Archive for September 8th, 2011

Fred West’s Daughter Reacts to Appropriate Adult

The daughter of serial killer Fred West branded actor Dominic West a ‘hypocrite’ after he claimed he felt ‘sullied’ and suffered nightmares while playing the murderer in a new TV drama.

Anne-Marie Davis, 47, criticised the cast, programme makers and police for their controversial roles in Appropriate Adult, a new ITV production about the murders of women and girls at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester.

She said: ‘When an actor like Dominic West talks about being ”sullied” by the role and talks of nightmares, you have to question their hypocrisy.

‘What of the victims who survived and all the victims’ families who have lived with this for more than two decades? He has had but a glimpse of their world.’

I do not think that the actor was trying to compare his experience with those of the victims. I think he was stating something that was probably true, I can not imagine pretending to be Fred West was enjoyable at all. I do not think getting into the minds of serial killers is a pleasant experience. I also do not think that he is sating that he became a victim playing this role.

The mother-of-two slammed ITV for using the ‘Fred and Rose brand’ in a ‘global money-making exercise’.

Mass murderer Fred West, 53, hanged himself in Winson Green Prison on New Year’s Day 1995 as he awaited trial for 12 murders.

His wife Rose West, 57, is serving a full-life term in Low Newton Prison after she was found guilty of her part in ten murders including that of her 16-year-old daughter Heather at Winchester Crown Court in 1995.

The ITV drama is seen through the eyes of the ‘appropriate adult’ Janet Leach, who acted as an independent safeguard by sitting in on Fred West’s police interviews.

I have not seen the movie and will probably not be able to since shows on ITV (even on YouTube) are blocked in the U.S. but it does not sound like a film that glorifies the killers. It also does not seem (from what I have read in reviews) to downgrade the victims at all. Rather it seems to show just how sick, twisted and perverted the West predators were.

Ms Davis was raped and tortured by the Wests when she was eight and her mother Rena Costello and sisters Charmaine and Heather were murdered.

Anne-Marie condemned current Gloucestershire police chiefs for assisting ITV production staff, a decision which has concerned retired officers who worked on the West case and pledged to look after the victims’ families.

She said: ‘I believe that decision is pretty lame and the current regime should be ashamed of the position they have put the victims’ families in, and ashamed that they have let down former colleagues whose morality was, and remains, so resolute.

‘ITV have used the police input to advertise the validity of their research. It is questionable whether police resources should be spent helping a private enterprise that exploits the victims of crime for profit.’

I do not think that the police helped for big money, rather they helped to make sure that it was accurate, at least as accurate as it could be. I also do not think that profit was the sole motivation for the movie.

Dominic West, who starred in The Wire and BBC drama The Hour, has previously said how he suffered ‘pretty horrible dreams during the shoot where I’m perched on a wall and Fred West was trying to grab me and pull me down.

‘I was fairly determined not to let him get to me. I only did it for three weeks and it was a pretty intense, very dark three weeks. It was pretty grim.’

Again, he is talking about how plying such a role made him feel. He is not saying that he suffered the way West’s victims did.

Ms Davis has been critical of the new, two-part drama throughout its making.

She said: ‘I’m still unsure whether ITV and the actors comprehend the depth of our grief, but how could they? I just ask that they spare a thought for the victims and their families when they pick up their pay cheques.

‘We live in an age of multiple TV channels, many of which regularly screen repeats. That means for the rest of our lives this programme will be re-run over and over.

‘Whilst Dominic West moves on to his next role, another life sentence will start for all of the families.’

In my opinion Ms. Davis is angry at the wrong people. She is blaming the wrong people for the wounds that she (and the other victims) have. The actors, police, production companies and the rest are not to blame, it is Fred and Rosemary West that are to blame for those wounds.

I do understand that seeing it again, hearing about it again might make those wounds sting, but I bet that they sting anyway. It is just easier to ignore when no one is aware.

Ms Davis, who gave evidence against Rose West at her trial, has refused to watch the first 90-minute episode of Appropriate Adult when it is screened at the weekend.

I do not think she should watch it.

She said: ‘I find the whole idea of this production sickening, but I have tried to be balanced in my criticisms.

