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Thriller Thursday: Team Killers

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.

Caroline Roberts 

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.

More Victims

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.

Getting Caught

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’s End

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?

Source and Images
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22 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: Team Killers”

  1. Great post, Stacy. It reminds me of the FBI book I have, and Criminal Minds, where they discuss the dominant and submissive roles in murdering teams. Rosemary could’ve been the dominant thinker, controlling Fred. It certainly is strange some of the behaviors and commonalities we bond over, right? Thank goodness most of us have more positive “glue.”

  2. Ooh, the Wests! Chilling. I was living in England at the time and the public outrage and horror was huge.
    Fred West killed, as you say, before he was with Rosemary. He was a serial killer before they established their team and buried his victims in fields. I suspect intellect was Rosemary’s dominant factor in the Wests’ killing team. Fred was portrayed as close to sub-normal intellectually but extremely devious and quite charismatic. Their depravity knew no limits, kidnapping, raping and murdering family, strangers, their own offspring. It could have been that Fred was intellectually submissive or else he was just so in awe of a woman who would satisfy his depraved needs and more.
    In 2011 ITV showed a two part TV film titled Appropriate Adult . It scared the hell out of me and Mrs Ruby. The actor Dominic West (scary, he coincidentally has the same surname) played Fred West and the whole story revolved around him. Most of what the police found out came from him as Rosemary didn’t have much to say for herself. Critics had some complaints about the film but it seemed to have fairly accurately portrayed what went on. Fred West could charm the birds out of the trees when he wanted to and the actor conveyed that horribly well.
    Nobody knows how many the Wests actually killed. Rosemary herself might not even know. As is iften the case, with hindsight the signs were there and the authorities probably had their chances to discover things at an earlier stage.

    • I bet it was! Yes, it was hard to get all the important info in under 1000 words. I think you’re right about Rosemary’s intellect – given her childhood abuse, her intelligence may have been her best survival methord. I will definitely check out that film, sounds really interesting. I would bet Rosemary doesn’t know nor does she care. She’s had some interesting experiences in prison, too.

  3. I continue to be amazed at how long some people can continue to kill before being caught and punished. These were sick, sick people, and I wish they had been stopped sooner. I can’t imagine how their children fared. Once again, Stacy, you’ve done a fabulous job of covering the crimes and making us think about how such things happen.

    • Me too. And even tho killers like these two aren’t the norm, it’s amazing how some like the West’s and Ridgeway could go for decades and not get caught. Thank you so much – this was a tough one!

  4. Shannon Esposito

    Wow. What happened to the other children? Do we know? I think this kind of deprevity has to have roots in both nature and nurture. The abuse they suffered as children was a factor, but only because their genetics made it possible. Sick sick sick.

    • I think Ruby answered your question, but the remaining children at the time of the West’s arrest were put into foster care. I agree, this is a perfect case for nature and nurture, which is the prevalent theory now. Thanks.

  5. Shannon, from what I remember, their selection of some of their own children as victims seemed to be a bit random. Some of the children were untouched (as much as anyone could be in such an environment) whereas Fred’s daughter from a previous wife and i think others were used, abused and disposed of. They weren’t paedophiles as far as I know. Although at least one victim was underage but that was a more ‘vanilla’ murder.

  6. This couple is appalling. It sounds like if it was disgusting and they could do it, they did. It’s hard for me to imagine a husband happily allowing his father-in-law to sleep with his wife, allowing her to get pregnant by other men, murdering a woman who was carrying his child, and abusing then dismembering his own children. *shudder*

    I would agree with you that Rosemarie sounds like the brains and Fred let her do whatever she wanted (and helped her get what she wanted) because she made sure he could fulfill his cravings as well. It’s very interesting how the dominant-submissive roles allow two people who otherwise might have killed each other work as a team killing others instead.

    • Yes, they were pretty bad. Call it sexist, but the idea of a woman doing these acts – to her own children, no less – is just unimaginable. I feel so sorry for those living victims. Can’t even fathom what they saw.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Stacy, your research and ability to impart the information is awe-mazing. I am SO looking forward to your novel and can’t imagine the story you have cooked with your impressive backlog of details!

  8. I lied to you the other night. I had heard of these two. I just didn’t remember their names. I watched a documentary on them some time back. What a pair of freaks. I never analyzed them enough to decide which one was the instigator.

    • LOL. That makes more sense. I couldn’t believe you hadn’t heard of them. They were a pair of freaks, that’s for sure. I think they were a perfect deadly combo, you know?

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  10. Great account of the crimes. Some things you missed: Rose also killed Fred’s stepdaughter, 8-year-old Charmaine, in 1971. (This is the one that really gets me. She was a child, for Christ’s sake!) Later that year Fred killed his first wife, Charmaine’s mother, Rena Costello. Fred also killed his pregnant lover, Anne McFall, in 1967.

    I do think Rose was the brains and played a big part. Fred maybe would have killed again without her, but I couldn’t imagine he’d have gone down in history as one of Britain’s worst serial killers without Rose at his side.

    And Maybe Rose’s background had something to do with her crimes, but in my opinion you have to be straight-up evil to the core to do the things she did. Anne-Marie, Fred’s daughter, was abused horrifically as a kid, and from what I’ve seen, while it may be a stretch to say she turned out fine, she’s no Rose, so obviously (to me, at least) a horribly abusive background alone does not a serial killer make.

    • I did know about the step daughter. It’s just hard to fit everything in the blog post, and I was trying to hit the main points.

      I agree about Rose being the brains. I think she got off on being in control and watching him kill. I think she definitely had some of the evil in her heart, but I also have to wonder how far she would have gone had she had a normal upbringing.


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