Search for South Shields-born teenager feared killed by Fred West to continue until Monday, Gloucester police say

Police are continuing to search a cafe in Gloucester for the body of a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West.
A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.
A police tent outside The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.

Gloucestershire Police said forensic assessment work was ongoing at the Clean Plate cafe in the city’s Southgate Street in connection with the disappearance of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm.

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

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Mary, who was born in South Shields and moved to Gloucester with her family, went missing on her way to catch a bus to visit her boyfriend in Gloucester in January 1968.

Police officers carry evidence bags from the The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.Police officers carry evidence bags from the The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.
Police officers carry evidence bags from the The Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street, Gloucester.

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.

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.

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Gloucestershire Police said forensic assessment work would continue until Monday, before a more "considered decision" was made to the extent of excavation.

In a statement, police said West had been interviewed for a total of 110 hours and had denied murdering Mary.

"During the course of the investigation into Mary Bastholm's disappearance over 250 different lines of enquiry were pursued," a spokesman said.

"Following a complete review of the missing person file during the West inquiry, over 100 people were interviewed.

"Some people in the original enquiry, who may have been of assistance, were found to have died.

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"Despite these enquiries no evidence was found at the time to support arresting Fred West in connection with Mary Bastholm.

"Fred West was questioned about her disappearance in interview but he denied any involvement. He said that Heather West was his last victim and that he had committed no other murders.

"During his last interview at Gloucester police station on May 13 1994, Fred West denied he had anything to do with the murder."

Police also defended the decision in 2012 not to excavate the cafe as there was "insufficient evidence" Mary was buried there.

"The reasons behind the 2012 decision were documented in an open letter from former chief constable Tony Melville," a spokesman said.

"In the letter he addressed all the points that had been raised. He also stated that if any fresh evidence came to light, Gloucestershire Police would welcome the opportunity of reviewing it and taking appropriate action.

"Potential new evidence has come to light recently and we are currently carrying out extensive enquiries as a result.

"We plan to continue forensic assessments at the location until Monday, before a more considered decision around the extent of excavation can be made."

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

In a statement, her 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 "grieve for Mary".

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

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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 in a cafe, 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.

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Mary's body was not found during the 1994 excavation of the Wests' 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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