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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 17:30 GMT
Street of murder looks to future
By Paul Stevens
BBC News Online, Bristol

In the 10 years since police began digging the garden of mass murderer Fred West's house in Cromwell Street, Gloucester, the community has moved on considerably.

Cromwell Street
A pleasant walkway has replaced the house of horror
Ten years ago, Fred West was finally charged with 12 murders, although together with his wife Rose, the pair tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women over a 20-year period.

Fred West committed suicide in Birmingham's Winson Green prison before his trial. His wife was convicted of 10 murders in November 1995 and is serving a life sentence.

The house which became a macabre attraction for ghouls from around the globe has since been demolished and a tranquil walkway put in its place.

Attitudes towards the media hardened at the time as people tired of being asked to tell their detailed recollections of the odd-job man down the road, and have not much changed since.

Large houses

I found a degree of resentment in the elegant Victorian terraced houses of the street in central Gloucester, with four or five people reluctant to discuss the area for every one who would. At the church adjacent to what was number 25, everyone remained tight-lipped.

Many of the large houses are flats and home to a largely itinerant community that now includes some asylum seekers.

I spoke to two men on the corner of Cromwell Street. They were both reluctant to discuss the whole grisly business initially and refused to give their names. However, after a little prompting, the pair opened up.

"I just think everybody wants to forget about it," said one.

Tim Green
Tim Green remembers 10 years ago as a bizarre time in Gloucester
"Gloucester people are easily forgiving but at the back of their minds they know what's wrong and what's right."

"We still get people coming here and taking photographs which annoys me," said his friend who still lives in the street.

"To me it's just going to be a gruesome part of history."

Tim Green, 43, is an arts and media technician at the nearby college of arts and technology (GLOSCAT). He has worked at the college since the 80s and formerly lived in Cromwell Street.

"It was a bizarre time obviously. I used to live opposite the house and I don't really remember much about him but one day I came to work and saw a lot of police activity going on in the garden of his house.

"When we found out what was going on, there was a mood of total incredulity among residents.

"We even had coach loads of people here at one time - tourists and the like. It was very ghoulish, the whole thing.

Somebody called in once from abroad and asked me where it was
Doctor's receptionist
"Now it's all in the past, I think there's a lot more optimism among Gloucester people generally."

At the local Hadwin Medical Practice, itself situated in Cromwell Street, the receptionist told me the majority of people in the city did not dwell on the horrendous events.

"Its people from outside that do that. I never hear anything about it all in here.

"Somebody called in here once from abroad and asked me where it was and I thought, 'what in God's name do you want to be looking at that for?'

"West himself was actually very pleasant. The mood was one of deep shock when we found out what was going on.

"His children still live here in Gloucester and personally I feel very sorry for them. I mean you don't talk about it because the only thing you feel is deep sympathy for his children. If you live in Gloucester, you obviously know them.

"West himself was actually very pleasant. The mood was one of deep shock when we found out what was going on.

Cromwell Street
The street sign carries its own brand of notoriety
"For me it all became a bit unreal at the end. One of the girls was actually our patient."

Another resident, who asked not to be identified, told me: "It's always there. Every time you turn around the corner, it's always there and the reminders are always there too.

"I suppose really we all just want to get away from it and move on really.

"We all would just like to get on with our lives and see what the future holds.

"There are some nice people living in the area now, so hopefully the future will be better for us."

Surviving Fred and Rose
24 Feb 04  |  Magazine

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