‘I have enough emotional and mental baggage and I don’t need an actor to haunt or further remind me of the crimes my father perpetrated.

‘Many people think that it’s my perception there will be re-enactments of murder and gratuitous violence and that is why I am so disturbed. It is not.

‘My frustration stems from the resurrection of my father on screen, the re-enactments of dialogue between interviewing police officers and my father describing the circumstances surrounding my mother’s and sisters’ disappearances, their murders and his subsequent disposal of their bodies.

I can understand that and feel such sympathy for her. The fact remains that these things did happen, nothing will change that and nothing can take away the memories.

‘No doubt, the same treatment will be given to the other victims and the effect this will have on their families must be considered.’

She added: ‘I hadn’t spoken publicly for ten years until this drama was mooted. I have never put myself forward as a spokesperson for the victims’ families, and I never will.

In a way she is. She has the right to, she is even more so a victim than most.

‘Maybe, as a member of the West family, I shouldn’t have a view. All I can say is that I speak for my sanity.

I can not say it enough, she is a victim is so many ways.

‘It is indicative of our society that we haven’t moved on from the voyeurism that surrounds the ”Fred and Rose” branding and I suggest that ITV wouldn’t have invested so heavily in ”The Janet Leach Story” without it.

‘I congratulate them for finding their angle, riding high on the back of Mrs Leach. They have walked a tightrope, balancing the validity and compassion for Mrs Leach with the memory of the victims and their families’ grief – and they have opted to fall on the side of Mrs Leach.

“I would ask people to put aside that voyeurism for just a few minutes and consider the victims of all such crime, their families and the life sentences they have to serve – without choice.’

With out without movies, shows, books and web sites the victims serve their sentences. If they do not want to put back in that moment they should not be, they should not watch.

Pretending these crimes did not happen does not make them go away. Hushing it all up and closing our eyes just gives the predators the upper hand. People do not look for the little things that might help stop a serial killer while he is killing. People forgetting only protects the killers.

Ms Davis, who was sexually abused by Fred and Rose West and other men they brought to 25 Cromwell Street, managed to flee the family home when she was 15 in just the clothes she was wearing.

She said: ‘My mother Rena and my sisters Charmaine and Heather, are my heroes. I was an eight-year-old coward and I was still a coward when I ran away.

***Note from me: No, you were not and are not a coward*****

‘But my mother and siblings stood up to them and paid the ultimate price. To have an actor pretending to be my father and describing how he murdered and disposed of their bodies I find an insult to their memories because they were real people, not just a name on a page, who deserve a little more respect.’

 The mother of two described the lasting effect that the horrific experiences had on her own life.

‘There was no doubting the overwhelming sense of emptiness and loss. Justice had been served and now it was time to try and pack away the memories of past and present, except it was not that easy.

‘There was little support available locally and the NHS just didn’t know what to do with me and I am ashamed to admit that I attempted to take my own life on a number of occasions and I am lucky to be alive.

‘It would take years before I got the kind of counselling and professional support that I desperately needed.’

**note from me: I hope that she is still getting help**
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Anne-Marie is hard for me to write about. Her father made her a victim in every way possible. She is one of his victims directly, her mother and sister were killed by him and she lives the life of a survivor of his crimes.

She has every right to speak up when it comes to anything dealing with coverage of this crime.

She does not have the authority to stop the public from learning f these crimes though. Even if it causes pain.

Victims do have rights but the public also has a right to know. Also, stories like this remind people that monsters do not look like monsters and usually live next door to someone.

I hope that one day Anne-Marie forgives herself and that she does heal.

Here is an interview with her from 2000.

There’s nothing special about the path. Flanked by no-nonsense bushes, it serves as a cut-through from one scruffy street to another. At one end, a couple of slices of white buttered toast lie where they fell from a bin bag. At the other, an empty can of Strongbow rolls against a bollard. It looks nondescript, but staff at the nearby corner shop are often asked where the path is. For it was once the site of 25 Cromwell Street, the “House of Horrors” that harboured the remains of nine young women murdered by Fred West.

