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After Fred had disposed of Charmaine’s body and settled back into a domestic routine with Rose, he turned his attention to the problem of his wife. Rena was becoming an intolerable threat to his well-being because of her natural desire to see her eldest daughter. She had always worried about Fred mistreating the girl, and had kept in touch with Midland Road in case anything was wrong. It is therefore probable that Rena quickly found out that Charmaine was missing. This must have alarmed her and caused her to ask Fred and Rose questions about Charmaine’s whereabouts. It was, of course, of the utmost importance that Rena did not discover the truth: that her daughter was in fact dead and buried behind the back door of the flat.
The air was scented with the smell of cut hay when Rena knocked at the front door of Moorcourt Cottage in August 1971. She was met by the jolly figure of Christine West, who had recently married Fred’s youngest brother, Doug, and who was now living at home in Much Marcle with her husband and father-in-law. Christine had her baby son, Christopher, with her–he had been born the previous year–and was pregnant with her second child, due the following January.
It was very unusual for Rena to turn up unexpectedly at Moorcourt Cottage; indeed, Christine had never met Fred’s wife before, understanding them to be separated. Rena explained to her sister-in-law that she was looking for Walter. It was harvest time, and the old man had been down at Moorcourt Farm since dawn, helping to bring in the corn. He would not be back home until the evening. Rena said she would go down and see him at work, but did not explain what she wanted to talk about. Later on that day she came back to the cottage, and, because she had helped with the harvest, had a bath before leaving again. Neither Rena nor Walter offered any explanation for the meeting, or what she had wanted, but it is likely that she asked Walter if he knew where Charmaine was. It is an indication of her extreme anxiety and desperation that she turned to Fred’s father for help: after all, she hardly knew him.
Some time later, in an apparent attempt to placate her, Fred agreed to take Rena to see Charmaine. She got into his car expecting to be reunited with her daughter. But first Fred took her to a pub, where he made sure she got staggering drunk. Then, when she was incapable of resisting, he strangled her to death.
It is not known exactly where Fred murdered Rena, but he probably killed her in the car, while she was helplessly intoxicated. Strangulation was the most likely cause of death; it was also an aspect of sadistic sex that excited him. He may have constricted her breathing by inserting a pipe in her throat: a short length of narrow chromium tubing was later found with her remains, together with a child’s toy–a small red plastic boomerang. It is also possible that both these items were used to abuse Rena’s body in other ways. Eventually she died. Fred then wanted to dismember her body, just as he had Anna McFall’s. To do this, and to be able to enjoy it, Fred needed a place where he would not be disturbed, a place where he could take his time, wash after wards and change his clothes.
When Fred had finished, he put her remains into bags and put the bags into the car.
Late at night, Fred drove out towards Moorcourt Cottage. He stopped the car a few hundred yards away by Letterbox Field, so-called because a red mailbox is attached to the fence. Fred was near to the spot where he had crashed his motorcycle into Pat Manns when he was a teenager, and next to Finger Post Field, where he had buried the remains of Anna McFall. Letterbox Field is on a slight hill, so Fred could see the lights of Much Marcle in the distance, and, with the engine switched off, could hear crickets chirruping in the fields.
Once he had negotiated the five-bar gate, Letterbox Field rose up ahead of him in the gloom. He struggled a little under the weight of the sacks containing Rena’s remains as he climbed towards a cluster of trees known as Yewtree Coppice. He chose a spot next to the hedgerow, where he felt he would not be disturbed, and dug a deep pit, placing sections of her corpse into it together with pieces of her clothing. He then refilled it and crept back to the car.
In the months following Rena’s death, nobody reported her to the police as a missing person, and, just like Anna McFall, there is no record of anyone looking for her–not even health visitors, who should have known about Rena and checked on her welfare, because of her children being fostered and the struggles she had experienced with Fred in trying to get them back. It might also be expected that Rena would have appeared on the ‘At Risk’ register, if only because of her criminal history. Yet her disappearance, if noted at all, was never seriously investigated at the time.
Fred had got away with another extraordinary crime.
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