Rose West may be interviewed after 'potential evidence' found in search for remains of South Shields teenager Mary Bastholm

A senior officer police officer has not ruled out interviewing Rosemary West after ‘potential evidence’ was found in a basement in the search for the remains of a missing South Shields teenager.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 12:24 pm
Rosemary West, sentenced to life imprisonment on ten counts of murder, and who was a former Durham Prison inmate. Photo: PA.
Rosemary West, sentenced to life imprisonment on ten counts of murder, and who was a former Durham Prison inmate. Photo: PA.

One of the findings presented to police was a photo taken by the company of what appeared to be blue material buried in one area of the cellar. Mary was wearing a blue coat when she went missing in 1968.

Forensic archaeologists have confirmed there are structural anomalies within the cellar that warrant further exploration. Excavation work will now begin.

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

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

“What we are going to do is concentrate on the excavation within the basement,” said Detective Chief Inspector Turner

“As and when we know more, I will then consider whether people need to be interviewed and spoken to and Rose West may be one of those people.”

The Wests’ eldest son, Stephen, has maintained his father told him shortly before his death that he murdered 15-year-old Mary.

A police-issued photograph of Fred West.

“A member of my team has spoken to Steve West and we will consider all options and line of inquiry once we know exactly what we are dealing with within the basement,” he said.

In September 1967, Fred West and his first wife Catherine “Rena” West moved to a caravan site at Bishops Cleeve, near Cheltenham.

Rosemary West, then a teenager, was living with her parents, Bill and Daisy Letts, in Bishops Cleeve.

Shortly after her 16th birthday in November 1969, Rosemary West moved in with Fred at the caravan site.

Detective Chief Inspector John Turner said his “understanding” was that Mary’s disappearance in January 1968 happened before Fred had met Rosemary.

“That is my understanding, although there is some suggestion they may have known each other in and around that time,” he said.

“The information isn’t clear and that is something that would have to be looked at if we were to find anything of significance in the basement.”

Detective Chief Inspector John Turner, senior investigating officer, said serial killer Fred West would have been interviewed about the disappearance of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm if he were still alive.

“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. 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.”

Forensic archaeologists have been undertaking exploratory work at the Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street in connection with the disappearance of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm, from South Shields, who was last seen alive in January 1968.

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

Detective Chief Inspector John Turner said: "The analysis from our experts and the material provided by the production company means there is enough evidence to justify excavation work beginning.

"I've spoken to the family and was so impressed by their quiet dignity and gratitude for all the work we've done and will be doing.

"They understand it is possible we won't find human remains but they also know that we will do everything we can to establish if Mary is buried at this location."

He added: "This will be slow and painstaking work but we have the best people on it and I can reassure our communities that all involved, from my team of investigators, our scenes of crime officers, search officers and family liaison officers to the forensic archaeologists who will continue their work are absolutely committed to the job ahead.

"In the meantime, I continue to ask for patience and understanding from all those affected by our ongoing presence at the cafe and thank everyone who has helped us in the last 10 days."

In a statement, the teenager's family said: "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 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 want to thank everyone who has wished us support through this distressing time, and we are continuing to be in close touch with the investigation team, and are being kept up to date with any new developments.

"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."

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.

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

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

West is said to have confessed to killing Mary to his son, 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.

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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