Fred And Rose West: The Search For The Victims, Channel 5, Review: A Nightmarish Descent Into Pure Evil

The crimes of Fred and Rosemary West are gruesome beyond comprehension. And as episode one of Fred and Rose West: The Search for the Victims revisited their trail of depravity – including the torture and murder of their own daughter, Heather – even true-crime aficionados may have felt compelled to switch over.

Fred West, Rosemary West sitting on a couch: The documentary  framed Fred and Rose West's crimes as a murder mystery (Photo: Shutterstock/Channel 5) © Provided by The i The documentary framed Fred and Rose West's crimes as a murder mystery (Photo: Shutterstock/Channel 5)

This was a nightmarish descent into a place of pure evil. It is also the latest in a series of documentaries about the Wests to air on Channel 5 (Rose: Making of a Monster was broadcast in March). The tone was sober throughout and sensationalism avoided.

Yet, it nonetheless feels reasonable to ask whether there was a justification for returning once again to the horrors of 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester.

Fred and Rose West was framed as a murder mystery. West took his own life before he could be held to account for his deeds. Rose was ultimately convicted of 10 murders. Might they have also been responsible for the death of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm, who went missing at a bus stop in Gloucester in 1968? That is the suspicion of police, who last month sealed off a café in Gloucester where it was feared she might be buried.

Mary’s disappearance was touched on briefly in this first of two instalments (the second airs on Tuesday). However, this was largely devoted to recapping the crimes.

Fred West came chillingly alive through recordings of his interviews with police. In these grainy tapes he embodied the concept of the banality of evil. His solicitor, Howard Ogden, repressed a shudder as he remembered how West had calmly described killing Heather. He and the officers present didn’t know how to respond.

“We all just rose and went out of the interview room,” he said. “Here we were, four complete strangers – and had a silent group hug.” Viewers may likewise feel the need to seek out human contact after sitting though this upsetting account of perversion and wickedness run amok.

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