I want to get justice for the girls who didn't make it, because I feel

it was my fault

Caroline Owens

A WOMAN who was abducted and sexually assaulted by Frederick and

Rosemary West broke down in the witness box yesterday and blamed herself

for the killings at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester.

''I want to get justice for the girls who didn't make it, because I

feel it was my fault,'' 39-year-old Caroline Owens blurted out before

she collapsed in tears.

She was assisted out of court by an usher.

In the dock, Mrs Rosemary West, who denies 10 counts of murdering

young women and girls, remained impassive.

Mrs Owens's breakdown came as she was asked a final question in

re-examination by Mr Brian Levenson, QC, prosecuting. He simply asked

why she had come to court.

During heavy cross examination it had been alleged Mrs Owens had

embellished her story to make it more marketable for newspapers. It was

an allegation she denied.

The jury had previously heard from a statement Mrs Owens had made to

police that she was blaming herself for the deaths.

In the statement, read out by Mr Richard Ferguson QC, defending, Mrs

Owens made it clear she believed that if she had pressed a rape charge

against Mr West in 1973, they might not have happened.

''When I became aware of the women that had been murdered and the

alleged involvement of Fred and Rose West, in 1994, I felt anger,

frustration, guilt . . . I felt that if I had gone to court on my rape

case, I could have stopped it,'' Mrs Owens said in the police statement

made last October.

Both Rosemary and Frederick West did plead guilty to charges of

causing actual bodily harm and sexual assault on Mrs Owens, the jury has

been told.

They were each fined #50.

Yesterday Mrs Owens said that after she was sexually assaulted by the

couple in 1972 -- an ordeal which involved abduction, being bound, and

gagged -- police told her that while the Wests would plead guilty to the

lesser charges, Frederick West would deny rape.

''At the time I was told by police that I would be cross examined in

the witness box and that it would be hard to handle,'' Mrs Owens said in

her statement. ''I felt that I could not cope with this.''

As a consequence she elected not to pursue the rape charge in 1973.

In her police statement, Mrs Owens described how she had been mentally

scarred by her experiences.

''After the abduction and rape in 1972, I was very depressed and had

low self esteem,'' she said in her statement. She was prescribed Librium

tablets by her family doctor and other mild tranquilisers by another


She said she took an overdose in 1976 when she was working in a hotel

at Weston-super-Mare. An ambulance was called and she was rushed to


''My stomach was pumped out,'' the statement continued.

Mrs Owens told police that she was receiving counselling for the

trauma. Thus far she had had 14 sessions.

''I have been very sensitive to people being close to me and cuddling

me since being abducted by Fred and Rose'' she told police. ''I am wary

of other adult females, even friends.

''I have a terrible feeling of worthlessness.''

The statement also detailed her sex life during the few weeks she had

stayed at 25 Cromwell Street, weeks before the Wests abducted and

assaulted her.

She described how late one evening she went into the room of Mr Ben

Stanniland, a lodger in the house.

''It was late at night, I don't remember if we were drinking or

smoking anything, but we could have,'' Mrs Owens statement declared. ''I

may have taken some drink that affected my judgment but I cannot clearly

remember the events of the evening.''

Mrs Owens admitted having had sexual intercourse with Mr Stanniland

and afterwards had sex with Mr Alan Davies, another lodger.

''This was a one off occasion,'' Mrs Owens continued in her statement.

''This was in the early seventies, the hippie era when people were

generally very friendly.''

Her boyfriend at the time, Mr Tony Coates, would also come and stay

for a night with her at Cromwell Street.

The only other male visitor she had sex with at that address was an

old boyfriend who visited her there, the day before her birthday.

Mrs Owens told the court that she had been promised #20,000 from the

Sun newspaper for her exclusive story. She had already received #9500 of

that sum, she told Mr Ferguson.

Mrs Owens described how after the assault by the Wests she failed to

report immediately the rape to the police.

''It was what Mrs West did,'' she said. ''I hadn't come across

anything like this before and it shocked me.