There’s nothing special about the path. Flanked by no-nonsense bushes, it serves as a cut-through from one scruffy street to another. At one end, a couple of slices of white buttered toast lie where they fell from a bin bag. At the other, an empty can of Strongbow rolls against a bollard. It looks nondescript, but staff at the nearby corner shop are often asked where the path is. For it was once the site of 25 Cromwell Street, the “House of Horrors” that harboured the remains of nine young women murdered by Fred West.

Several miles away stands another house, much like all the others on the modern estate – a smart four-bedroom affair with a touch of Cotswold stone. Bundled up against the cold, I ring the door bell. The woman who answers wears a short-sleeved summer dress. At the end of her bare legs is a pair of black flip-flops. Her face has been carefully made-up. But what is most striking about her appearance is the resemblance to Fred West, her father. “The spit”, some would say, except that Anne-Marie Davis has dyed her hair red. When, in 1994, her father was charged with 12 murders, and her stepmother Rosemary with 10 counts, her hair turned white.

We pass through the elegantly furnished lounge to the kitchen. Phil, Anne-Marie’s partner of eight years, appears from the garage in slippers with a pencil behind his ear. Anne-Marie disappears upstairs to finish her hair, and Phil, 35, makes the tea. We chat about the set of table skittles he’s making.

Then, in bounds Carol, the couple’s 12-year-old daughter, with a giggly friend in tow. They head for the fridge and disappear again with a bottle of Coke. Everything is spotlessly clean. I’m reminded of the stories of how, as a child, Anne-Marie was made to do all the housework at Cromwell Street. If it wasn’t up to scratch, her stepmother would beat her.

At 15, Anne-Marie ran away from home. Step-sisters Charmaine, eight, and Heather, 16, who stayed, both died. In November, Anne-Marie threw herself into a local stretch of the River Severn. She narrowly escaped death after she became caught up in overhanging branches. It was her fourth suicide attempt. “I don’t remember much about it. I get low and have mental blackouts. All I remember is being in the water, having this floating feeling and suddenly this warmth. I felt at peace and relaxed,” she says in her soft Gloucestershire accent.

It was a number of things piling up upon each other which brought on this particular bout of depression. There was the letter from Channel 5 about its plans to make a drama about Rose and Fred. Then The Mirror persuaded her to return to Cromwell Street with a reporter. The experience was deeply upsetting, and she was bitterly disappointed about the article, which she had hoped would portray her as a woman in her own right, not just the daughter of Fred West. Also, she was just plain tired, tired of the comments from the public in the supermarket where she works as a cashier. “They nudge and stare while waiting to pay. I know they’ve recognised me when they suddenly stop talking so loudly. I’ve had people call me a slut. I’ve had that when I’ve been shopping with my daughter. You hear it so much you start to think: ‘I must be like that’. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of who I am.

“There are a lot of feelings of guilt that I have got to live with for the rest of my days so I don’t need other people adding to it,” she says. “I just say to myself that maybe the reason it happens is because they can’t get to the people who did it. And I’m next in line.” Tears, coloured with blue eye-liner, slip down her face.

Anne-Marie’s natural mother, Catherine Costello, married Fred West in 1962 in Much Marcle. They lived for a time in Scotland, where Anne-Marie was born. The family moved back down to Gloucestershire, but Catherine frequently returned to Scotland. In 1970, during one of her long absences, Fred met 15-year-old Rose and invited her to move in. Catherine went missing the same year. In 1994, police found her body buried in a field in Much Marcle.

Fred and Rose first raped Anne-Marie when she was eight, in the specially soundproofed basement in Cromwell Street. Rosemary, who worked as a prostitute from home, forced Anne-Marie to have sex with her clients from around the age of 12. “I was told to do it,” says Anne-Marie quietly, tucked up in an armchair. “I wouldn’t answer back. I was very cowardly. I did what I was told. I just thought it was a normal thing. I was told it was happening all over the place.”

As a young teenager she was raped by her father’s cousin, John Hill. (Hill was convicted of the rape and sentenced to four years in 1998.) Fred himself regularly took Anne-Marie on building jobs, raping her in the back of his van or in customers’ homes. By 15, Anne-Marie was pregnant by her father and was taken in for a termination. It was after that that she ran away. Unknown to her, by that time there were already seven or eight bodies buried around the house.

