Dear Fred... a letter to the Cromwell Street killer
It’s been 25 years since you left us, we barely knew ye.
So little video and audio footage was captured of you before your death, which also robbed us of your trial - thus you have never been found guilty of murder in a court of law.
For now and always you will be in a nation’s consciousness with so little said but so much done.
This is your rise to fame…
On January 1st 1995, you, Frederick Walter Stephen West, killed yourself by hanging in your Winson Green Prison cell. You made a noose from sheets. A major fuck up for prison officials who let you go without facing the music and revealing all of your dark secrets.
The man, the mystery, the celebrity killer was formed. And it’s that last moniker that you might be most surprised about.
It was only in early March 1994, just 10 months before you killed yourself, that we first heard of you, the now infamous builder from Gloucestershire. Police excavated the back garden of your three-storey semi in the hope of finding the remains of your daughter, Heather.
The ensuing dig, along with a search of the family home, previous address and local fields yielded twelve bodies in all - and there was little doubt that these were all of your victims.
The front pages of the national newspapers were a frenzy of headlines – “house of horrors” and “Horror House” led the line as the nation, nay the world, was focused on the typical working class environment of Cromwell Street.
What looked like a regular house, on a regular street, that could have been in any town in England hid, literally, the bodies of nine young women that fell foul of the most murderous couple in UK history. You and Rose.
Rose, still alive today – unprotected by your fanciful plea that she knew nothing and currently housed in New Hall Prison in Wakefield - married you in 1972 and little could have given any clue that this matrimony would create the most infamous killers in the UK’s history.
Until your heinous actions launched you and Rose to infamy, we thought that Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were the most devastating killer couple in British history, but I wonder if you even thought during your murders that you would eclipse them so thoroughly.
We know that Ian and Myra would have been in your mind as your first killing and Ian’s last was less than two years apart – an astonishing fact (may I say). Although, your reign of terror would go largely unnoticed through your method of selection and rather cunning victim disposal.
For you weren’t criminal masterminds but your expertise in building proved the most efficient body disposal and cover up any serial killer could think of - I imagine many a Fred West patio still firmly exists in the Gloucestershire area. Undaunted by butchery too, you weren’t averse to chopping victims up to make them fit in the smallest of holes possible.
Maybe more than any other couple, Fred and Rose, as you would simply be known, command a very special place in murderous folklore. If Myra and Ian were classy and evil, you Wests were dopey and dirty, but there is little to deny, and likely a lot to convince you, that both you and Rose have become pop icons.
Now that murder memorabilia is no longer the hidden hobby it once was and immersing yourself in serial killers has since become the mainstream, today you can barely move for TV series, podcasts and books containing all the gruesome details about killers like yourself. So, it’s little surprise you’ve become more famous since your death, but it might be a surprise that one can buy almost anything with your face on.
Just before Christmas a sequinned cushion that reveals Rose’s face garnered 175k views on Twitter and nearly 5k likes. Etsy, amongst other sites, sells a multitude of items adorned with your face, book marks, original artwork, mugs, cross stitch, home furnishings. Of course you won’t know what Twitter or Etsy is as you died before the internet took over society but let's just say, the president of the United States of America showed a photo of you and Rose to the entire world thinking you were a great supporter of his - I SHIT YOU NOT.
But with so little of you seen it was left to Hollywood actor Dominic West to portray you as a not totally dislikeable man. With a glint in his eye and your trademark curls, he was already a sex icon but I very doubt there isn't several (hundred? thousand?) women who think he was at his tastiest in that woolen jumper and body warmer.
For playing you he accepted the Bafta for best actor in a TV series, applauded on by his fellow nominees Benedict Cumberbatch, John Simm and Joe Gilgun amongst other A list actors. You truly made it to the top.
It’s been an odd 25 years Fred.