James Freeman reports on Rena Costello's tragic journey from Bridgeton to a grave in an English field

THE truth about Rena Costello's Glasgow days will never be fully known, but it is very much a tale of the Glasgow of the late 50s and early 60s, a city undergoing physical upheaval with communities breaking up as streets and districts vanished to make way for new housing.

Against that background, some recall Rena as a wild young woman who enjoyed the company of the kind of men who were only too willing to exploit her.

Others have a clear picture of a hard-working, caring young mother.

When suspicions were first raised that she was a victim of Fred West, The Herald spoke to former neighbours who lived beside the young Catherine Costello in Savoy Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow, who recalled her as ``a nice young woman struggling to bring up two children''.

Mrs May Jackson said: ``She was only a young kid in her late teens but she was exceptionally nice. She was very nice, a good neighbour and her kids were always immaculate. We often remarked about that.''

There was never a hint of wild living. Mrs Jackson and her husband Archie both said Rena was a good mother, whose kids clung to her because she was fond of them.

Very much in keeping with the times, the Jacksons lost touch with Rena Costello when they moved to a new home and Savoy Street fell to the bulldozers. Rena's second child, Anna Marie, was born to West at the Savoy Street tenement.

John McLachlan, now of Milton, knew Rena as a bus conductress when he was a driver. Her first child, the hapless Charmaine, was the daughter of an Asian bus driver - which appears to have been the reason Rena left Coatbridge.

McLachlan was Rena West's lover at one stage. He says now that their affair, conducted largely when West was out on his Mr Whippy rounds, ended unhappily.

Rena West pursued him to the point, he claims, where he had to ask the bus depot foreman to make sure she was not rostered on his bus. He also talks of wild drinking parties when Rena had a house in Arden Street, Maryhill.

One episode after Rena returned to West at Much Markle has become well-known and that involved another of West's victims, Anna McFall.

The daughter of a motor mechanic, Thomas McFall of Malcolm Street, Glasgow, and his wife Jeannie, a cleaner, she came into contact with West through her friendship with Rena and her close friend, Isa McNeill.

Anna was a young girl going about with older women and when Rena and Isa went south to West she went along.

John McLachlan received an anguished call from Rena some months on asking him to come south urgently as West was getting violent again and beating her up.

The idea was that McLachlan should arrive in secret and whisk the women away, but Anna McFall told Fred.

He reacted furiously and kept Charmaine and Anne Marie. Anna stayed put, already pregnant by West, while Rena and Isa fled north with McLachlan. But Rena returned to see her children, ending up in a field as did Anna McFall with her unborn child.

Isa, who read the warning signs correctly, survived the episode and now lives in Ayrshire.