Fred West: What police have found in search for Mary Bastholm and why Gloucester cafe is being excavated

Mary Bastholm's family may finally get the answers they've been desperate for as police will begin excavation work in a cafe, ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports

Police in Gloucester shone some light on the "compelling" new evidence that suggests Mary Bastholm, feared to be Fred West's victim, could have been buried beneath a cafe.

Excavation work is due to begin at Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester, after an ITV documentary crew found the "possible evidence" in connection with Mary, a 15-year-old cafe worker who went missing in January 1968.

According to Detective Chief Inspector John Turner, the excavation work will take place "at the earliest" on Wednesday.

The senior investigating officer revealed the new evidence that led him to decide to excavate the premises: "voids" in the basement area and blue material that may have been what Mary was wearing when she was last seen.

Detective Chief Inspector John Turner gives more detail about the evidence that suggests Mary Bastholm was buried underneath a cafe

He told ITV News police have identified six holes in the ground. The TV production team had initially identified two, one of which appeared to have a piece of blue material.

He explained that last Friday, police were approached by the ITV documentary crew: "They informed the police that through ground penetrating radar and the use of body recovery dogs, they had found a void within the ground, within the basement in and around where the toilet cubicles were.

"They drilled a hole into that void and dogs indicated a minor-towards-medium indication that there may be something of interest within the void.

When can Mary Bastholm's family find out whether the voids have anything to do with the teen's disappearance?

"They put an endoscope camera in there where they saw what looked to be a piece of blue material within that void.

"Now, the significance of the blue material is: according to the ITV company when Mary went missing in 1968, she was wearing a blue coat, a blue and white dress and a blue bag."

DCI Turner described the information put forward by ITV as "compelling".

After receiving the information, police brought in its own team of forensics, archaeologists and anthropologists with their own ground penetrating radar kit, DCI Turner said. They discovered more voids in the basement area.

He stressed that no body has been found yet and the voids are "unexplained at this time".

He explained: "Voids can be made by things decomposing within the ground. There can be water pipes that leak.

Fred and Rose West.

How has Mary's family and loved ones responded to the investigation?

Ms Bastholm’s family said in a statement: "Senior Investigating Officer John Turner has sat with us and explained the ongoing investigation as well as his intentions to excavate the cafe to try and find Mary.

"We are extremely happy Gloucestershire Constabulary is continuing to try and search for Mary and this gives us a chance to potentially put her at rest after all these years."

Her family added: "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."

Ms Bastholm was reported missing in the 1960s and she was last seen at a bus stop in Bristol Road, Gloucester, on 6 January 1968.

She had been waiting for a bus to see her boyfriend in Hardwicke, after finishing her shift at a cafe in Southgate Street.

Her boyfriend, Tim Merrett, told ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn that she’d been heading to see him and they planned to play Monopoly together.

"She was coming down to see me because my motorbike at the time was off the road and I was working on it so she was coming down to the house where I lived and just never arrived."

He added: "She was carrying a monopoly game which was my game which we’d taken to her place and played it she said she’d bring it down with her so we could have a game of that but they never found that."

What causes voids in the ground? The senior investigating officer explains

"It’s an old ground, we don't know how the footing were put in. What we don’t know yet is how the voids were made. The only way to understand what made the void or what is in the void is actually to excavate and look.

He added: "What we’re doing now is we’ve got an opportunity once and for all to find out the truth for Mary’s family about what is happening in that basement. And when I spoke to Mary's family at length yesterday, I explained exactly what I was going to do and why.

"I assured them that when we did leave the basement, we will know for sure if Mary's there or not."

Police haven't found Mary nor a body yet, DCI Turner stressed

Addressing the links between Fred West and Mary's disappearance, DCI Turner explained that West had told his son Steve just before he killed himself that he had been responsible for the teenager's disappearance and death.

But when West was interviewed by police, he had denied any involvement.

Explaining why police had not looked in the basement of the cafe until now, DCI Turner said: "It’s well known that Fred lied to police during interviews and sent them on a wild goose chase all around the country and it’s because of those issues that we found it really difficult in the past to actually separate the fact from fiction."

He referred to rumours that West had renovated the cafe's toilet in 1968 and said: "In order to look in a basement, we’d have to have a warrant by the magistrates court to give us a lawful purpose. We can’t get those on fact and fiction, we have to get those on fact."