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The painstaking search for Fred West ‘victim’ Mary Bastholm: Police ‘dig on their hands and knees’

Police searching for the remains of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm in the cellar of a café in serial killer Fred West’s home city of Gloucester admit it is being carried out in a ‘challenging environment’.

Forensic and crime scene experts are being forced onto their hands and knees underneath The Clean Plate cafe as it is excavated.

Low ceilings mean they cannot stand up straight while they toil to try and discover if Mary’s remains have been hidden there for decades.

Ground penetrating radar has uncovered six voids under the cafe’s basement, including one which looks to contain blue material, prompting fears it could be the blue jacket Mary was last seen wearing.

Mary is feared to have been one of West’s first victims after she went missing from a bus stop in 1968. Her body has never been found.

Gloucestershire Constabulary’s crime scene coordinator Martin Cuffe said of the search area: ‘It’s probably about 20m long by 10m wide. It’s not an expansive area. It’s a very old building, several hundred years old and we have a number of challenges.

‘There are a lot of other hazards including very low ceilings – around four to five feet. A lot of the time our staff are having to work bent over. It creates for quite a challenging environment; a lot of our time is spent on hands and knees crawling around.’

Anything discovered has to be taken to a lab to be checked over properly and tested. 

A police tent covers the site in front of the Clean Plate cafe after finding evidence a victim of Fred West may be buried there

A police officer guards the area of the Clean Plate cafe, where a cellar excavation is taking place over the next two weeks

A police officer guards the area of the Clean Plate cafe, where a cellar excavation is taking place over the next two weeks

The cafe, which was formerly called the Oasis cafe, had building work done by West and Mary had also worked at the venue

The cafe, which was formerly called the Oasis cafe, had building work done by West and Mary had also worked at the venue

Stephen West, the son of Fred West

Serial killers Fred and Rosemary West

Fred West’s son Stephen West (left) is helping police after six ‘anomalies’ were found at a cafe where missing Mary Bastholm is feared to be buried. Mr West gave information to an officer who led the murder investigation into Fred and Rose West (right)

Fred West is pictured with his son Stephen as a boy. Mr West is understood to have told an officer his father confided in him that he murdered Mary

Fred West is pictured with his son Stephen as a boy. Mr West is understood to have told an officer his father confided in him that he murdered Mary

He added: ‘That could be human remains, but it could also be items of evidence, personal property or belongings.

‘Once sieved it’s then transported and sorted to another location within our cordon. We can then go back and review each section.’

It comes after police interviewed West’s son Stephen, who he had confided in that he had murdered Mary, as well as other women, whom he buried in a well in a remote cornfield opposite the Berkeley nuclear power station in Gloucestershire.

A police source told MailOnline that Mr West explained he had given the information to chief superintendent John Bennett, the now-retired officer who led the murder investigation into his father and mother, Rose West, back in 1994, but was not believed. 

Detectives searching a cafe for the remains of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm (pictured) were given new information

Detectives searching a cafe for the remains of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm (pictured) were given new information

The police source said: ‘Officers spoke with Stephen West yesterday and asked him to go back over what his father had told him back in 1994 when he visited his father in prison.

‘Mr West explained that he had told Chief Supt Bennet, who led the police investigation, that his father had told him that he had killed numerous women and buried them under a well in a remote field near the Berkeley nuclear power station.

‘He also said that his father had admitted to murdering Mary Bastholm but didn’t want to reveal where she was.

‘However, Mr West said his information was apparently brushed off at the time because Chief Supt Bennett considered his father to be a liar and someone who could not be trusted to tell the truth. 

‘Mr West told officers that when his information wasn’t acted on he travelled to the location himself to see if his father was telling the truth and found the well, which he described as being in ‘the middle of nowhere’.

‘In light of the current investigation at The Clean Plate cafe, Mr West’s information on what his father disclosed to him from prison is being treated with much more seriousness.’

Last week Mr West confirmed to MailOnline that his father had admitted to him that he had murdered Mary and had done work on the cafe where she worked, which was then known as the Pop-In cafe. 

