Gloucester police rule out starting new searches for potential Fred West victims

  • Footage from Fred West dig at cafe in Gloucester in May 2021.

Gloucester police have ruled out starting new searches for potential victims of serial killer Fred West, days before an ITV documentary will reveal he may have killed more women.

Detectives had been urged by the TV team to begin fresh searches at specific locations around Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, including a farm where it is claimed West buried 12 victims.

The documentary, presented by Sir Trevor McDonald, will air later this week and ends with a call to police to begin fresh excavations - but already the police said there isn’t enough evidence to start digging.

It features former DCI Colin Sutton, investigative psychologist Donna Youngs and author and Fred West ‘expert’ Howard Sounes.

The team behind it said they have been following up new leads for seven months.

Serial killer Fred West took his own life in prison while awaiting trial for murder.

In May this year, they claimed West could have killed missing Gloucester teenager Mary Bastholm in 1968 and disposed of her body under a local cafe.

This led to the basement being excavated by police in a huge operation that lasted more than a week, but found nothing.

The programme, which airs in two parts this week, concludes with a report on the cafe excavation and will include experts urging detectives to begin digs in other locations.

But a spokesperson for Gloucestershire police said what they had been presented with wasn’t enough. “After careful assessment we do not believe the evidence submitted to us at this time meets the threshold to justify further searches in the locations identified,” they said.

“However, as with all cases we will review any new evidence submitted to us."

Mary Bastholm disappeared in 1968.

The first two sites are in Fingerpost Field, near Much Marcle, on the Herefordshire side of the Gloucestershire border, where West buried his first known victim, 18-year-old Anna McFall, who was heavily pregnant with his baby at the time.

It is close to Letterbox Field, where he disposed of the body of his first wife, Catherine ‘Rena’ Costello.

Those two victims were found in 1994, when he gave police precise locations, but now, using Ground Penetrating Radar technology and cadaver dogs, the ITV crew claims to have found a number of ‘places of interest’ in that area.

Mr Sutton said: “The handler is of the view that we should excavate the sites as soon as possible and I am absolutely on board with that. It is a really significant find and a significant piece of work from the cadaver dogs. The indications I saw the dog make were so very strong.”

The TV crew also claims to have identified a third location, a derelict farm site, based on information provided to them by Janet Leach, the woman who acted as Fred West’s ‘appropriate adult’ when he was questioned by police in the days after his arrest.

In the documentary, she repeated claims Fred West told her there were ‘another 20 bodies to be found’, while another source in the documentary, West’s former employers Wendy and Derek Thomson, said that while in prison he had said he had ‘done something in Berkeley’.

ITV’s documentary crew believes to have narrowed down the Berkeley reference to a farm on the edge of the Gloucestershire town, but the owners would not let them investigate further.

Sir Trevor McDonald said he had urged police to look further into the documentary’s findings.

“There is still much more to the murderous campaign of Fred and Rose West,” he said.

“I think the option of not investigating these fields seems very strange. Surely, if there is any suspicion of evidence that there might be more bodies, it follows, as night follows day, that there must be an attempt to discover what happened to these missing people.”

Fred and Rose West: Reopened is aired in two parts this Wednesday and Thursday from 9pm.