''When Fred raped me it was all over in a couple of seconds.''

Initially she had wanted the rape charge pursued, but afterwards could

not face the thought of going to court.

At the time she was not quite 17 years of age.

Twenty years on she saw television reports of the police investigation

at 25 Cromwell Street. After her initial shock she contacted the police.

Before being interviewed last year she had written down her memories

of the 1972 attack. She did this because she felt she would be too

embarrassed to go into details with the officers.

Mrs Owens had told the court that the account she had prepared for

police of the assault was shown to a Sun journalist, but a page

containing details was withheld.

''You were using it to bargain with -- to up the price, so you would

get more money,'' said Mr Ferguson.

''In a way,'' said the witness. She also said she had received other

sums of money from the media.

A diary she had kept in 1973 showed that she continued her practice of

hitch hiking, even after the assault.

''I knew the police had been to them and they would not try to pick me

up again,'' she said. ''I've never had any problems hitch hiking


In re-examination Mrs Owens said that during the attack Mrs West had

done nothing which suggested she was not acting willingly, nor had she

done anything to prevent her husband from assaulting her.

Defence counsel had suggested Mr West got out of control that night,

Mr Levenson said. Mrs Owens said on the contrary he seemed quite calm.

Asked how Mrs West appeared, the witness said: ''She was grinning and

laughing. She looked evil to me''

Another witness, the mother of one of the girls whose remains were

recovered from 25 Cromwell Street, described how she shuddered when she

passed the murder house while out searching for her missing daughter.

''I shuddered, I don't know why I shuddered,'' said Mrs June Gough,

mother of Lynda Gough, who disappeared in 1973, aged 19.

Mrs Gough described how two weeks after her daughter had left home her

inquiries took her to Cromwell Street where the door was answered by a

woman wearing Lynda's slippers.

She also saw some of her daughter's clothing on a washing line. The

woman insisted, however, that Lynda was not there and had gone to live

in Weston-super-Mare.

Mrs Gough said Lynda was the eldest of three children.

Before going to work as a seamstress with the Co-operative in

Gloucester she had attended a private school in Midland Road.

The jury has been told that the Wests had at one time lived in a flat

in that road and it is alleged that the body of eight-year-old Charmaine

West, who was born in Coatbridge, was buried there.

Mrs Gough said her daughter was a cheerful, happy, friendly girl, who

was not withdrawn and did not isolate herself.

She seemed to get on with most people quite easily.

As she got older, around 18, she began to become quite rebellious.

''Like a lot of teenagers in those days as well as today,'' said Mrs


Lynda left home on Thursday April 19, 1973. ''It is something that has

always stayed in my mind,'' said Mrs Gough. ''It is not something I am

ever likely to forget.''

Her daughter had left a note saying that she had found a flat and had

moved. She had taken all her possessions with her.

''Please don't worry about me,'' the note declared.

Two weeks previously Lynda had said she was going out in the evening

with some friends for a drink. Afterwards a woman arrived at the door to

collect her.

The Crown allege that this was Mrs West.

Lynda had indicated in her note that she would be in touch with her


However, they became worried when they did not hear from her. They did

not think she was earning enough to keep herself in a flat.

The parents had assumed she would not stay away long. She would soon

be back when the money ran out.

''I was just anxious,'' said Mrs Gough. ''I wanted to know where she

was, where she was living, whether she was happy'' she told the court.

Her inquiries took her to 25 Cromwell Street. There she was met by the

same woman who had called two weeks before to take Lynda for a drink.

She was joined by her husband at the door.

All they would say was that she had gone to Weston-super-Mare and had

left some of her belongings behind.

She continued her inquiries in Gloucester and in Weston-super-Mare.

However, Mrs Gough said she never saw her daughter again.

The crown allege that she was buried under the floor of a bathroom in

Cromwell Street when her mother was at the door.

She had passed the address at Cromwell Street on several occasions.

However, after feeling the shudder she never went back.