Contractors arriving at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester yesterday morning where excavation work had been due to begin

Contractors arriving at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester yesterday morning where excavation work had been due to begin

An aerial view of police activity at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester on Wednesday morning as excavation work was to begin

An aerial view of police activity at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester on Wednesday morning as excavation work was to begin

Contractors arriving at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester yesterday as the investigation continues with excavation work

Contractors arriving at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester yesterday as the investigation continues with excavation work

Police found "possible evidence" in Gloucester of where a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West may be buried

Police found ‘possible evidence’ in Gloucester of where a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West may be buried

Contractors are seen at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester yesterday as the Mary Bastholm investigation continues

Contractors are seen at The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester yesterday as the Mary Bastholm investigation continues

How police will use a pneumatic drill to dig-up café’s concrete cellar after radar detected six voids beneath the ground

Police searching for the remains of a suspected Fred West victim are this morning preparing to excavate the basement of a cafe.

Officers brought in equipment to start digging under The Clean Plate Cafe in Gloucester, where 15-year-old Mary Bastholm worked before vanishing in 1968.

One officer was seen carrying a pneumatic drill with a chisel on the end through the white tent set up at the entrance to the diner.

It will be used to break up the concrete cellar floor after six voids were discovered underneath the building.

Detectives have already drilled into one of the voids and put a camera down and caught what looked to be blue material buried there.

Detective Chief Inspector John Turner said: ‘We found six voids within the basement. It could be water … it could be something decomposing.

‘They have drilled a hole in the ground to vent the area and at that point the search dogs with them have indicated some kind of interest.

‘An endoscope has then been put into the void and they had seen what they have described as a blue bit of material.’

Mary was wearing a blue coat, a blue and white dress and was carrying a blue bag on the day she went missing.

One of the voids under the cafe is a metre and a half deep and could have been left when objects decomposed, Gloucestershire Police have said.

West, who killed himself in 1995 while awaiting trial for the murder of 12 women, is said to have carried out building work on the cafe just after Mary’s disappearance, including potentially laying the concrete floor.

The search will take at least two weeks with police excavating each void in turn and then backfilling them and moving on to the next.

DCI Turner said the voids would be excavated ‘methodically and meticulously one at a time’ to allow officers to review every tranche of excavated earth.

DCI Turner said police have been working with forensic archaeologists and anthropologists to go over the data given by the documentary crew who uncovered the potential new leads.   

He said: ‘He didn’t go into how he killed Mary but it was his usual MO, grabbing vulnerable women alone on the street. 

‘I said to him, ‘Did you do it? You’ve always denied it.’ He said ‘yeah, I did do it. I did take her’.

‘I told him that he had to tell the police as he had nothing to lose as he couldn’t be in any more trouble than he already was but he was adamant that he wouldn’t.’

Mr West added: ‘He talked to me about another 20-30 victims on top of what the police found. He said he lost count, forgot victims’ names. 

‘There were a number of other locations that my dad told me he’d buried his victims. I told police this back in 1994/5.’

Fred West hanged himself on New Year’s Day 1995 while awaiting trial for the murders of 12 women. He was never investigated over Mary’s disappearance but has always been the prime suspect.

The potential new leads being investigated in the cafe were uncovered by a documentary team, led by Sir Trevor McDonald, who brought in dogs trained to find dead bodies that became agitated when in the basement.

They also used a scanner able to penetrate stone which picked up a ‘suspicious object’ under the concrete floor.

Forensic archaeologists have discovered six ‘voids’ – around 2ft at their deepest – in the cellar toilet area of the cafe. A camera placed through a hole in the floor found a piece of blue material beneath.

Mary was wearing a blue coat, blue and white dress and was carrying a blue bag on the day she went missing on January 6, 1968.

Detective Chief Inspector John Turner said officers were today due to commence excavation work, which will take around two weeks to complete.

He said police would consider their options following the dig but an ‘obvious’ line of inquiry would be interviewing serial killer Rose West.

The 67-year-old is serving a life sentence at HMP New Hall in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, after she collaborated in the torture and murder of nine young women and her eight-year-old stepdaughter with her husband.

DCI Turner said: ‘If we were to find something I will then consider other investigative opportunities.

‘One of the obvious ones would be speaking to Rose West.

‘We found six voids within the basement. It could be water … it could be something decomposing.

‘They have drilled a hole in the ground to vent the area and at that point the search dogs with them have indicated some kind of interest. 

‘An endoscope has then been put into the void and they had seen what they have described as a blue bit of material.’

Mr Turner said of West himself: ‘If Fred were alive, undoubtedly he would be interviewed around the disappearance of Mary.

