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victims

Appropriate adult – appropriate story? Fred met Janet.

The serial killings of Fred and Rose West was a case that dominated the early part of my career in newspapers.
I didn’t cover the story on a day-to-day basis but I knew several journalists who did – and working down the road in Swindon, it was close enough to be both macabre and fascinating.

Knowing some journalists who covered the case day in and day out, I do know that many details of Fred & Rose West’s perversions were never made public. Many journalists formed a pact not to reveal some of the more awful details. 

I was therefore very interested in the ITV drama Appropriate Adult. I found it quite difficult to watch and difficult to understand the odd relationship between West and Janet Leach. However, having looked a murderer in the eye myself, it can be hard to relate that person to their actions.
Today I’ve listened to the main police officer being critical of the programme and its makers.

 

Janet’s role in the case was grossly exaggerated, they didn’t stick to the facts.

Such a reaction was predictable – but let’s not forget that this was a drama. It was not a documentary or a drama documentary – nor was it billed as such.

 

It was also very specific in that it looked at one very particular aspect of this gruesome and awful case. It was a relationship based in fact – Janet Leach is a real person, she did sit with Fred West during police interviews and she did lie about her involvement with a national newspaper.

 
But should history be harsh on her for that? During the Fred & Rose West trial, many, many people made money out of this case. There were even rumours at the time that T-shirts were even being sold in the street where it happened.

 

Also many journalists paid money to nearby properties in order to erect scaffoldings etc from which to film activity around the home occupied by the murderers.

 
Detectives who worked on the case are, understandingly are very passionate about the role they played.

 

But it remains true that this couple practised their perversions almost in plain sight for many, many years. Was there joined up information around this couple? Who knows? It seems unbelievable that no one at any time raised any concerns about them, about children who were there and then were not…

 
The drama did two things for me which were powerful – it showed the delusion that the murderer Fred West could have hidden behind.

 

I’ve experienced it once myself when I visited a convicted killer in prison. Even after ten years inside he still talked about the offence as if the victim was somehow to blame – her behaviour was such that it brought about a fatal chain of events.

 

The fact that his response to her behaviour was to shoot her dead – he just couldn’t see that that wasn’t a normal response. I felt, sadly, that this man would never be able to see the horror of what he’d done, the pain he’d caused.

 

The dramatisation of Fred West demonstrated that self-delusion – talking about dead victims with love and compassion while ignoring the elephant in the room – the fact that he or his awful wife had killed that victim.

The other powerful thing for me was the representation of Rose West. As the trial progressed with Rose West in real life, I began to see her as a mastermind rather tha

The web spun by Fred & Rose West - prepare for more dramas around this story

n a deluded follower of her husband’s perversions.
There’s another thing that rings true from the drama. People like the two Wests don’t just stop such awful acts – paedophiles don’t suddenly stop and start. I believe, as perhaps Janet Leach does, that there are more victims out there. We will never know the full extent of their actions.
My thoughts go out to the relatives of those individuals – a stain on that family that could leak down through the generations.

9/11 the firemen’s story – what it meant to me

I have this need to watch programmes about 9/11 – it was event which left an indelible mark on my psyche and last night was no exception.

On watching the programme, The Firemen’s Story (Channel 4 or 5) and those remarkable pictures I remember where I was when it happened so clearly. Do you? What’s your story? 

 

What were you doing when those pictures went across the world and we knew without doubt that we were watching thousands perish before our eyes?

 

I was filming a light entertainment show in a beautiful house in Somerset owned by a couple who’d decorated it with stuff they’d rescued and recycled.

 

I was heavily pregnant and wearing a long, huge, black dress. It was very hot and I was having a drink downstairs and the tv was on. Just a few months earlier I’d been in the twin towers having a meal with my husband – a lovely weekend away in New York.

 

I called him on the telephone telling him there’d been an accident and to turn on the tv. As we were talking I watched the second plane go into the south tower and I knew then it was no accident.

 

I knew I was looking on helplessly as people died needlessly. It was among the most humbling experiences of my life.

I’ve asked my children to watch some of the programmes as I want them to know what fanaticism can lead to – great pain, great horror, great devastation, and for what? What good came of that act? There were heroes created, but no one wants to be hero because of that act. And there’ve been so many since.

 

What moved me last night was an interview with a widow, ten years on, who described telling her daughter that her daddy wouldn’t be coming home – ever. Her daughter crumpled on to the floor, ‘she looked like I slapped her’ the mum said. She said she’d never forget it.

 

All parents can imagine such a dreadful moment – but recently I had to live through it, even if it was as a close bystander. Believe me, I pray it’s never me in that position.

 

I sat with my beautiful sister as she told her six year old daughter that her daddy, who’d gone to the gym as usual the night before, would never be coming home again. He’d felt ill and had to go to hospital but he was so ill that he’d had to go to heaven. He didn’t want to go but he had no choice.

 

In adult language – he’d collapsed and died at the age of 49. Gone from our lives, just like that.

It’s like hitting a brick wall that’s so big

What would you tell your child?

and so tall that you just have to hit it. It cannot be avoided.

My sister dealt with it with so much love and dignity that I could hardly bear it – she told my lovely niece that we would feel sad for a while but we would all be happy and have lovely times because that’s what Daddy would want.

 

All of this when I knew the dark chasm that life had put before this mum of three. A widow at 40 with three small children.

 

Though the circumstances were vastly different, the effect was the same. A family in total devastation but trying to survive even in the following hours. Trying to ensure that bereaved children still felt there was hope and magic in the world.

To all who lost in 9/11, 7/7 or in any other personal tragedy – I salute you.

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