Fred West, one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers

Hi, my name’s Katherine from Crime Psych. And in this series of videos, I’m gonna be taking a look at some serial offenders, some serial killers, and some serial rapists. And taking an in-depth psychological look at their behavior. As a criminal psychologist, I know that crimes such as these are thankfully quite rare. But there’s always a lot of interest in them because they are quite rare. And there is some value to examining them and trying to understand what led these people to behave in such ways.

In today’s video, we’re gonna be taking a look at Fred West. Fred West killed at least 12 women between 1967 and 1987. All of Fred West’s crimes are quite well-documented. There’s quite a lot of information out there on each of his victims and about the actions that he carried out. But as I found, it’s quite difficult to get all of the information in one place. And that’s probably for quite a good reason. These are some of the most horrific crimes which have been committed within my lifetime, certainly. Many of his murders had a sexual element. He raped and abused many of his victims, as well as some of his children. As well as murder, Fred West carried out a number of sexual assaults and rape. Some of which were against his own children.

Now what causes people to behave in such violent and horrific ways? Well, there’s several different theories on what makes people behave so violently. And they come under three umbrellas and that’s the biological explanation, the psychological explanation, and the sociological explanation. And the biological theories of why people behave so violently is that there are different areas of the brain which function in different ways. So, some sections might be slightly overactive or underactive. There may even be some form of brain damage. Whenever we get brain damage in the front of our brains here in our frontal lobe, that part of the brain controls our social aspect, how we interact socially. And so that can have an impact on violent behaviors.

Some of the psychological explanations for crime can include having a mental health disorder such as schizophrenia. And some have suggested that being a psychopath might influence somebody to violent. And other theories have suggested much more social reasons for becoming violent. So that in, say for instance, built up areas are more instances of violent crime. We model ourselves on who we’re around the most and we adapt and copy that type of behavior. So, if we’re around positive people all the time and we’re all nice and friendly with each other, then that’s the type of behavior that we copy. So, we act out what we see on a day-to-day basis.

And when we take a look at Fred West’s crimes, we can begin to unravel some of the psychological reasons and possibly biological reasons why he behaves so violently with very many of his victims. Fred was born into quite a strict family life. His father was a disciplinarian. His mother was described as being overly possessive. He was described as being quite socially inept. He relied on his siblings for social interactions. The family itself were quite a closed family unit. Fred was one of six surviving children. And they kept very much a closed family unit.

Now, Fred West describes growing up with his father introducing him to bestiality, with his father raping some of his siblings, and suggesting that his own mother introduced him to sex when he was just 12 years old. And although details of that have been disputed by close family members, some of them have suggested that Fred is just a pathological liar and that never happened. But we can begin to understand that at least if Fred is telling that story to the world, he actually believes that these things happen and that is some … perhaps some reason, some explanation for his violent tendencies.

We often learn from those who were closest to us, we watch how our parents behave, we watch how our friends and extended family members behave, and we tend to copy what we see. And that can happen for both positive and negative type behaviors. So, if we’re brought up to do chores, to do homework on time, to respect others, to listen to others, then we tend to copy those types of behaviors. But it can also extend to the negative behaviors such as domestic abuse, or rape, or threats, or violence, or theft, or any other kind of criminal activity come to that. We tend to copy what we see on a day-to-day basis.

And so, this [inaudible 00:05:16], this is what Fred had said that he seen on a day-to-day basis, that his mother took sex from him and his father took sex from his siblings. Fred says that his father raped his siblings with a justification that well, I made you, therefore I am entitled to take that from you. And this became very much the norm for Fred West. There’s elements within Fred West’s crimes where he’s consistently displaying this type of behavior, this type of dominance, control, treating people like objects, and taking from them what he wants from them to satisfy his own needs.

Fred West has been described as being quite charming from about the age of 16, 17, when he starts to mature a bit. But that charm, that wit, was always used to manipulate the opposite sex and to get what he wanted from the opposite sex. It was always about getting them to do something for his pleasure. Fred West had a motorcycle accident when he was 17-years-old and that left him in a coma for a week. He had a metal plate in his head as a result of that and he had to learn to walk again with braces. It was quite a bad accident and that could’ve led to some form of brain damage, which could’ve significantly contributed to Fred West’s social interactions to the way that he treated other people, the way that he interacted socially.

He was always described as being quite aggressive with the opposite sex and at quite an early age, he raped his sister who was 13 years of age. And when he was arrested by police for that offense and asked, “Did you rape your sister?,” he said, “Yes, but doesn’t everybody do that?” So, Fred believed that this was some sort of normal behavior. This was certainly normal within Fred’s understanding of what family life was like. He describes that his father had took sexual activity for his own gratification from his sisters, his mother done it to him, and so, he just seen that as a normal way of treating the opposite sex.

