Rose West: Born Evil?

Unlocking the childhood of Rose West. What was it that turned Rose, at the age of just 17, into the most sadistic, sexually motivated, serial killer Britain has ever witnessed?

This documentary tells the story of Rose West from baby to mother to murderer. This is a side to the world’s most notorious criminal that viewers have never seen before – her childhood. Using incredible first-hand accounts from people who knew her as a child; neighbours, teachers, friends and relatives, we’ll go through the key turning points in her upbringing that made her the killer she was to become. By intercutting between her harsh childhood and the psychopathic tendencies she presented in later life and the despicable crimes she would go on to commit, plus with the advice of on-screen psychologists; the viewer will get a better sense of why Rose West became the serial killer of at least 12 young women.

Rose West became one of the most sadistic, sexually-motivated and depraved serial killers Britain had ever witnessed.

The twisted mother tortured and murdered at least 10 young women along with evil husband Fred West, including her own daughter, before eventually being locked up for life in 1995 while still maintaining her innocence to this day.

Despite what has been widely reported in the past, many experts and witnesses believe Rose actually had the dominant role in killing the defenceless victims - having murdered Fred's eight-year-old step daughter Charmaine when she was 17.

But how did Rose turn from a reclusive and disengaged child into a vicious killer?

New documentary Rose: Making of a Monster, which airs tonight on Channel 5, explores whether Rose was born evil or a product of her horrific upbringing.

One expert believes her killer psychology began in the womb before she was even born due to the brutal electroconvulsive therapy her mother received, while others point to her denial over being sexually abused by her father.

Rosemary Letts was born in November 1963 - the fifth of seven children in a poor family.

Before she was born, her father Bill Letts was in the navy and was often away from home for months on end, leaving mother Daisy to look after the children alone.

During her pregnancy with West, Daisy suffered from severe pre-natal depression so Bill had to quit the navy so he could support his wife.

However, "brutal and violent" Letts struggled with the domestic duties when settling into civilian life as he "intimidated and terrified" the mother of his children.

Former neighbour Gill Job, who grew up next to Letts family, says she could hear "awful" screams, shouts and banging.

Daisy sank into deeper depression because of husband's terror, which was so severe she was given an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) course.

The controversial procedure, which involved electrodes being attached to the skull, made patients have violent seizures.

Daisy had her last course of ECT just one day before Rose was born - and criminal psychologist Dr David Holmes says it would have impacted her brain development.

"In my view it could very well be argued that Rose's neurological development will have been retarded," explains Dr Holmes.

"To have ECT late in the gustative period. This is often the more sophisticated parts of the brain development. Inhibitory parts that give us a conscience, empathy, that stop us from doing heinous acts."

While her former solicitor Leo Goatley, who represented West in her 1995 trial, believes her killer psychology may have started before she was born.

He says: "I think where the mother is mentally ill, not engaging and stressed, suffering from anxiety, it’s all that stuff which impacts on the unborn child. The psychology starts in the womb."

As a baby Rose would rock her head, which Dr Holmes says is behaviour often seen in children who are abused as they get a comfort from the movement.

Rose is believed to have killed Charmaine shortly before Fred's prison release date of 24 June 1971. She is known to have taken Charmaine, Anna Marie and Heather to visit Fred on 15 June. It is believed to be on or very shortly after this date that Charmaine was murdered. As well as forensic odontology confirmation that Charmaine had died while Fred was still incarcerated, further testimony from Tracey Giles's mother, Shirley, corroborated the fact that Charmaine had been murdered before Fred's release. In her later testimony at Rose's trial, Shirley stated that, while her family had lived in the upper flat of 25 Midland Road in 1971, her two daughters had been playmates of Charmaine and Anna Marie. Shirley stated that after her family had vacated the upper flat in April 1971, on one day in June, she had brought Tracey to visit Charmaine, only for Tracey to be told by Rose: "She's gone to live with her mother, and bloody good riddance!" before Tracey began to weep.

As with the Giles family, Rose explained Charmaine's disappearance to others who enquired about her whereabouts by claiming that Fred's first wife, Catherine "Rena" West, had called and taken her eldest daughter to live with her in Bristol. She informed staff at Charmaine's primary school that the child had moved with her mother to London. When Fred was released from prison on 24 June, he allayed Anna Marie's concerns for her sister's whereabouts by claiming her mother Rena had collected Charmaine and returned to her native Scotland. In her autobiography, Out of the Shadows, Anna Marie—who was of full English ethnicity while Charmaine was of part-Asian ethnicity—recollects that when she asked why her mother had collected Charmaine but not her, Fred callously replied: "She wouldn't want you, love. You're the wrong colour."

Charmaine's body was initially stowed in the coal cellar of Midland Road until Fred was released from prison. He later buried her naked body in the yard close to the back door of the flat, and he remained adamant he had not dismembered her. A subsequent post-mortem suggested the body had been severed at the hip; this damage may have been caused by building work Fred conducted at the property in 1976. Several bones—particularly patellae, finger, wrist, toe and ankle bones—were missing from Charmaine's skeleton, leading to the speculation the missing parts had been retained as keepsakes (this proved to be a distinctive discovery in all the autopsies of the victims exhumed in 1994).

After his arrest in February 1994, Fred confided to his appropriate adult, Janet Leach, that Rose murdered Shirley Robinson and had assisted in her dismemberment, personally removing Robinson's foetus from the womb in the process. Another body found at Cromwell Street was that of the Wests' daughter, Heather, who was murdered in June 1987 at the age of 16, after being abused by her parents all her life. Her dismembered body was placed under their family's patio. It is said that Heather began to tell her friends about the abuse occurring in her home. Barry, her younger brother, would later describe watching, as a seven-year-old, his mother kick Heather repeatedly in the head until she was no longer moving. The Wests told friends and concerned parties that she had left home to work at a Devonshire holiday village and on one occasion, fabricated a phone call, supposedly from Heather, to allay her siblings' suspicions regarding their sister's disappearance. Fred would even taunt his children when they misbehaved by jokingly stating, "If you don't behave, you'll end up under the patio like Heather." This was the last known murder that the pair committed.

On 6 August 1992, Fred was arrested after being accused of raping his thirteen-year-old daughter three times, and Rose was arrested for child cruelty. This case against them collapsed on 7 June 1993 when their daughter refused to testify in court. All five of the Wests' younger children were removed from their custody to foster homes. This case brought to light the disappearance of Heather, who had not been seen since 1987 and triggered the major investigation that followed.

After police found human remains and apparent signs of torture at 25 Cromwell Street, Rose, along with Fred, was arrested in February 1994. During her trial, Rose denied murdering any of the victims. Rose told the jury that her husband committed the criminal acts alone, and she denied participating. Rose claimed to have tried to stop one of the sexual assaults her husband committed. Rose continued to profess ignorance of her husband's murderous activities but the circumstantial evidence that mounted against them was considered sufficient to prosecute her for ten murders: those of the young women whose bodies were found at Cromwell Street, and of Charmaine West. Fred was charged with two further murders committed before his association with Rose.

While on remand at HM Prison Birmingham, Fred took his own life by hanging on 1 January 1995.

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