Police officers remove objects from The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester on Tuesday morning, including two wooden doors

Police officers remove objects from The Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester on Tuesday morning, including two wooden doors 

Police at the scene in Gloucester on Tuesday, where they are preparing to excavate the basement of The Clean Plate cafe

Police at the scene in Gloucester on Tuesday, where they are preparing to excavate the basement of The Clean Plate cafe

Former journalist ‘saw Mary Bastholm at bus stop before van drove her away’

A former journalist believes he was the last person to see teenager Mary Bastholm alive before she may have been murdered by serial killer Fred West.

Detectives are digging up the basement of a cafe where Ms Bastholm, 15, worked before going missing in 1968.

Retired reporter Alan Watkins, 74, now says he saw the waitress waiting at a bus stop when a grey van pulled up and drove her away.

He told Kent Online: ‘I was aware that she was there because it was unusual to see somebody at that bus stop at that time of night. But I didn’t really take much notice.

‘I saw that she was talking to somebody inside the van. I couldn’t tell if there was more than one person, or if it was a man or woman. The next thing, she was gone and my bus arrived.’

A police inspector said the sighting was ‘very interesting’ when informed the following day at a press conference which launched an appeal to find Mary.

But Mr Watkins said his tip off was not followed up.

He said: ‘Looking back, it makes me angry. I assumed the information I gave would be processed through the normal channels.’

Mr Watkins covered the West case and visited Mary’s parents, who have since passed away, while working at a news agency and the Gloucester Citizen newspaper.

He said: ‘They were lovely people. I feel angry they died not knowing, and not being able to mourn because they did not now what happened to their daughter.

‘I think police owed it to them to follow up my information.’    

‘He is the only one who really knows if he had involvement in Mary’s death.’ 

Mary’s disappearance in 1968 was at a time when builder West was abducting girls in Gloucester. 

Detectives have recently spoken to Stephen West, Mr Turner said.

Mary’s body was not found during the 1994 excavation of the Wests’ home, now known as the House of Horrors, on Cromwell Street in Gloucester.

The detective said there was conflicting evidence during the original House of Horrors inquiry as to whether West had carried out renovation work at the cafe in 1968 or later, in 1976.

‘Since then there has been a lot of rumour and folklore about Mary and Fred’s link with the cafe and the decision was made that there was insufficient evidence at the time to excavate the site,’ Mr Turner said.

‘I met the Bastholm family on Monday and spoke with them at length about what we were going to do and the plan moving forward.

‘Clearly since 1968 the family haven’t known what’s happened to Mary.

‘There has been some speculation that she may have been linked to Fred West at that time and there was conflicting information within the investigation around that.

‘But it is really important to them that we do actually now search for the truth and find out once and for all if Mary is buried under the basement.’

In a statement, Mary’s family said: ‘We are extremely happy Gloucestershire Police is continuing to try and search for Mary and this gives us a chance to potentially put her at rest after all these years.

‘We hope this is a chance to finally get closure for Mary and would like to continue to ask for privacy whilst the excavation is ongoing.’

West is said to have told his son Stephen that he killed Mary while in custody, just weeks before killing himself in January 1995. 

Detectives have already interviewed Stephen to investigate the claims.

Police had received information that West was responsible for renovations in 1968 to the basement of the cafe, then called the Pop-In.

But contradictory statements that West had not carried out building work there led police to rule out an earlier search.

West (shown above) worked as a builder, and he may have laid the floor that is now being dug up as part of a forensic probe

West (shown above) worked as a builder, and he may have laid the floor that is now being dug up as part of a forensic probe

Mr West is understood to have told an officer that his serial killer father confided in him that he murdered Mary as well as other women, who he buried in a well in a remote cornfield opposite the Berkeley nuclear power station (file picture)

Mr West is understood to have told an officer that his serial killer father confided in him that he murdered Mary as well as other women, who he buried in a well in a remote cornfield opposite the Berkeley nuclear power station (file picture)

Drone pictures from above the Clean Plate show police have put up forensic tents at the front and rear of the property

Drone pictures from above the Clean Plate show police have put up forensic tents at the front and rear of the property

A petition in 2012 led then-Gloucestershire chief constable Tony Melville to review the investigation for Mary. But he said they would not conduct a further search unless ‘new and compelling’ evidence came to light.

West, one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, is known to have murdered at least 12 young women, eight of whom were raped, tortured and mutilated.

The remains of nine victims were discovered buried in the back garden at the Wests’ home in Cromwell Street, Gloucester, in 1994.

West killed himself while awaiting trial at Birmingham’s Winson Green prison. 

Mary was on her way to play Monopoly with Tim Merrett in nearby Hardwicke when she went missing. 

Last week Mr Merrett, now 72, said he has no doubt West killed Mary but doubts she is buried under the cafe. 

