
  • January 1995 – Fred West dies by suicide, while incarcerated at Winson Green prison.
  • November 1995 – Rose West is found guilty of 10 murders and imprisoned for life.

Who is Myra Hindley and what did she do?

Myra Hindley
Myra Hindley
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Moors murderess Hindley was known for killing five children in the 1960s, with her lover Ian Brady.

Hindley’s 17-year-old brother-in-law tipped off the police about her crimes. Hindley plead not guilty to all of the murders, however, she was found guilty of three murders and was jailed for life.

Hindley was born in 1942, in Manchester and grew up with her grandmother. After the death of a close male friend when she was 15, Hindley left school and converted to Roman Catholicism.

In 1961, she met Ian Brady, a stock clerk who was recently released from prison and she fell in love with him.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
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Together they hatched plans of rape and murder, and in 1963, they claimed their first victim, Pauline Reade. Four months later, 12-year-old John Kilbride disappeared, never to be seen again.

In June 1964, 12-year-old Keith Bennett followed. On the afternoon of Boxing Day, 1964, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey disappeared from a local fairground.

Finally, in 1965, Hindley’s brother-in-law David Smith, who was just 17 at the time, reported her to the police.

Smith had witnessed Brady killing 17-year-old Edward Evans with an axe, and later went to the police with his story, including Brady having mentioned that more bodies were buried on Saddleworth Moor.

They were both jailed for life.

Myra Hindley timeline

  • July  1942 – Myra Hindley born in Gorton, Manchester.
  • 1961 – After leaving school at 15, Hindley becomes a junior clerk at Lawrence Scott and Electrometers, an electrical engineering firm before joining Millwards Merchandisers in Manchester as a secretary in 1961. One of her colleagues was Ian Brady.
  • July 1963 – Pauline Reade, 16, disappears on her way to a disco.
  • November 1963 – John Kilbride, 12, vanishes.
  • June 1964 – Keith Bennett, 12, disappears.
  • December 1964 – Lesley Ann Downey, 10, is lured away from a funfair.
  • October 1965 – Edward Evans, 17, dies from axe blows. The last murder was witnessed by Hindley’s brother-in-law, who tipped off police, triggering the investigation which lead to the discovery of Kilbride and Downey’s bodies in shallow graves on Saddleworth moor, Manchester.
  • May 1966 Brady is given life for the murders of Kilbride, Downey and Evans at Chester assizes. Hindley is convicted of killing Downey and Evans and shielding Brady after Kilbride’s murder, for which she received life and an additional seven years.
  • 1972 – Hindley severs all ties with Brady.
  • 1974 – Hindley is given another year’s sentence after being convicted of plotting to escape from Holloway prison, north London, with help of an officer who is said to have fallen in love with her.
  • 1978 –  Hindley is attacked in Holloway so violently that she needs plastic surgery.
  •  1987 –  Hindley and Brady confess to the murders of Reade and Bennett. Body of Reade is uncovered but Bennett’s body has never been found.
  •  1990 – The then home secretary David Waddington rules life will mean life for Hindley.
  • 1997 – Home secretaries Michael Howard and Jack Straw confirm the full life tariff for Hindley.
  • 1998 –  Appeal court upholds home secretary’s ruling. Hindley is moved from top security wing in Durham to medium secure Highpoint prison in Suffolk
  • 2000 –  Hindley is diagnosed as suffering from a cerebral aneurysm.

What happened when Myra and Rose met?

The ITV documentary is set to look at Rose and Myra’s prison years together in the 90s.

The pair were known to have had an affair, however, they later became rivals in jails as they competed to become “prison royalty”.

The one-off film will also look at the psychology and behaviour of the two women during their time in prison.

For Hindley, it will show how she continued to manipulate people from behind bars, just as she deceived the children she abducted, even persuading a nun turned prison guard to help her escape.

Meanwhile, Rose continued to demand favours of her children, and tried to control their lives from behind bars and she still displays terrifying flashes of rage.

According to Rose’s ex lawyer Leo Goatley, who wrote the book Understanding Fred & Rose West, the notorious duo had a sordid affair behind bars before Rose dumped Hindley as she felt she was “too dangerous”.

The pair are said to have hooked up when Rose was remanded in custody at the jail in 1995.

“I recall that Rose was quite taken with Hindley, impressed by her knowledge and ability. Rose said Hindley had studied various Open University courses,” he wrote.

“She said, ‘Yeah, Myra, she’s all right, we get on, I want to see how it goes’. This was a reference to a flowering, albeit short-lived, lesbian relationship.”

He also revealed what went wrong between them, adding: “When I visited a few months later, Rose’s opinion of Hindley had changed dramatically. She was saying, ‘You have to watch Hindley, mind. She is very manipulative.'”

Sir Trevor McDonald – who narrates the ITV doc – also commented on Rose and Myra’s relationship.

Speaking of their friendship, he said: “Myra Hindley and Rose West met in that place and immediately struck up a friendship. One of the people who I interview in the programme, a female ex-prisoner who spent time there with them, said it was almost as though evil was attracting evil.”

He continued: “They just were immediately drawn to each other and from a journalistic point of view, it’s fascinating to think that.”

McDonald says Rose and Hindley’s relationship “grew into something more substantial”.

“Though they have this evil in common, they were entirely different people in a way.  Rose West couldn’t control her temper very easily. Whereas Myra Hindley was the image of calm control. She wanted to control everybody. There are so many aspects of this programme which made me want to explore this much further,” he explained.

“It’s much more than a story about Rose and Myra having an affair, which they apparently did, but there’s so many other aspects of the story that for me, made it so compelling.”

Where is Rose West now?

West, 66, is now an inmate at HM Prison New Hall, Flockton, West Yorkshire, England.

She is said to have had a string of affairs with fellow inmates since being incarcerated in 1995.

Where is Myra Hindley now?

Hindley was never released from prison and died in November 2002, aged 60, after suffering respiratory failure following a heart attack.

When is Rose West & Myra Hindley: Their Untold Story with Trevor McDonald?

The doc airs on ITV on Monday September 21st at 9pm. The film will then be made available to watch on catch up on the ITV Hub.

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The Rose West and Myra Hindley Story is on ITV on Monday 21st September at 9pm. You can buy Leo Goatley’s Understanding Fred & Rose West, at Amazon. Find out what else to watch with our TV Guide