Rose West abused her own children ..revealed for the first time by daughter Mae
My mother the mass serial killer: Rose West abused her own children – and helped her husband Fred murder ten women before waging a toxic war from behind bars as revealed here for the first time by their daughter Mae
A CHILLING new memoir by the daughter of mass murderer Fred West and his wife Rose describes the savage cruelty of her upbringing in 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester. Yesterday, MAE WEST revealed how she and her siblings were brutally abused by her parents. Here, in the final part of our serialisation, she tells how police discovered at least ten bodies entombed in her childhood home . . .
None of my seven siblings was closer to me than my elder sister Heather, who disappeared from our home in Gloucester shortly after her 16th birthday.
I had no idea what had happened to her, until the police knocked on our door in February 1994 and started digging up the garden. Then they unearthed a human femur bone. And another.
In my heart, I knew immediately it was Heather. Nothing felt real; I couldn’t even cry. I just sat on the sofa next to Mum, who was also silent, as though she simply couldn’t take in the enormity of it all.
Not only had the police found my missing sister, but they eventually dug up the bodies of ten more women and a child — some former lodgers, some girls Dad had picked up in the street, plus his first wife and one of their daughters. Most were in our garden or buried in the basement of our home in Cromwell Street, soon to become known as the House of Horrors.
Mae West, daughter of Fred and Rosemary West, leaves Winchester Crown Court after hearing part of the Judge’s summing up in the trial
Meanwhile, my father, Fred West, was in custody, confessing to his unimaginable crimes, and insisting that his wife Rose had nothing to do with them. I went into shock, appalled by the sheer horror of it all, furious and ashamed that Dad had caused such terrible suffering.
Rose had never been a good mother, doling out savage beatings to all eight of her children and never once intervening when Dad tried to sexually molest us. So I didn’t have a normal childhood; it was so abnormal as to hardly be a childhood at all.
For all that, I felt sorry for her — and relished the unfamiliar feeling of being needed.
It didn’t occur to me then that it was unlikely, as both my parents claimed, that Rose had been out of our house long enough for Dad — without her knowledge — to strangle, dismember and bury my sister in the garden. Or that even if she hadn’t physically assisted, she must have colluded with him.
She denied all knowledge of the murders and blamed everything on Dad, which she still does to this day. Not for a moment did Mum seem to doubt that I believed in her innocence.
Since my late teens, when she’d started confiding in me about her troubles, she’d had a powerful emotional grip on me — and she knew it. So, when she denied everything, I believed her. The rest of my life had turned into a nightmare, but I could at least feel positive about supporting my mother.
‘Thank God I’ve got you, Mae,’ she kept telling me. ‘I don’t know how I’d be getting through any of this without you!’
Mae West (left), with her older sister Heather (right), who grew up in Gloucester in what became known as the House of Horrors
Fred West and Rose West abused and murdered young women at their house of horrors
House of Horrors: 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester where remains of bodies were been found and was also Mae West’s childhood home
Deep down, even as a 21-year-old adult, I just wanted her to love me. These feelings may not have been rational — but when a child has been abused, the parental bonds aren’t necessarily broken. Even when Rose was eventually convicted of assisting in ten of Dad’s murders — including that of Heather — I never wavered.
For the following decade, I’d be her most loyal supporter, the only one of her children who’d regularly visit her in top-security jails.
Far from seeing her as an evil and sadistic serial killer, I did my best to help her. I’d correspond with her, scrimp and save to buy her clothes and give her regular handouts.
Today, however, I no longer believe my mother was innocent. But it was many years before I stopped thinking that she’d been wrongly convicted.
By then, I’d heard too many of her lies, listened to too many of her riddles and warped accounts, heard too many stories from my sisters to believe that she hadn’t played a part in the killings.
While our home in Cromwell Street was being searched, the police moved Mum, my brother Steve and me to a safe house. Most of our younger siblings had long since gone into care, following allegations that my father had raped my sister Louise, 13. (The trial had collapsed because Louise refused to give evidence.)
Sometimes in the night, I’d hear Mum crying to herself. It broke my heart. She’d lost most of her children, her home, and now she had to face the fact her husband was a serial killer.
In the daytime, she’d rant about Dad, saying the same things over and over in a shrill, shrieking voice. In almost every sentence, she used my name. ‘I’m telling you, Mae, he deserves everything that’s coming to him, Mae. He’s caused nothing but misery for all of us. He’s an absolute a***hole, Mae . . .’
It was form of brainwashing, drumming into me by repetition what she wanted me to think and feel. And it worked: I saw everything from her point of view.
Pictured: Mother Rose West worked as a prostitute for most of Mae West’s childhood
On April 20, two months after the start of the murder investigation, the police came for Mum. She didn’t seem surprised.
Dad had kept changing his story. He’d insist Mum was innocent, then say she was the one who killed Charmaine, the daughter of his first wife. He also told a court-appointed visitor that Rose was involved in the other murders, but he’d lied to protect her.
