Given that the West’s vicious sex acts did not result in murder every time, and the sheer number of attacks, it was inevitable that someone would expose their activities, which resulted in them coming to the attention of Detective Constable Hazel Savage, who led a search at Cromwell Street in August of 1992 that found pornography and clear evidence of child abuse. West was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor, and Rose for assisting in the rape of a minor.
In the course of the investigation DC Savage uncovered the abuse of Anne-Marie, as well as the disappearances of Charmaine and Heather, that warranted further investigation, as well as rumours about what might be buried under the patio. The younger West children were taken into care, and Rose attempted suicide at this time, although she was found by her son, Stephen, and revived.
On 24th February 1994 a warrant was obtained to search the Cromwell Street house and garden, and police found the remains of two dismembered and decapitated young women, one of whom the police suspected might be Shirley Robinson. West claimed sole responsibility for the murders and, when Rose heard of the confession, she denied all knowledge of Heather’s death.
As the case against them developed, Rose tried increasingly to distance herself from West, claiming that she was also a victim, but police were not convinced of her innocence, given the sheer number of murders which had occurred, and her participation in the rapes.
On 13th December 1994, West was charged on twelve counts of murder, and he was taken into custody at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, pending trial where, on 1st January 1995, he hanged himself in his cell with knotted bed sheets.
Rose West went on trial on 3rd October 1995 in the glare of media frenzy. Witnesses including her daughter Anne Marie and Caroline Owens, one of their first victims, testified to her participation in sexual assaults on young women. Her defence counsel tried to argue that evidence of assault was not evidence of murder but, when Rose testified on her own behalf, her violent nature and dishonesty became clear to the jury, and they unanimously found her guilty on ten separate counts of murder on 22nd November 1995. She was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail. Rose West’s sentence was later extended to a “whole life” sentence by the Home Secretary, effectively removing any possibility of parole.
No 25 Cromwell Street, or the “House of Horrors”, as it was dubbed by the media, was eventually razed to the ground in October 1996, and in its place is a pathway that leads to the town centre.
There remains a widespread belief both with the public and within the police that Fred and Rose West’s victims numbered far more than the twelve with which they were charged and it is still considered highly likely that Fred West maintained another burial site yet to be discovered. And 12 women and children are definitely gone, forever, and two of their unborn babies, and we’ll never know how many more, simply listed as ‘missing’ during the Sixties and Seventies.