However, his sister refused to testify and the case was dropped. When his physician was testifying in court on Fred’s behalf, his physician did say that he was suffering violent epileptic fits and fits of rage, and so, there was clearly some type of brain damage left with that, which certainly left Fred with at least fits from that. And so, Fred escaped a jail conviction for that, but he was still a convicted child molester and convicted for child abuse at such a young age.

So, his early life was all about habitually taking what he wanted from women. As I say, this is what he’d learn from his father and from his mother, and when he had gone on to do it himself, there was no real punishment for that type of behavior. That lack of prison sentence just served to reinforce the behaviors to Fred that he could do these things and he could quite easily get away with it. And so, he did continue to be quite violent and dominant with the opposite sex and about a year or so after that, he was punched by a lady for groping him outside of a youth club, and he fell off some stairs … fell some down some stairs and sustained to further head damage. He was knocked unconscious as a result of that, and that could’ve led to some further brain damage. He was certainly knocked out from that.

And so, at the age of 21, he began a relationship with a lady called Rena. Now, he had already had a previous relationship with Rena, but she was too young, got move away by her parents, but when she moved back, they continued that relationship. But when Rena moved back and her and Fred were gonna marry, she was already pregnant to a Pakistani man at the time. And Fred and Rena constructed a lie and said that Rena had lost that baby and that they had then adopted a child of mixed race to explain the child’s ancestry, and then they brought that child upon their own, and they named her Charmaine.

Fred and Rena did go on to have another child together. They had another daughter, Anne Marie, around a year later. And then they hired a nanny to help to look after the two girls. And the nanny’s account was that Fred was far from a loving father. He was aggressive, he was abusive, he was dominant, he would lock the children up, he made a makeshift jail out of bunk beds. So, between the top and the bottom bunk beds, he installed bars, effectively creating this jail. And the children were let out once he had gone to work. So, he was far from a loving father figure.

When Fred and Rose had first moved in together, Fred began to serve a prison sentence shortly after that for theft. And so, we can see that for Fred, breaking the law isn’t a big deal. There were still no real consequences to him breaking the law. He simply had Rena to take care of the children while he was in jail. And when he came out again, they started their relationship and Rena began to work as a prostitute to fund the family needs.

The Wests hired a nanny who gave the accounts of the violence and the abuse with regards to the children and the nanny had a friend called … The nanny was called Isa McNeill, who had a friend called Anne McFall, who subsequently spent a lot of time in the West’s house because she was quite close friends … became close friends with all of the family.

At the age of 22, Fred ran over a boy with his ice cream van. And although he was cleared of any wrongdoing for that killing, the family still decided to leave the area to escape any kind of hostile reaction to that. And so, Fred, his wife Rena, the two children, Charmaine and Anne Marie, as well as the nanny, Anne McFall and then the nanny’s friend, Isa McNeill, decided to move from Glasgow to England. The nanny and the nanny’s friend moved with them in the hope of finding a job once they got to England. He was dominant and aggressive with all three women. He would give frequent beatings, the children were frequently sexually abused and sexually assaulted.

Rena worked as a prostitute to support, to help to support the family, and this just shows that sex to the Wests was not an intimate relationship. It was a commodity to be used, to be sold, to be made money from. Once the relationship began to break down with his wife and as Fred became more violent, the nanny and Fred’s wife moved away. Now, there was an intimate relationship with his wife in subsequent times, but it’s reported that Anne McFall stayed with Fred and they began a relationship. And we know this because when Fred was arrested and held while his crimes were being investigated, he started to record a journal.

Now, when somebody records a journal, they have something of significance that they want to record and they want people to remember them by. So, they believe that they’re part of an important story which deserve recording. And in Fred West’s case, he writes about Anne, Anne McFall, the nanny’s friend, who he was living with. And although Fred was … had quite a low IQ, he was a really good storyteller. And so, when we read Fred West’s journal, it’s quite difficult to read because of that low intelligence level. Intelligence levels of an IQ around 85 would normally require specialist schooling or specialist teaching, and concepts such as love and relationship become much more difficult. But he did tell a good story. So, although this is difficult to read, I’ll translate it in the way that Fred would’ve intended it to come across to the reader. The lack of grammar and punctuation can make it quite difficult.

He writes about his love with Anne. He writes, “When Anne came back from Jen’s and I told her that she was gonna have my baby, my world slowed down, but Anne and I were on cloud nine. She was so happy and joyful. All she did was kept kissing me and saying, “I love you forever and ever my darling.” It was the baby. I had to sort it out with Anne. But not now, as Anne is too happy. She was pregnant. I hope not. I had to sort out the marriage. I have to marry Anne. She’s my special angel. I got my guitar out and sat on the step of the caravan. Anne sat by me and I sang to her.”