Then came the shocking news that Dad had hanged himself in his cell. It shouldn’t have been devastating — I’d vowed never to see him again — but I felt a huge sense of loss. Not for the father I’d actually had, but for the normal one I should have had.
I was angry, too, that he’d left us to deal with the unspeakable carnage that he’d hidden from us over many years.
Mum reacted with bewildering indifference to the loss of the most important relationship in her life. His death hadn’t affected her, she told me.
Much later, I wondered if she’s incapable of having feelings for someone who can’t offer her something in return. Or maybe she just doesn’t have feelings in the same way that other people do.
Each time I visited her on remand, she’d cry and say: ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you, Mae. You’re all I’ve got now.’
As her trial approached, she was so confident of getting off that she made plans to move to Ireland. ‘We can start again, can’t we? You can all come over. We’ll be a family again, Mae. One great big family. Have a farm out in the countryside and live the simple life, eh?’
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At her trial, one of the witnesses was Anne Marie, my father’s other daughter by his first marriage, who described how Mum had gagged her and pinned her down while Dad raped her. She was eight at the time.
I was horrified, though I already knew how cruel Mum could be; after all, she’d never tried to stop Dad abusing Heather and me. Still, I reasoned, that didn’t make my mother a murderer.
When the guilty verdicts came in, I felt as though I’d lost everything: father, mother, sister, home, even the few happy memories I had from my childhood.
The first time I visited Mum at her top-security prison in Durham, she fell into my arms, sobbing. ‘Mae! God, I’ve missed you. I love you so much, my darling. So, so much!’ It was the first time in my life she’d ever embraced me. In spite of the circumstances, I enjoyed the novel feeling of being needed and valued.
Smiling Rosemary West leaves Gloucester Magistrates Court after being remanded again on murder charges in 1994
Eighth body being removed from 25 Cromwell Street in 1994 after Fred and Rose West were finally caught
Almost immediately, she brightened up and began chatting about prison life.
You’d have thought she was on a package holiday. She was delighted at being allowed to wear her own clothes and had been thumbing through the Argos Additions catalogue, choosing what she wanted me to buy her.
In her cell, she said, she had a radio — so she could listen to her favourite DJ, Jimmy Young. And she had permission to buy a budgie, so there were more instructions for me to bring ‘toys and a mirror and cuttlefish and all that — don’t want him getting bored’.
It was surreal. Then she started talking about Heather. She was furious that the prison authorities had refused her request to attend my sister’s funeral — after all, she said, ‘I’m sure you all would have wanted me there.’ This was just a matter of weeks after she’d been convicted of Heather’s murder.
Afterwards, she bombarded me with letters and phone calls about the funeral. She wanted to plan all the details, and even asked for a catalogue so that she could choose the coffin.
I ignored all her instructions. Although I didn’t believe she’d anything to do with Heather’s death, I knew that Mum had treated her atrociously.
To MY shame, though, I did allow her to have the words she wanted on Heather’s tombstone: ‘In our hearts love will never die.’
As time went on, one of the sisters who’d been taken into care managed to make contact with me. It was Louise, whose allegation of rape had caused social services to remove the five youngest children.
Straight after the second rape, said Louise, she’d told Mum all about it. But Rose had shown her no sympathy, more or less telling her it was all her own fault.
Of course, everything Louise said should have made me want to cut all ties with Mum. But I was still too naive, too needy, too grateful that she needed me. Instead, I told Louise that Mum had changed, and persuaded her to accompany me on a prison visit.
At this point, our mother hadn’t seen her for years. Louise had been hardly more than a child when she went into care, but she was now a young woman.
Mae West, Heather West and Stephen West. Mae West has finally opened up about surviving her abusive, murdering parents Fred and Rose West
‘Just look at you, Louise. I can’t believe it,’ said Mum when we arrived. ‘Been such a long time, hasn’t it? How’s everything been going anyway?’
Apart from that, she seemed far more interested in talking about herself and other prisoners and the prison officers. There was no sign that she felt any remorse, any responsibility, any concern about how Louise would cope as a young adult with a terrible past.
In the months that followed, she’d phone from jail, telling Louise that she was such an emotional wreck she’d never make a success of work, relationships or motherhood. My sister never visited her again.
With me, Mum was different. She made it seem as if I were a soulmate, the only one who really understood her.
Even so, I began to dread the sound of the phone ringing on Sunday afternoons; the noise the envelopes made hitting the doormat; the long journey to Durham.
Such was her emotional control over me that when she didn’t call, or there was a long gap between letters, I’d become anxious — worrying that something had happened to her or, worse, that she was rejecting me.
The visits were emotionally draining because I never knew what mood she’d be in — emotional and clingy or flippant and childish.
It was also dawning on me that she always wanted something: one day it would be Shirley Bassey’s This Is My Life album on cassette; another she’d be asking me to send her a tenner each week.
I had other consuming worries. With a small daughter of my own now, I was petrified of what might happen if Amy ever had a tumble and a teacher spotted her bruises. Were social services just waiting for an excuse to take her away from me — the daughter of the despicable Wests?
