Excavation work is to begin at a cafe in Gloucester after police found “possible evidence” of where a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West may be buried.
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 who was last seen alive in January 1968.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What happened at the cafe?
Gloucestershire Police first received possible evidence from a TV production company to suggest the body of the missing teenager could be buried there on 11 May.
The production team, who have been in contact with Mary’s family and are working for ITV, are looking into claims that Fred and Rose West had more victims than those they were charged and convicted over.
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 coat when she went missing.
Forensic archaeologists have confirmed that there are a number of structural anomalies within the cellar that warrant further exploration and excavation work will now begin.
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.
“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."
Who was Fred West?
Fred West was a serial killer who committed at least twelve murders between 1967 and 1987 in Gloucestershire, the majority with his second wife, Rose West.
Fred met Rose when she was 15 and he 27. The couple tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women between 1967 and 1987.
Most of their crimes took place at their home in Cromwell Street, Gloucester, which became known as the “House of Horrors”, with nine sets of bones found under the patio and in the cellar of the house.
The Wests began their killing spree at another house, close to the centre of the town. Under the floorboards police found the body of Charmaine, Fred’s eight-year-old daughter by his first wife.
At least two other women were killed in the flat.
What was Mary Bastholm’s story?
Bastholm went missing on her way to catch a bus to visit her boyfriend in Gloucester in January 1968.
Serial killer West was previously suspected over Bastholm’s disappearance, as it came at a time when West, who often did jobs in the street where she worked as a waitress in a cafe, was abducting girls in Gloucester.
Fred West is said to have confessed to killing Bastholm in conversation with his son, Stephen, but never admitted it to police.
Bastholm’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.
Family liaison officers have now been put in place to provide support and updates to Bastholm’s family. The teenager’s family requested “privacy” so they can can “grieve for Mary”.
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.”
Where are Fred and Rose West now?
Fred West, who was charged with 12 murders, took his own life in a Birmingham prison before his trial in 1995, aged 53.
Rose was convicted that year of murdering 10 young girls and women, including her eldest daughter Heather, 16, and her eight-year-old stepdaughter, Charmaine.
Rose, now 67, is serving a life sentence in HMP New Hall, Flockton, West Yorkshire.
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