Gloucester cafe searched for body of missing South Shields-born teenager Mary Bastholm feared killed by Fred West

Gloucester cafe searched for body of missing South Shields-born teenager feared killed by Fred West

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 7:29 pm
A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.
A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.

Detectives are searching a cafe in Gloucester for the body of a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West.

Gloucestershire Police said they had received possible evidence to suggest that the body of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm could be buried within the Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street.

The force said it was called to the cafe on Friday by a TV production company filming a documentary.

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A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.

Born and bred in South Shields, Mary’s family moved to Gloucester where she worked as a waitress in the Pop In cafe, where West was previously said to be a regular.

Mary went missing on her way to catch a bus to visit her boyfriend in Gloucester in January 1968.

Serial killer West, who died in prison in 1995 aged 53, was previously suspected over Mary's disappearance.

Along with his wife Rose, West tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women over a 20-year period.

Police officers carry evidence bags from the The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.

A white tent was erected outside the cafe on Tuesday afternoon, with police officers stationed outside the building and a police van parked nearby.

Officers were seen carrying evidence bags out of the cafe at about 2pm on Tuesday.

It is understood that a film crew working for ITV at the location contacted police and is offering officers full co-operation.

The production team, who have been in contact with Mary's family, are looking into claims that Fred and Rose West had more victims beyond those they were charged and convicted over.

Gloucestershire Police said its Major Crime Investigation Team has deemed that further assessments are required at the premises in order to determine whether an excavation is necessary, with officers expected to be at the scene for a number of weeks.

A spokeswoman for The Nelson Trust, an addiction rehabilitation and women's support charity which owns The Clean Plate cafe, said: "Our thoughts and sympathies are very much with the families affected by this long-running, tragic story.

"As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we have done everything we can to accommodate the investigation. The Clean Plate will remain closed until all necessary activity is complete.

"It is an extraordinary twist of fate that this building, now associated with a story as tragic as that of the victims of Fred and Rosemary West, is part of a charity working to support women at risk from violence."

Family liaison officers have now been put in place to provide support and updates to Mary's family.

Police later said that the current work at the cafe related to assessments of the site, which were likely to take days, and excavation had not begun.

A statement released on behalf of Mary's family said: "We are aware of the ongoing developments around Mary's disappearance and are being kept up to date and supported by Gloucestershire Police family liaison officers."

The teenager's family requested "privacy" so they can can "grieve for Mary".

It is understood that Mary's brother Peter Bastholm died last year.

Speaking in 2014, he had called on Rose West to reveal what happened to his sister.

He told Sky News at the time: "I think Rose knows exactly what happened to Mary because I assume she and Fred discussed it between themselves. Whether she will ever disclose it, I really don't know."

Mary's disappearance in 1968 was at a time when Fred West, who often did jobs in the street where she worked as a waitress, was abducting girls in Gloucester.

Fred West is said to have confessed to killing Mary in conversation with his son, Stephen, but never admitted it to police.

Mary's body was not found during the 1994 excavation of the West's home, now known as the "House of Horrors", on Cromwell Street in Gloucester.

Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said on Tuesday: "This could be a significant development on a case which has gained a lot of public interest over the years.

"On the basis of the information provided to us, we consider this to be new and potentially important evidence in the case of Mary Bastholm, however further detailed assessments will take place over the following few days to determine the extent of excavation needed.

"First and foremost our thoughts are with Mary's family and we would ask that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.

"This news may understandably alarm those who work near to the premises, as well as those in the wider Gloucester community and beyond.

"The Constabulary has always said any fresh evidence would be reviewed.

"This has happened and a focussed and proportionate investigation will now take place."

He added: "Due to the potential scale of this there will likely be some disruption to those who work nearby, and I ask for their patience and co-operation during this time.

"We will have local officers in the area and a visible police presence at the location possibly for a number of weeks.

"We would also encourage anyone who is affected by this news to please seek support."

Fred West was charged with 12 murders, but took his own life in a Birmingham prison before his trial.

Rose West was convicted of 10 murders in November 1995 and is serving life.

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