Police release image of cellar where suspected South Shields victim of Fred West may be buried

Images of the cellar where the body of a missing teenager suspected of being a victim of serial killer Fred West may be buried have been released by police.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 5:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th May 2021, 5:34 pm
Undated Gloucestershire Police handout photo of the cellar of the Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester. The photo, which has been released by police, is the site where missing teenager 15-year-old Mary Bastholm, suspected of being a victim of serial killer Fred West, may be buried. Issue date: Thursday May 20, 2021.

Mary was born in South Shields but moved to Gloucester with her family.

A picture and video show the cellar area of the Southgate Street cafe on Wednesday when excavation work began.

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Mary Bastholm, who was 15 when she was reported missing on January 6, 1968, and has never been found.

The 30-second clip, which was captured by an ITV documentary crew, shows chalk markings on the floor, which highlights areas for surveying work, as well as a sink and digging equipment.

Gloucestershire Police had received information from a TV production company to suggest the body of the missing girl could be buried at the location.

One of the findings presented to police was a photo taken by the production company of what appeared to be blue material buried in one area of the cellar.

Mary was wearing a blue dress and blue coat and had a blue bag with her when she went missing.

A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.

Forensic archaeologists have confirmed that there are a number of structural anomalies within the cellar that warrant further exploration and six voids in the floor will be examined.

Speaking on Tuesday, Detective Chief Inspector John Turner, who is leading the investigation, said West was a regular at the cafe, then called the Pop-In, and knew Mary as she worked there as a waitress.

"Fred West was always indicated as being involved in Mary's disappearance and possibly her death," Mr Turner said.

"We will be searching the basement to find out what, if anything, is there.

Senior Investigating Officer DCI John Turner of Gloucestershire Constabulary talks to the media as excavation work is to begin after police found "possible evidence" of where Mary Bastholm, a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West may be buried.

"If anything is found we will carry out a forensic review and we will look to seek people within the investigation that we need to interview.

"If Fred were alive, undoubtedly he would be interviewed around the disappearance of Mary."

The TV production company had identified a void within the floor underneath the toilet in the basement and a cadaver dog indicated there may be something of interest within the cavity.

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

A police-issued photograph of Fred West.

"He is the only one who really knows if he had involvement in Mary's death," Mr Turner said.

The Wests tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women over a 20-year period.

Mary's disappearance in 1968 was at a time when builder West was abducting girls in Gloucester.

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

Detectives have recently spoken to Stephen West, Mr Turner said.

Mary's body was not found during the 1994 excavation of the Wests' home on Cromwell Street in Gloucester.

The house, which has been demolished, became known as the House of Horrors.

The detective said there was conflicting evidence during the original House of Horrors inquiry as to whether West had carried out renovation work at the cafe in 1968 or later, in 1976.

Mr Turner said: "I met the Bastholm family on Monday and spoke with them at length about what we were going to do and the plan moving forward.

"Clearly since 1968 the family haven't known what's happened to Mary.

"There has been some speculation that she may have been linked to Fred West at that time and there was conflicting information within the investigation around that.

"But it is really important to them that we do actually now search for the truth and find out once and for all if Mary is buried under the basement."

In a statement, Mary's family said: "We are extremely happy Gloucestershire Police is continuing to try and search for Mary and this gives us a chance to potentially put her at rest after all these years.

"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."

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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