So, that is the way that Fred would’ve intended the reader to take this. So, he writes all his torn feelings between loving Anne, and her being his special angel, and being torn hoping that she’s wrong about the baby. He makes passing comment to how he had to sort it out without any expansion on what “it” might’ve been. Behind that idealic picture that Fred West is creating was a lot of violence, was a lot of manipulation, control, abuse, rape. Anne was never reported as missing, but she was found buried in a field nearby where Fred was living and she was 18 at the time, and she was eight months pregnant when she had been killed, and the baby had been cut from her, and buried next to her.

Fred had given such care and significance to this child that he had seen this child of being worthy have having its own separate burial. And so, that’s why he would’ve buried the child separate to Anne because it held great significance to him. And by painting a picture of this idealic loving relationship and being so happy that they were on cloud nine, there was a very violent and dark behaviors going on behind that and very shortly, probably after just that moment. And this is what many people do.

Many people on social media these days will portray one face, one front to the world of this idealic, happy life. People post pictures all the time of a beautiful home with a big house and a lovely car or really expensive, nice family holidays where everybody’s smiling and looking really happy. And when the doors are closed and the cameras are off, they may very well be psychological abuse, violence, rape, dominance, control, cohersive behavior. And so, what goes behind the scene isn’t always what’s presented in the way that the storyteller, as in the social media person or Fred West creates in this journal to the public.

So, then Fred went on to marry Rose West. They met when she was just 15-years-old. Much to the disgust of Rose’s father, he tried to move her away and she went into a care home when she was 15, but as soon as she’d come back, her and Fred restarted that relationship and it was a very toxic relationship from very early on between the pair. People naturally gravitate towards people who they see as similar to themselves. Perhaps seen in Rose something, some dark side which was similar to the tendencies and the way that Fred would be thinking at that time.

But he probably also gravitated towards her because she was so young. It’s very easy to … for younger girls to become infatuated, especially with older men, and then it’s easy to get younger girls to take on ideas as their own to have a certain set of beliefs and a certain set of behaviors that the older person would portray and would model for that younger person. And it isn’t clear whether Rose would’ve gone on to commit the crimes that she did commit with Fred if she hadn’t have married him.

There’s no real evidence for that, but she was certainly involved in his violent, sadistic world. Fred had been in trouble a few times over the years for various thefts and he had to spell in prison shortly after Rose moved in with him where he had stole some tires and some car tax, and so, had to go to prison for that. So, it’s clear again that Fred doesn’t see breaking the law as such a bad thing. It’s just a short, inconsequential thing. He had Rose take care of the two daughters, of Charmaine and Anne Marie. And as soon as he was released, they began a happy, idealic life together again.

While Fred was imprisoned, Rose killed his eldest daughter, Charmaine, and buried her remains within the coal shed and when Fred was released from prison, she had told Fred what she had done and rather than report her to the authorities for that, he had decided that there would be a better place to bury her. And so, he took her from the coal shed, cut her up, and buried her outside of their back door of the family home. So, it shows the level of a problem needed to be sorted out, he had very little emotional connection to his daughters, and this was just something that happened that he had to help to sort out.

Fred had already killed Anne by then. And so, death, and handling dead bodies, and disposing of them, and burying them was not shocking at all to Fred. He had already broken the law several times, he had already raped his daughters, he had already raped his sisters, he had already been raped by his mother. And so, this familiar pattern of treating people as objects, they weren’t people at all. The victims for Fred West had no real significance. They were all objects to satisfy his macabre desires.

Fred and Rosemary continued their life together and Rose started working as a prostitute from their family home. Rose had her own special room where she would conduct her business from in the family home and they took on lodgers to help to pay the rent and the bills. And so, Rose would carry the only key to Rose’s room around her neck at all time, and she very much had control of the family finances. Within Rose’s room where she conducted her work, there were several spy holes bored out of there and there was baby monitors so that Fred could watch and Fred could listen. He was a longtime voyeur and enjoyed watching. He didn’t really mind as long as he seen that his wife didn’t get much pleasure from her clients.

So, again, this shows that sex and sexuality is a commodity to be taken when he wanted, to be used to make money, and for his wife to money for the family. They would also engage in regular threesomes together. They would take it to the edge with the people that they were sexually involved with in as much as torturing them, using violence with them, taking them to the edge of their comfort zones. So, they may gag and bind them, and use various torture devices on them. And so, this became a pattern of Rose becoming involved in using these other women as objects as well and treating them as though they were something to be used to give the couple pleasure, to be used for their own satisfaction.

