Serial September is rolling full steam ahead (cliché alert), and this week, we’re talking about team killers.
Two men are responsible for making true crime into a genre of its own: Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. Truman Capote told their story when he wrote In Cold Blood. If you’ve read it (and if you haven’t, then you need to put it at the top of your TBR list), then you know Perry Smith had limited intelligence and physical disabilities while Dick Hickock was a clear psychopath who called the shots.
According to psychologist and writer Katherine Ramsland, research shows that team killers are usually guided by a central figure who is able to use his charm and magnetism to manipulate others.
Would Bonnie have gone a spree without Clyde? What about Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, better know as the Hillside Stranglers? Would they have been such prolific killers on their own?
The couple we’re discussing today may not have as many victims as some of the more famous team killers, but they are every bit as frightening.
Fred and Rosemary West and the horror of 23 Cromwell Street.
British serial killer Frederick West started killing in 1967, and between 1973 and 1987, he and his wife Rosemary, tortured, raped, and murdered at least 11 young women and girls.
Most of the West murders took place at the couples home at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester. One of the rooms, known as “Rose’s Room,” was used by Rosemary for prostitution and had peepholes for Fred. Both Fred and Rosemary came from sexually perverse families, and Rosemary’s father often came to the house to have sex with his daughter–with Fred’s approval. Rosemary conceived eight children. Five were fathered by Fred West and the rest by clients.
17-year-old Caroline Roberts fell into the West’s clutches in 1972. Hired as the nanny, Caroline was led to believe Rosemary was a masseuse. Caroline quickly rejected Fred and Rosemary’s sexual favors and moved out. The Wests convinced her to accept their apology over a cup of tea. Back in the couple’s home on Cromwell street, Caroline was bound and raped by both Fred and Rosemary. Fred bragged they had killed hundreds of young girls and knew how to fool the police, so Caroline didn’t fight. She was allowed to leave the next day after promising she would return as the couple’s nanny. Caroline reported the attack but later withdrew the case. The Wests pleaded guilty to indecent assault and were fined.
Carol Anne Cooper was sexually tormented for approximately a week and then strangled, dismembered, and buried at 25 Cromwell Street amid Fred’s many construction projects.
Lucy Partington disappeared shortly after Christmas in 1973 and met a similar fate as Carol Anne.
Between April 1974 and April 1975, Therese Siegenthaler, Shirley Hubbard, and Juanita Mott, (all aged 21 or younger) were tortured and buried on the West’s premises.
In 1976 Fred and Rosemary snared a young girl known only as Miss A from a home for girls. She witnessed the torture of two girls and was then raped by Fred and assaulted by Rosemary.
18-year-old Shirley Robinson was a bisexual former prostitute who cultivated a relationship with both Fred and Rosemary. She became pregnant with Fred’s child, and although Rosemary herself was pregnant with another man’s baby, she didn’t like Shirley’s new position of power. Shirley was killed, and Fred is said to have dismembered Shirley and their unborn child.
In 1979, the Wests murdered Alison Chambers after their usual methods of rape and torture. She was buried in the rear garden.
Oldest daughter Anne-Marie, a long-time victim of the Wests’s sexual sadism, became pregnant and then left after an abortion. Heather West became Fred’s favorite target after her older sister left, and she would also become one of the West’s murder victims.
Their sexual debauchery continued over the next decade-plus, but it’s unclear if there are later murder victims.
Fred West’s gluttony proved to be his demise. In May 1992, he filmed himself raping yet another daughter. She told friends at school, and one informed her mother. Fred was charged with rape and Rosemary as an accomplice. She was also charged with child cruelty. The remaining children were moved to foster care, but the rape case fell apart when the two key witnesses refused to testify.
After hearing about “Heather being buried under the patio,” police garnered a search warrant. Rosemary called Fred as soon as she received the warrant.
“You’d better get back home. They’re going to dig up the garden, looking for Heather.” -Rosemary West to Fred West the day she received the warrant.
Fred stopped by the police station on his way home from work and told them he and Rosemary had no idea where Heather was. He claimed Heather was a lesbian and had problems with drugs, and even suggested she’d probably gone into prostitution.
When the bones literally started piling up, Fred admitted to killing Heather but insisted no one else was buried in the garden. He claimed he’d been arguing with Heather and grabbed her throat to stop her from laughing at him. He grabbed too hard, and she stopped breathing. He couldn’t revive her. She wouldn’t fit in the garbage bin and dismembered her. He closed her eyes before doing so.
When more bodies were unearthed, both Fred and Rosemary were charged with murder. Fred did everything he could to protect his wife, and she tried to position herself as the victim, but her efforts were fruitless. When Fred attempted to console Rosemary at a hearing, she refused his touch and told police he made her sick.
On December 13, 1994, he was charged with murder. Rosemary again brushed him off. Fred hanged himself in his cell on New Year’s Day, 1995.
Rosemary went to trial, and as her general nasty disposition worked hard against her, the most damning evidence was given by a voluntary worker appointed to sit-in on Fred West’s police interviews. Fred privately told the witness Rose was involved with the murders and that she had murdered two women without him. He’d made a deal with Rosemary to take the blame. The witness was so stressed with this information she suffered a stroke. She collapsed after her testimony.
Rosemary West was quickly convicted of ten counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison for each. Her subsequent appeals for a new trial were turned down.
In my opinion, Rosemary was the calculating manipulator and Fred the muscle. What do you think? Fred killed before her, but would he have continued without her? Was the depravity she suffered at the hands of her father as a child the driving factor of her sexual sadism?