Fred & Rose by Howard Sounes

I first read Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors by British journalist Howard Sounes in 1996. I can remember being shocked by the story then but on re-reading it (and perhaps with age, gaving children and having lived in England for many years) the book was absolutely disturbing – stuff of nightmares.

Fred & Rose West murdered at least nine women (including their own daughter) together in their home in Gloucester. These crimes happened over the 70s to the early 1990s and there is wide speculation that they could have murdered many more. Their crimes were discovered in 1994. Fred West also murdered at least two other women on his own and Rose, her stepdaughter while her husband was in jail.

Fred West didn’t live to face up to his crimes. He hung himself in a police cell on New Year’s Day 1995. Rose West will spend the rest of her life in jail.

The Wests were  two people who together, were a nightmare pairing. Their fatal attraction resulted in nine young women being sexually tortured, raped and mudered. Worse still, Fred dismembered their bodies and their is information in the book from experts that this was more than just a means to bury these women, rather is was part of Fred West’s sexual deviancies.

The Wests presented a facade of being a hard-working, loving family, They had four children together and Rose had four others, most likely fathered by the men she slept with at the notorious 25 Cromwell Street, dubbed “The House of Horrors” by Sounes who was a reporter on the Sunday Mirror and covered the crimes and the trial. The Wests children were also abused and tortured.

The Wests were able to kill and abuse for so many years undetected for many reasons that all conspired together to create the depravity that has made them some of the worst murderers in history. There was the troubled and poor family background the pair came from, their obsession with violent sex, the inadequacies of the social services in Britain at the time and the failure of some families of the murder victims to report their girls missing.  The Wests were able to gain the trust of women they picked up because they “seemed” like a (relatively) normal couple and trawled the streets together in their car to pick up hitchhikers.  One of the most chilling parts of the book – besides the grotesque and cuel crimes of the Wests – was a brief mention by Sounes that colleagues of Detective Constable Hazel Savage (DC Savage pushed for an initial search of 25 Cromwell St, which led to the discovery of the crimes) that:

“…if it weren’t for Hazel being held in such high esteem within the force (Gloucestershire Police), and had been so persistent, that nothing would ever have been done…” (pg 230)

This is a must-read for those interested in true crime. Very, very sad, shocking and disturbing but Sounes has written the facts and offers on opinion until the end in the epilogue. There is no fat on this book. It is detailed and well-paced. The chapters on Rose and Fred’s childhoods and family lives are fascinating and well-researched.

Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors is published by Sphere.

  1. […] Woodrow draws from previous books written about the pair, including Fred & Rose by Howard Sounes. For those who have read about the Wests before, they will be familiar with the timeline of murder […]

  2. Very good book. I remmember this bieng in reported in the media at the time. Shocking crimes! it is well worth a read to understand what really happened.

  3. They should have been found out sooner-a ‘friend’ of Fred apparently reported them in 1970-the year I was born- and reported the Wests (then Rosemary went by her maiden name, Letts) if they had just listened, and investigated it, none of the victims would have lost their lives. (Apart from earlier victims of Fred, Anna McFall and some believe Mary Bastholm). That man who reported West, he committed suicide, since he blamed himself for the murders….its sickening to think that not even people who were abused by them were victims…The evil man West shouldn’t have been able to escape justice!

    1. I’ve read a few books now about the Wests and it is truly horrifying the weren’t caught sooner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *