First published back in August of 1996, British author and journalist, Geoffrey Wansell’s book ‘An Evil Love’ provided a detailed insight into the life of notorious serial killer Frederick West.
Born in Herefordshire in 1941, Fred West’s childhood was one which saw him constantly in and out of trouble. From a scruffy looking young boy, as West grew older he began to smarten himself up as he gained interest in women. And then at the age of seventeen West was injured in a motorcycle accident that saw him in a coma for a week, and a metal plate bolted to his skull. Whilst recovering from the accident, West met sixteen-year-old Catherine Costello – better known as Rena.
Rena and Fred quickly became lovers, however their relationship was somewhat short-lived before Rena went back home to Scotland. On the prowl for women again, it wasn’t long before West was pushed off a fire escape for his unwanted advances.
By now West was a twenty-one-year-old man, and had already been convicted of child molesting and theft. However, Rena Costello still had a place for West in her life, and so she came back from Scotland and rekindled their relationship together. But, Rena was now pregnant with an Asian bus driver’s child. But West nevertheless accepted Rena with her unborn child into his life, and in March 1963 Charmaine was born.
However, West’s interest in other women had not dwindled despite his relationship with Rena. Furthermore, driving an ice cream van gave West the chance to meet with young women all day long. An opportunity that he took full advantage of as often as he could.
And then in 1964 West’s first child with Rena was born – Anna Marie. However, it wasn’t an easy time for the small family unit. West had been involved in an accident that had killed a young boy, and he was deeply concerned for his job. At the same time the couple had also come to know a young girl named Anna McFall whose boyfriend had also been killed in an accident.
Together, they all moved to Gloucester where West took up a new job within a slaughterhouse. A job that would see West dealing with butchery, copious amounts of blood and dismemberment on a daily basis. And here, very possibly something was awoken in West. A connection with mutilation and the butchery of dead meat that would take a hold of his life. Something that would lodge itself deep into the man’s already damaged brain.
However Rena was far from happy about the card that life had dealt her. And so Rena decided to pack up and leave Fred and return to Scotland once again. However, her departure was only short-lived; and soon enough Rena was back in Gloucester, finding her husband and Anna McFall now cohabiting together. Anna McFall soon became pregnant with West’s child. And so McFall started to push West into divorcing Rena who seemed to be back on the scene again. A move which would see the young mother-to-be brutally murdered and dismembered by West.
But Anna McFacll would prove to be just the first of many murder victims for West. The arrogant badboy with an uncontrollable lust for the opposite sex had all of a sudden stepped into a whole new territory. And then in November of 1968, West met a girl named Rose Letts. A young woman in her mid-teens with a rebellious nature who had been searching for a man like West. And with their union came a joint desire to push the moral boundaries. To exist purely for their own pleasure. Rose stuck by West during a prison sentence, problems with Social Services and her father’s objections to their relationship. And in 1970, at the age of sixteen, Rose gave birth to their first child together – Heather West.
But life was proving far from easy for Rose. Rose’s temper was becoming out of control; her duties towards West’s other children pushing her to the edge. And then Charmaine went missing. And an important milestone in Rose’s life was crossed. One that would draw her closer to Fred West. One that, when he was finally out of prison, would become a catalyst for their a brutal streak of rape, perversion, sadism, murder and dismemberment that was beginning to form with the two. Together, Fred and Rose West would become an insular unit which would breed a perverted lifestyle beyond the comprehension of most people. Together the couple would perform a long line of heinous crimes which would span almost two decades. Whether Rose actually acted with her husband in murder is open to speculation. However, what is indisputable is that Fredrick West would soon become one of the most sadistic and brutal serial killers to have ever lived…
In researching his book on Frederick West, writer Geoffrey Wansell obtained access to over one-hundred-and-fifty hours’ worth of tape recordings of West detailing his life and crimes. Furthermore, Wansell liaised with West’s official solicitor as well as social workers and psychiatrists who had all come into professional contact with West. As such, this put Wansell in quite a uniquely informed position; enabling him to write a book from as close to Fred West’s perspective as possible. Indeed, a fair proportion of the book makes direct reference to details from within West’s own hand-scribbled autobiography (if you could call his unpublished scribblings such) entitled ‘I Was Loved By An Angel’.