Yet it was still hard for me to be angry with Mum. Although she hated to show any weakness, she was finding prison tougher than she sometimes let on.
Because she was a category A prisoner, the guards used dogs to sniff through all her belongings — and that made her angry and upset. She even let the budgie go because the searches were so frightening, she said.
From the jaunty tone of some of her letters, though, you’d never have guessed she was behind bars. When she wrote about her new job making toys, for instance, she made it sound as if she was working in an ordinary factory.
‘The time go’s [sic] so quick, I get up in the morning, shower, quick cup of tea and off to work. Back on the wing for 12, have dinner, collect post, have a cuppa and a fag with the girls.
‘Maybe try and get to the washing machine (which doesn’t happen very often) and before you know it, it’s back to work!
‘Back on the wing for 4, have a cuppa and a fag with the girls again and catch up with all the news and have tea. Off to the gym at 5.15 until 6.15, another cuppa & fag (and maybe a laugh too)!’
She took various classes, went to church on Sundays — ‘to thank God for my wonderful children and my beautiful grandchildren!’ — and even met the local bishop.
Then, to my astonishment, Mum plunged headlong into an ill-advised ‘romance’. Out of the blue, she’d received a letter from Dave Glover, the bass player with the band Slade, and they’d started corresponding.
She was completely smitten, like a teenage girl with a crush. In one of her letters, she asked me to buy her some black stretch satin trousers (in size 18) as well as a card for her beloved Dave.
Her letters to me now included photos of him and were full of adolescent yearning. She began to talk, quite seriously, about the two of them getting married.
‘He calls me Sweetheart!! I cried after I read that!!,’ she wrote. ‘This man is the light of my life, my soulmate, my best friend and the ‘love of my life’. Love is definitely worth it!!’
Of course, I never knew what Dave’s feelings were for Mum, but
I knew the relationship was doomed. What more unlikely pairing could there be than a convicted serial killer and a member of a glam rock band?
One day, quite suddenly, Mum called the wedding off. She never told me why, but I suspect that it had suddenly dawned on her that the whole thing was a complete fantasy.
I did my best to support her through this. Even so, I was having doubts about her honesty and the way she treated me.
Things came to a head when Mum inherited a moderate sum of money from Dad’s estate. She wasn’t allowed to keep it for herself, so she decided to share it among her children and grandchildren.
Suddenly, she felt powerful again. Instead of deciding to distribute the money equally, she began to hint at giving bigger or smaller amounts to one child or another, according to who was in favour.
Even I could see this was poisonous. Summoning all my courage, I wrote to her saying that none of us wanted the money. By deciding not to distribute it in equal shares, I told her, she was playing power games and trying to judge us.
‘I have always been there for you ever since I was young, even though you can be so hard sometimes,’ I concluded. ‘You should be less judgmental and more parental.
‘It’s not about the money but what it could have symbolised — that for once we all counted and we were all equal.’
Her reply arrived just a few days later. After thanking me for being honest, she wrote: ‘When I came to prison I never intended to try to become a ‘parent’ to you children.
‘I know that with all that has happened in my life and later in our lives that I would never be capable of such a feat. I was never a ‘parent’ and could never be now!
‘You’ve always been there for me and I have counted myself as a very privileged person indeed!! I was hoping, and I still do now, that it was a choice you made rather than a feeling of expectation — that I could ‘live up’ to your hopes of having a ‘good’ mother.’
Ultimately, she concluded, she simply wasn’t capable of being a good mother. And then she signed off as usual with: ‘Love as always, Mum xxxxx.’
Father Fred West (pictured) helped by wife Rose, murdered at least ten young women — including one of their daughters — many entombed in the cellar
I was amazed. It was the most honest and insightful thing she’d ever said to me.
But I’d reached a turning point: I could no longer put up with her behaviour. Rather than address what she’d said, I simply sent her a chatty letter, full of small talk.
Mum didn’t reply. And I have never written to her or seen her since. With the help of a therapist, I finally began to understand how my mother had manipulated me for years.
Our relationship had been at its most intense straight after Dad’s arrest, when I had to listen to her justifying herself and complaining about him. I can see now that I was an emotional hostage to Mum, and I feel angry with myself for having been so gullible.
From time to time, I still think of her. But although her final letter to me showed some self-awareness, I doubt that this will ever turn into honesty and remorse.
Now that I’m in my 40s, I know that I’ve broken a terrible cycle of abuse, that my children have grown up in a secure environment of love.
Once, when my second child, Luke, was a toddler, he told me he wanted to go downstairs to play but was worried there might be monsters. So he asked me to go with him.
‘Why do you want me with you?’ I asked.
‘Monsters would never hurt me when you’re with me, Mummy,’ he said.
Adapted from Love As Always, Mum XXX by Mae West, published by Seven Dials on Thursday at £16.99. © Mae West 2018. To order a copy for £13.59 (offer valid until September 8), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15.
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