Unheard: The Fred & Rose West Tapes is a new true crime podcast investigation into the notorious Fred and Rose West case—conducted by the journalist who first broke the story 25 years ago. In 1994, married couple Fred and Rosemary "Rose" West were living in a three-story home at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, England. Fred was a local handyman; Rose was a stay-at-home mom to eight children. From the outside looking in, they seemed a normal family unit. But the facade came crashing down in 1994, when authorities unearthed the dismembered remains of Heather West, the teenaged daughter of the pair, buried on the West family property.
The discovery exposed a years-long murder spree that was almost too gruesome to comprehend. The remains of two other women were found on the property. A further five bodies were discovered buried in the cellar, and one was entombed beneath the bathroom. In addition, the remains of Fred’s first wife and the family nanny were discovered miles away in nearby fields, while the body of Fred's eight-year-old stepdaughter was found buried under the Wests’ former residence. Investigators identified at least twelve victims between them, and the residence Fred and Rose West shared at 25 Cromwell Street was no average family home. The House of Horrors, as it came to be called, was a den of depravity where they beat and sexually abused their own children, and murdered multiple young women and girls.
The murder spree shocked England—and nobody knows the details of the case better than journalist Howard Sounes. Twenty-five years ago, Sounes first broke the Fred and Rose West story as a reporter for the British press, covering the investigation and ensuing murder trial. He went on to write an in-depth true crime book about the killer couple, published in 1995. Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors traces the case from the Wests’ upbringing in broken homes where incest was the norm to their own horrific crimes and proliferation of the cycle of abuse. Now, Sounes is revisiting the harrowing crime with his new podcast, Unheard: The Fred & Rose West Tapes.
Sounes recorded hours upon hours of interviews in the 1990s while conducting research for his book—recordings that play a prominent role in the new podcast. Listeners will hear never-before-heard audio interviews with West family members, former friends, neighbors, and surviving victims. Unheard: The Fred & Rose West Tapes also promises to devote significant time to unpacking the stories of the twelve murder victims, giving individual identities back to the women and girls whose lives have largely appeared as a footnote to the couple’s cruelty.
The first episode of Unheard: The Fred & Rose West Tapes was released on September 9. Not for the faint of heart, this deep dive into a truly twisted case will leave you wanting to know more. That's why we asked Howard Sounes himself to present four key facts you need to know before listening to the new podcast.
Keep scrolling to read Sounes' key facts, then tune in to Unheard. And while you wait for the rest of the gripping 12-part series to drop, read Sounses' Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors to learn more about the notorious serial killer couple.
Who were Fred and Rose West, and what is the new podcast series, Unheard: the Fred and Rose West Tapes, all about? Here are the four key details you need to know courtesy of host Howard Sounes.
1. It’s one of the biggest British murder stories ever
Fred and Rose West were married serial killers. Between them, the couple killed twelve women and girls, over a twenty-year period—making them among the most infamous serial killers in British history.
The Wests buried nine of their victims under their home at 25 Cromwell Street in the cathedral city of Gloucester, 100 miles west of London, and they continued to live there for decades … undetected, even though the house was a short walk from the police station.
2. Who were the 12 victims?
Fred and Rose West were sexual sadists who raped young women and girls—for kicks. It turned them on, as part of their marriage. There is disturbing evidence that they tortured their victims, tying them up in their cellar, often gagging them. Victims were ultimately decapitated and dismembered.
The Wests also killed as an expediency, to eliminate people who were a danger to them.
Victims included Fred’s eight-year-old step-daughter, his first wife, and Fred’s and Rose’s teenage daughter, Heather, whose body was found buried under the backyard in 1994. The Wests also picked up women from bus stops, and hitch-hikers.
3. What happened to Fred and Rose West?
Fred West confessed to murder, upon arrest in 1994, but hanged himself in custody before he could stand trial, leaving Rose to face 10 murder counts alone. Rose West was sentenced to life in 1995.
Related: 6 Twisted British Serial Killers
But mysteries remain. There is evidence that there were other victims, who have never been found, and bones were missing from the remains of the victims who were found. Where are these bones? And was Fred or Rose the dominant partner? Rose West is still alive, but has never admitted to the crimes.
4. Why is this podcast coming out now?
It's the 25th anniversary of the start of the murder investigation, and 25 years ago, I was the journalist who first broke the Fred and Rose story. While working on my book, I recorded my interviews on tape. These unheard tapes are the basis of the new podcast series. The listener discovers the story as I did, in the 1990s, investigating with my tape recorder running. I also conducted new interviews with witnesses who have never spoken before in public.
Unheard: The Fred & Rose West Tapes recently reached number one on the UK iTunes podcast charts, and is sure to be your next true crime obsession. Click below to listen now—and be sure to check out Fred & Rose, Sounes' book about the West case.
Fred & Rose
Howard Sounes delivers the definitive account of Fred and Rose West, the notorious killer couple who loved, tortured, and murdered together as husband and wife. Sounes first broke the West story in the 1990s, as a journalist for the British press. In Fred & Rose, he traces the Wests' lives and crimes in forensic detail, from their bizarre childhoods to their horrific murder spree, constructing a disturbing tale "of obsessive love as well as obsessive murder" (The Times, London).
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Featured photo: Alchetron