The book sets off detailing the series of events that commenced on the 25th February 1994 when Detective Constable Hazel Savage arrived at 25 Cromwell Street with a warrant to search the premises and garden. From the horrific revelations that gradually start to come to light, Wansell ends the first chapter on this powerful note, setting the tone perfectly for the hard-to-accept horrors that are to come. And then t’s from here, and like with most true crime books of this nature, Wansell begins detailing Fred West’s early years, painting a vivid picture of a difficult (but not unusually troubled) upbringing.
Throughout these chapters, Wansell draws heavily upon what West detailed within his taped interviews. The end result is a whole host of intimate admissions really getting behind the skin of the sort of man that Fred West was. And even at these early stages, before any admissions to violent or murderous behaviour is mentioned, the complete persona that West portrays is a blood-chillingly creepy one.
In the interviews referenced by Wansell, Fred West tells of how he would seduce women. How he would ensure that he had sex with them. How he ‘played the game’ at every opportunity. How he shirked responsibility in favour of bedding other women. How this lecherous, arrogant and sex-driven deviant got his way time and time again. And how with each bedding, the cocky confidence of West grew.
And it’s these uniquely personal stories of Fred West’s life that really puts Wansell’s ‘An Evil Love’ leaps and bounds above other books on the killer. The detailed insight into West’s life is second-to-none. By around the eighth or ninth chapter the reader has managed to form a pretty darn comprehensive picture of who West was; with the small details provided from the man himself, ultimately weaving together to paint a convincing picture of a man whose fleshed-out state will undoubtedly work its way under your skin.
And then chapter ten arrives. I kid you not, this chapter will leave you cold. Whether what is detailed in this chapter is a true reflection of what really occurred in the West’s cellar is perhaps open to debate. However, the horrendous acts detailed in these pages are enough to shock and sicken even the most prepared reader of true crime. What Wansell details are acts of heinous sexual torture on his own children, delivered in a cold and heartless manner that cuts to the readers’ nerves like an ice-cold poker through tender flesh.
From here the seal has well-and-truly been broken and it’s now open-season for the full extent of West’s atrocious acts to be unveiled. Expect gut-wrenching horror after horror after horror, culminating in an inevitable decent into murder and sadistic violence. However, perhaps the most chilling aspect of these latter pages is in the way Wansell continues to describe the West family’s life throughout the time that these terrible acts are being carried out. Indeed, Wansell quite purposefully adopts a (difficult to accept) detached manner that allows the detail of the crimes to truly speak for themselves. And it’s utterly shocking reading to say the least.
Taking the reader all the way up to West’s suicide on the 12th July 1996, Wansell ends his harrowing book on Fred West in an emotional sign-off that concludes this difficult-to-read book in a perfectly fitting manner.
All in all it has to be said that Wansell’s book ‘An Evil Love’ is very possibly the most disturbing, graphic and detailed account of the life and crimes of Fred West. It paints a detailed and vivid picture of the man that Frederick West was, from his family and upbringing to the rape, torture and murder he devoted his life to. The book offers psychological analysis throughout, with constant reference and quotations from the various members of the West family as well as key psychologists and social workers. To date, it’s probably the most in-depth and thorough examination of what happened. And very possible the best book on this harrowing case.
The book also includes two glossy sections containing a total of sixteen black & white photographs showing the West family at various periods during their lives, as well as other key individuals and the like. Furthermore, also included is also a photograph showing the first page of Fredrick West’s unpublished ‘autobiography’, ‘I Was Loved By An Angel’. Wansell ends his book with a nine page chronology detailing the dates of the key events that took place.
The book runs for a total of 370 pages.
© DLS Reviews