Anne-Marie is desperate to escape the legacy of her infamous father, and desperate to be liked. She is open, warm and at times funny. She “loves people” – which is why she chose to work in a supermarket. She would like to help other victims of abuse. “I don’t feel that I’m giving anything to society and I want to be helping. I do feel I have a lot to offer.”

But then there are the days of binge-drinking, when the self-disgust just gets too much and she can no longer stand the feelings of guilt. Guilt that her testimony helped put Rose behind bars and deprived her brothers and sisters of their mother; guilt that her Uncle John hanged himself while on trial for raping her; guilt that she didn’t prevent the murders, particularly of her step-sisters; guilt that she helped mix the concrete used by Fred to cover the basement floor under which some of the bodies were eventually discovered. And guilt that she survived. “I had no bloody backbone. I was a coward. I’ve let those people down,” she says, one hand over the gold locket around her neck which contains some of the ashes of her mother and step-sister Charmaine.

“The difficult thing is that when I think about what happened when I was younger, in some way I still don’t think the way I was brought up was wrong,” she says. “I know it’s wrong. And I would never bring my daughters up that way. But look at me, I’m not a bad person. When you start talking to me you can see I’m genuine and how I am, so it couldn’t have been that bad.”

Michelle, 15, Anne-Marie’s daughter by her ex-husband Chris Davis, has been living with foster parents in Gloucester for the past year. After the trial, Anne-Marie felt unable to cope with her behaviour which had started to become unmanageable in 1992 when her parents split up. “I love her to bits, she’s my daughter, but I can’t ever see her living here with us. I’ve let her down a lot. I don’t feel that I have been a good mother – somebody else is looking after my daughter.”

Anne-Marie was the main prosecution witness at the trial in 1995 which found Rosemary guilty of 10 counts of murder and gave her a life sentence. As a consequence Anne-Marie’s brothers and sisters no longer speak to her. “I miss them to bits, I love them to bits, but I can’t make them talk to me. The majority of them blame me for where their mum is. The way they deal with it is to blame it all on my dad.”

The bitterness was such that both sides tussled for custody of Fred’s body. No one would tell Anne-Marie the date of the funeral, and she missed it. The spat reached farcical proportions when Anne-Marie stole Fred’s ashes. “They were going to bury him with my granddad in the family plot in Much Marcle at night, and I thought it was wrong,” she explains. “Some of my relatives’ graves had already been desecrated. Nor did I want people to make it into a shrine.” She says she will never reveal where the ashes are.

Anne-Marie’s affection for her father and stepmother is bafflingly undiminished. “I will always love my dad and Rosemary. And in a strange way I miss them,” she says. She shows me a beautifully-made wooden gypsy caravan, with her name painted above the door. Her father made it for her while on remand. New Year, the anniversary of his death, is hard. She saw the new millennium in with tears.”Dad just seemed so friendly and well liked. He always helped people. He wanted to be liked. I suppose the way he showed me love was the sexual abuse, which I didn’t realise at the time was abuse. It was a large family and to get a bit of attention was lovely.”

While she saw her father in prison, she has never visited Rosemary behind bars. It is not, however, something she rules out. Much to her surprise, after her latest suicide attempt she received a letter from Rose’s solicitor passing on her stepmother’s concern. “I’ll be honest, one day I would like to see her, to give her a cuddle and say everything’s all right. She obviously isn’t very well.”

Does she forgive Rose?

Anne-Marie suddenly turns and asks: “What have I got to forgive her for?”

The beatings, the abuse?

“I’ve never really thought about it. I don’t see that I have to forgive her for anything. She brought me up to the best of her ability, and I don’t think I’m a bad person.” 

From Here

I think that this also explains why she is so angry at a film that is exposing all that went on.

Very sad in so many ways.

The film, which stars The Wire’s Dominic West (as Fred), Oscar-nominated Emily Watson (Janet) and Stanley Townsend (as myself), does not dwell on the murders which horrified the world.

Instead, it focuses on Janet’s struggle to do her job, care for her children and cope with the terrible secrets that Fred burdened her with.

Back in February 1994, Liverpool-born Janet was living in Gloucester and doing social work. As part of her job she had become an Appropriate Adult – someone who could be called upon by the police to sit in on their interviews with youngsters who were not represented by a parent, for whatever reason, to see there was fair play.
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