He said: ‘To me it doesn’t make sense that she is there but I would urge the police to keep looking for her. 

‘I’ve never forgotten Mary, she was my girlfriend for about six months when she just disappeared. 

‘She was coming up to her 16th birthday. 

‘When Fred West was caught it was obvious to me that Mary was one of his victims. 

‘He didn’t give up the names of everyone he killed and I believe Mary was one of those.’ 

Tormented, tortured, and murdered: Tragic lives of Fred and Rose West’s children who they sadistically abused… with daughter Heather becoming their final victim 

Monster Rose West was the mother to eight children, five of whom were fathered by her husband Fred.

Fred West also had a daughter, Anne-Marie, and a step-daughter, Charmaine, from his previous marriage. Charmaine was murdered by Rose. Her mother Rena was one of West’s early victims.

Rose had Tara, Rosemary Junior and Lucyanna by other men.

Together, the Wests had daughters Heather, Mae and Louise and sons Stephen and Barry, who was the youngest. 

Heather West 

Heather, the eldest, ended up as the couple’s final victim when she was murdered aged 16 in 1987. She was strangled and her head was cut off.

Admitting the murder to police, West said in an interview: ‘I cut her legs off with that and I’m not telling you I have lived that a million times doing that since then and then I cut her head off and then I put her in the bin and put the lid on and rolled it down to the bottom of the garden behind the Wendy house.

Jayne Hamer, who lodged with the serial killers, said in a documentary earlier this year she heard Heather screaming ‘stop it Daddy’.

She said Heather later warned her to ‘get out of here while you can’ and added that the teenager ‘saved my life’.

Heather West was the eldest child of Fred and Rosemary West. She was murdered by her parents in 1987

Heather West was the eldest child of Fred and Rosemary West. She was murdered by her parents in 1987 

Mae West

Mae West, now 49, is oldest surviving child of her sadistic parents. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2018, she spoke about show she was horrifically abused by both her parents.

She was groped and fondled by her father and beaten by her mother, while her uncle John – West’s brother – raped her when she was aged just five.

Despite her horrific ordeal, Ms West is now happily married and has two children.

Her memoir, ‘Love As Always, Mum xxx’, was published in 2018.

She said that for ten years she visited her mother in prison but ended contact with her after experiencing more of her ‘coercive, controlling’ behaviour.

Mae West, now 49, is oldest surviving child of her sadistic parents. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2018, she spoke about show she was horrifically abused by both her parents

Mae West, now 49, is oldest surviving child of her sadistic parents. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2018, she spoke about show she was horrifically abused by both her parents 

Mae (left) is seen above in a childhood photo with her elder sister Heather

Mae (left) is seen above in a childhood photo with her elder sister Heather

Stephen West 

Stephen West, born in 1973, is the third child of Fred and Rosemary.

He was jailed for nine months in 2004 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Mr West said in a podcast interview last year that his spell in prison saved his life.

‘If they hadn’t sent me to prison I wouldn’t be alive today.

‘Without a doubt. I came out a better person and made massive changes to my life.’

Stephen West, born in 1973, is the third child of Fred and Rosemary. He was jailed for nine months in 2004 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl

Stephen West, born in 1973, is the third child of Fred and Rosemary. He was jailed for nine months in 2004 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl

He said he had previously thought he was not affected by his parents’ crimes but then admitted ‘I didn’t come out of it unscathed at all’.

Mr West revealed he had cut off contact with his mother, saying he ‘had to’.

‘In 1999 she called me with hate and was blaming me for everything.

‘She said I should have died when I was born and all that sort of stuff. It was a disgrace,’ he added.

Louise 

Louise, born in 1978, was the youngest daughter of the Wests.

She has not spoken publicly about her childhood.

Barry 

Barry, the Wests’ youngest child, was found dead from a suspected overdose last year.

Barry West, 40, (pictured) has been found dead from a suspected overdose

Barry West, 40, (pictured) has been found dead from a suspected overdose

He was aged just seven when he saw his parents beat his sister Heather to death.

He was taken into care five years later and was too scared to give evidence at his mother’s trial in 1995.

Barry was plagued by psychiatric problems and nightmares his entire life and is understood to have long battled drug addiction.

After his mother’s trial, he moved from Gloucester – where he had lived with his parents – to a different part of the country, where he lived under a new identity.

He was found dead at a hostel in Maidstone, Kent.