Fred and Rose’s father set up a café business together and although Rose’s father wasn’t happy about their relationship initially, he did come around and they set up this café business together. But then Rose’s father learnt of his daughter’s prostitution from their family home and rather than being disgusted by this, he then started to visit Rose as a client. So, this just shows the level of dysfunctional relationship between all adult members of the family then at that stage. This abnormality became the norm within their family home. They exerted dominance, and control, and used other people in ways which these other people weren’t always comfortable with, but they always pushed it and took it to the limit, and they did eventually go on to murder, and rape, and sexually assault several of their victims together.

And this level of dysfunction of control, of dominance, of lack of regard for other people as human beings became characteristic for both of them. They kept going on within the family home very much to themselves. They were very much a closed family unit. They raped and sexually assaulted their own children, both Fred and Rosemary, and they had a torture room, which they would use in the dungeon to abuse some of their victims and their children, and they were always very careful to make sure that they scared the children enough so that the children didn’t go and tell anybody outside of the family home what was going on. They warned the children against that. So, that shows the level of coldness, their calculated behavior. They knew what they were doing was wrong. They knew that other people outside of the family home would learn of their activities that they would certainly be in trouble.

So, they chose to manipulate and control the children, and encourage them to not discuss things which had gone on within the family home. On one occasion, one of the children even reported to Rose that her father had violently abused her and raped her that day, and Rose’s response to that child was to say, “Well, you must’ve deserved it then.” It was very much the norm to have violence, to have control, to be raped, and to rape other people within that home. This was a very violent and volatile house to be brought up in.

West cut up the body or bodies of many of his victims. And so, even after death, he’s using the level of dominance, and control, and manipulation, he’s manipulating these bodies by handling them after death. And they’re all buried in and within this fortress that he’d created for himself. Once they’ve moved out of the caravan and into the family home, they level and number of murders did increase because they had a private space to be able to do that, and they both enjoyed taking part in those types of activities together. They encourage each other and I am certain that had they not been caught, there would’ve been no chance that they would have stopped their offending activities.

They would’ve gone on to kill many, many more times had they not been caught. Even during the police interviews, which were recorded with Fred West once he was arrested and held, Fred details that he couldn’t remember many of the victim’s names, but he claimed that they talked to him from the spirit world. So, again, this shows that he wants to have control, he wants to have interaction, he wants to relive the moment, he still wants to hang on to the thought that he still has something that he can get from these victims. So, by him claiming that they spoke to him in spirit form after they died, he’s holding on to the idea that he still has some control and dominance within the dysfunctional relationship.

At no point did Fred acknowledge, either to the police or within the journals that he wrote, any of his horrific crimes. When he creates these journals, he had a chance to justify himself. They obviously both seen themselves as justified in taking what they wanted from their victims, but when Fred created this journal, he never mentioned any of the horrific offense which he committed. He spoke of loving relationships, of upset, of turmoil, of problems, of things that need to be sorted out. So, he never acknowledged his own wrongdoing. And initially, he did say that he had committed all of the murders on his own because he wanted to protect his wife, Rose.

His wife, Rose, at that moment in time was everything to him and when they came to stand trial and they seen each other in court for the first time, Fred had expected Rose to be loving towards him, but when they seen each other for the first time, Rose completely dismissed him. She wouldn’t even look at him and she wouldn’t talk to him. He sent her messages through the children, which she’d never replied back to. And so, this shattered Fred’s belief that they would still have some form of relationship even after he was convicted and served a sentence. And then Fred West started to change his story and started to say that his wife, Rose, had committed the majority of the murders together, all except for Anne Marie, which he’d killed some years earlier.

But he placed much of the blame onto Rose because at that point, that relationship had broken down and he just tried to exonerate himself by blaming her. And so, Rosemary is still held in prison today. Fred went on to kill himself. Fred and Rosemary West’s crimes were discovered initially because the nanny had decided that she no longer wanted to be a part of that family unit and went and reported the activities to authorities. Although the children were taken off them initially, the children wouldn’t stand trial. They didn’t want to stand up in court against their own parents. And so, the case fell through. Although, he would’ve been convicted of the murders.

So, Fred and Rosemary West lived a violent, manipulative, cohersive, controlling relationship where the pair of them were in power and used other people, including their own children, as objects to satisfy their own needs. Although disturbing, I do hope that you’ve enjoyed the video today and found it interesting, and learned something about Fred West’s psychology based on his offending actions. If you enjoyed the video, you can hit like, you can subscribe to this channel. I will be looking at more serial offenders in the weeks to come. You can go over to the website and be added to the mailing list, and then we’ll send you notifications of newsletters, of blogs, and vlogs. So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Thank you very much for taking the time for watching. I look forward to seeing you soon. Bye.