Fred West: I reported on the killer in 1994 - I never thought he'd make headlines decades on

Steve Scott, pictured left, in his 1994 report on Fred West, pictured right

As police investigate possible evidence of a body linked to Fred West, ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott recalls how, as a young reporter, he covered a story that would still be making headlines 27 years later.

When I knocked on the door, I could never have known what lay behind it.

 It was the entrance to an unremarkable if slightly unkempt end-of-terrace house on a road full of similar large homes.

It was late February 1994 and the address was 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester; an address that was soon to become a byword for unspeakable horror and mass murder.

It was the home of Fred and Rose West.

I was there because police were planning to dig up the back patio in light of new information they’d received about the disappearance of the West’s teenage daughter Heather, seven years earlier.

No one answered the door that day.

Steve Scott was on the scene in 1994 when the first set of human remains were found in Fred West's garden

It transpired later the reason for that was both the Wests had been arrested and were being interviewed about the murder of their daughter. 

I spoke to neighbours who by and large said Fred West was a cheerful and friendly man, always willing to help out with odd jobs.

One who told me he was regularly invited in for tea said he noticed nothing unusual inside number 25.

Many others portrayed Fred’s wife Rose as a motherly figure.

They also described how the Wests seemed to take in quite a few lodgers; it seemed a busy, sociable house with people going in and out a lot of the time.

I spoke to many local people that day but none of them revealed any suspicions of anything untoward.

So, on the face of it this appeared to be at worst a story of a father killing his daughter and then hiding her body in the garden.

Still tragic of course and, if true, it was difficult to comprehend what type of man could do that and then go on to live with the evidence of his crime, hidden just a few feet away in the garden.   

As the digging operation started, I persuaded a family whose home backed on to the Wests’ garden to allow me to put up some scaffolding to give us a platform to film from.

Fred West

The police digging team was partly hidden by a forensic tent but we could still hear the drilling and every now and then got a glimpse of them taking samples away back through the house.

After a few days police confirmed they had found human bones under the stone patio and Fred West was charged with Heather’s murder.

That, we thought at the time, was probably that.

But everything changed when we were called to a media conference the following week when detectives revealed they had unearthed a further two sets of adult bones buried in separate places in the garden.

Steve Scott reports on Fred West's murder charge in June 1994

I have sat through countless police briefings in my time but rarely have I been at one that rendered such silent shock and a realisation that this was very likely to be the beginning of something far worse, far more terrible, than anyone had expected.

It later transpired that as we watched the excavation continue at the back of 25 Cromwell Street, Fred West had been brought home, dressed in the same clothes as the police search teams.

He’d led police through his house pointing to various places in the cellar where he’d hidden more bodies.

In total he said five women were buried in here and another one was elsewhere in the house.

West had also indicated there were other locations nearby, but away from Cromwell Street, where police would find further remains.

All this slowly emerged as police came across body after body.

Each discovery was genuinely shocking; it seemed at times this awful truth had no ending. 

Fred West's wife, Rose West

Also, judging by objects that were found alongside each set of remains some of the victims were clearly tortured.

Such depravity though did not seem to fit with the person we’d seen in court or the kindly, simple man that neighbours had described.

There were moments, particularly when police announced they’d uncovered yet more remains, when it felt as if I’d been given a tiny part in a far-fetched British horror movie.  

When Rosemary West faced her first murder charge it answered a question that many of us were asking at the time.

How on Earth can all this have been happening without her knowing about it?

Far from simply conveniently ignoring what her husband was up to, it turned out Rose was very much at the heart of it.

The Wests were not just a murderous couple but were driven by a deep sexual perversion too.

The scale of their cruelty was staggering and frankly difficult to take in.

The more you learned the more sickening the reality became.

How on Earth did Fred and Rose West escape attention for so long?

The cafe currently being investigated by police has been linked to Fred West and teenager Mary Bastholm, who disappeared in 1968. Credit: PA

Sheer evil had been living in plain sight in a busy, highly populated part of a major British city.

Behind every discovery of course was a tragic story and a heartbroken family.

It was unimaginable what they went through during this time waiting anxiously to see if one of those sets of remains belonged to their loved one; a daughter or sister who’d been missing for so long.

If and when they received that confirmation not only did they have that to cope with but they also had to reconcile the grim reality of their relative’s last moments alive.

On reflection they probably did not receive the attention they deserved at the time, as the media was fixated by the two monsters in its midst.

When Fred West killed himself in his prison cell the families were failed by the system.

He was awaiting trial for 12 murders and his death meant that a dozen families would never find out the truth or at least get a chance to hear it.

West’s widow Rose was later convicted of 10 of those killings but has never admitted a single one of them; she has always maintained her innocence.

The new police search on Southgate Street in Gloucester this week that is linked to both the Wests and the teenager Mary Bastholme who went missing in 1968 has suddenly taken me back 27 years and I still can’t decide whether I’m glad no one answered the door to me that day, or not.