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True story behind Fred and Rose West’s crimes as new ITV documentary with Trevor McDonald airs

Trevor McDonald opens up the case again.


ITV are looking back at two of Britain’s most notorious criminals, husband and wife Fred and Rose West, in a brand new two-part documentary.


Titled Fred and Rose West: Reopened and presented by Sir Trevor McDonald, the film will explore claims the Wests were responsible for many more murders than the 12 women and girls they are known to have killed.

Fred West died by suicide before he was brought to trial, but his wife Rose was convicted of 10 murders in 1995. There has, however, always been a strong belief there are many more victims.

This new series, shown on consecutive nights from Wednesday, 15th September, features former detective chief inspector Colin Sutton, investigative psychologist Donna Youngs, author and West expert Howard Sounes, and reporter Sir Trevor McDonald following up new leads to try to shed  light on the true number of the Wests’ victims and their identities.

Who are Fred and Rose West and what did they 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, Frederick Walter Stephen 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 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.

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.

Where is Rose West now?

Rose West, 67, 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.

Fred died by suicide in prison that same year while awaiting trial.

When is Fred and Rose West: Reopened on?

Episode one of the documentary airs on ITV on Wednesday, 15th September at 9pm. The second episode will air at the same time on Thursday, 16th September. The film will then be made available to watch on catch up on the ITV Hub.


 Fred and Rose West: Reopened will air on ITV. You can buy Leo Goatley’s Understanding Fred & Rose West, at Amazon. Find out what else to watch with our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Documentaries hub.