A family source said in the Mail on Sunday after his death: ‘He never found peace, never escaped the ghosts of Cromwell Street. Of all the Wests’ younger children, Barry had the most difficult life.’

Tara, Rosemary Junior and Lucyanna 

Tara was one of the children who her mother, who worked as a prostitute, is believed to have had with a sexual client.

She previously said that, unlike her siblings, she escaped abuse. She said that her mother ‘spoilt’ her because of guilt she had about her origins.

Of West, she said: ‘I realise now that Dad was only interested in his natural daughters. He thought they were his property. Because I wasn’t his daughter he left me alone.’

Rosemary West had two further children – Rosemary Junior, who was born in 1982, and Lucyanna.  

Charmaine West 

Fred West’s stepdaughter from his first marriage, Charmaine was murdered by Rose in 1971 while Fred was in prison. 

She was killed after refusing to give in to the woman’s bullying. 

When he was released from prison, Fred buried Charmaine’s body. 

This led to him murdering his ex-wife Rina West, who as Charmaine’s mother had been asking about the eight-year-old.

Anne Marie West 

Anne Marie is West’s daughter from his first marriage. 

She was raised by Rose after her mother and sister were murdered.

Gill Britt, another woman who lodged with Fred and Rose, revealed in a 2019 podcast how Anne Marie knocked on her bedroom door to reveal ‘horrific’ bruises. 

Anne Marie (pictured in a TV interview in 2011) is West's daughter from his first marriage. She was raised by Rose after her mother and sister were murdered

Anne Marie (pictured in a TV interview in 2011) is West’s daughter from his first marriage. She was raised by Rose after her mother and sister were murdered

She added: ‘Straight away she made it quite clear that people were doing this to her.

‘In hindsight, at 17, I would never got my head round it but as I’ve grown up and had children and had life experience.

‘I know that I know that those injuries were inflicted in a very abusive way.’

Ms Britt says the youngster was just 13 when she first showed her her injuries. 

She would eventually escape their clutches with the help of her boyfriend Chris Davis in 1985 and would go on to testify against her father and Rose in court.

When she left 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester she was still unaware Fred and Rose had murdered her mother Rena and her two sisters. They were only caught in 1994. 

The tragic victims of the House of Horrors murderers

Although Fred West was convicted of killing 12 women and Rose 10, the pair are thought to have killed up to 20 more.

One victim who was almost certainly killed by West was his former girlfriend Anne McFall who like the others, was found in a shallow grave with body parts missing. West denied it.

The warped pair used whips to torture their victims as well as their own children. 

Fred West committed suicide by hanging himself in a prison cell in January 1995 — before he could stand trial for the murders.

Rose West is still a prisoner at HMP Low Newton in Durham, having been handed a rare ‘whole life tariff’ for her part in the killings. 

Confirmed victims include:

Charmaine West, eight: Fred West’s stepdaughter from his first marriage, Charmaine was murdered by Rose in 1971 while Fred was in prison.

Rena Costello, 27: Charmaine’s mother Rena, Fred’s first wife, was murdered when she arrived to pick up her daughter Charmaine in August 1971. With Charmaine already dead, it is thought Fred killed her to avoid an investigation.

Lynda Gough, 20: Miss Gough was a lodger in the West’s home and was killed in April 1973. Rose told her mother she had moved to Weston-super-Mare.

Carol Ann Cooper, 15: The teenager disappeared while walking home from the cinema to her Worcester children’s home in November 1973. Her remains were found buried in the Wests’ garden.

Lucy Partington, 21: After spending Christmas with her family in Cheltenham, Miss Partington disappeared after leaving to catch a bus. The student was the cousin of novelist Martin Amis and the sister of author Marian Partington.

Therese Siegenthaler, 22: The South London student was killed in April 1974 after disappearing while attempting to hitch-hike to Ireland.

Shirley Hubbard, 15: One of the Wests’ youngest victims, she disappeared on her way home from college in Droitwich. When her body was discovered, her head was completely covered in tape with a rubber tube placed in her mouth to allow her to breathe.

Juanita Mott, 18: Miss Mott, a former lodger at 25 Cromwell Street, was living in Newent when she vanished.

Shirley Robinson, 19: Another lodger, Miss Robinson was killed in 1978 after becoming pregnant with West’s child.

Alison Chambers, 17: The teenager disappeared in August 1979 and her remains were later found beneath the patio at 25, Cromwell Street.

Heather West, 17: Repeatedly raped by her father, Heather complained to friends about the abuse and was murdered by her parents in a bid to keep her quiet.  


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