There are not many support groups for the children of serial killers. "There is a limited number of us," observes Mae West with irony.
Mae is a pretty woman. Composed in attitude, with a soft, articulate, sympathetic voice and with a calm line of ironic humor, he speaks forcefully in the name of the small but forgotten minority to which he belongs.
You would never guess about his current life: a stable marriage, two children, a comfortable and modern home in an intelligent enclave of an historic English town, the depths of horror and depravity that marked his childhood.
"Sometimes I think that when criminals are solved, people overlook their families," she says. "I often see cases in the news and I ask myself:" What happened to the children? "
"My mother is in prison for life." She has been convicted of the murders of one child and nine young women, one of whom is my older sister, Heather, and, in a certain sense, protected.
The smile of a murderer: Rose West in the picture with Mae as a baby
"Sometimes I feel:" It's okay for her. "She has received counseling, she has obtained a degree in English, each course she has been offered says" yes. "She has a full life: hobbies, gym, sewing, cooking. She lives in a bubble.
"But what about us, your children? There is no place for us to be ourselves.
"I worry about people knowing or discovering who I am, and I have all these anxieties about my son finding out about his grandparents.
"My daughter is already big and she knows it and she has solved it". He discovered that his uncle's credit card has the name West, he put two and two together and he looked it up on Google. I wish I had not discovered it that way.
& # 39; And my son will reach the age of nine and. . . "He sighs heavily," all the old fears reappear. My strategy is to leave it. I'm not going to tell you now. I want her to have a childhood that does not spoil.
"It's always a problem to be part of the West family, I know I can not work with children, and it's about self-protection as much as anything else, because if something happens to a child in my care, if they fall and they would hurt, I would be blamed for my origin.
"I thought about escaping from my past once and going to Australia, but they did not let me into the country because of what my parents did, and to think that they used to deport the convicts of Britain!" She rolls her eyes and laughs grimly. .
& # 39; Once, my husband requested to be a policeman. But he could not get in, and I'm sure it's because he's married to me.
"We felt stigmatized, of course, the authorities ignored us while our parents mistreated us sexually and physically when we were children, and now, as adults, they say:" You are from an abusive family. We'll have to watch him. "
The crimes of Mae's parents, Fred and Rosemary West, were so atrocious that they shocked and transfigured the world.
In 1994, the police searched the family home on a dangerous street in Gloucester, searching for the remains of the Wests' eldest son, Heather.
A labyrinth of a house that Rose worked as a prostitute, 25 Cromwell Street had been subdivided into rents by Fred. It was known as the House of Horrors after the excavations of the police unearthed a series of dismembered female bodies in the basement and under the courtyard.
Among the remains were those of Heather, strangled seven years earlier in 1987 when, at age 16, he had tried to flee his home to avoid Fred's predatory sexual advances.
Over the course of the previous 14 years, Fred, it emerged, had committed at least a dozen more murders, mostly with Rose, his second wife.
The victims of Cromwell Street: some teenagers; all women: they were tenants, nannies, students, hikers, fugitives. They were subjected to brutal sexual assault by Fred, and sometimes Rose as well. Some were mutilated; many were beheaded.
Rose and Fred had eight children during their marriage, of which Mae, 46, is the oldest surviving daughter. None of them suspected that their house contained such bloody secrets until their parents were arrested and charged after the bodies had been exhumed.
Fred, who also came to light, committed at least two other murders, while Rose was responsible for killing step-daughter Fred, Charmaine, from her first marriage to Rena, who was also one of Fred's first victims.
Fred admitted this monstrous catalog of crimes, claiming that he had acted alone. He committed suicide on January 1, 1995 in his prison cell in Birmingham, where he was detained.
Rose has always professed her innocence, but the jury at her trial in November of that year did not believe her. Convicted of ten murders, she was sentenced to life imprisonment with a subsequent order from the Minister of the Interior that she should never be released.
Evil parents: serial killers Rose West (left) and her husband Fred, who committed suicide in prison
So deep was public disgust towards her, Rose West was nicknamed the most wicked woman who ever lived.
How on earth did Western children, also victims of their parents' sexual and / or physical abuse, face the dreadful knowledge that their mother and father were guilty of such indescribable crimes?
Mae addresses this issue in a compelling new book, which will be published in the Daily Mail next week. In it, he paints a graphic image of life on Cromwell Street, which is even more persuasive because of its occasional glimmerings of normalcy.
She writes about her parents' disgusting obsession with sex; of sex toys and hardcore porn videos – many filmed by Fred and introducing Rose and her clients – who messed up the house.
She recoils, still, from the memory of her parents' grotesque lack of sexual inhibition. But also remember moments when the family felt like any other: the "gorgeous" Rose ice cream cakes baked for their birthdays; Christmas gifts purchased in the Argos catalog; and camping vacations in which she and her sisters briefly escaped Fred's lewd attentions.
But Mae endured a deep trauma. Raped by her uncle John, Fred's brother, at the age of five, she was then terrified by her father, who caressed and caressed her, believing it was her fatherly duty to interrupt & # 39; to their daughters (take their virginity) when they reached puberty.
His mother, an accomplice of these crimes, also beat his children indiscriminately and sadistically.
Mae's half sister, Anne Marie, the surviving daughter of Fred's first marriage, was subjected to particularly brutal treatment and was first raped by Fred at the age of eight, while Rose went into the assault. The abuse continued until Anne Marie fled the family home at age 16. But although Mae never doubted that her father had committed multiple murders, for a decade she believed that Rose, while capable of violence, was innocent of the murders.
And for ten years she visited her mother in jail, attending to her constant demands for money and clothes, accepting her delayed demonstrations of maternal affection as genuine remorse and listening sympathetically to his effusions of righteous indignation.
Slowly, however, the truth dawned. Rose was "coercive, controlling" and guilty of the horrendous crimes she so vehemently denied.
"I did not realize at the time," Mae says now, "but Mom manipulated me." She began to hug me and hold my hand when I visited her, she had never shown any affection before, signed all her letters, "Love as always. , mom, "however, he had never told me he loved me before.
"I finally realized that she had many different faces and I loved her, put all her children in different boxes and my role was to take care of her.
"He turned to the church and told me he had been" adopted to a large extent "by a vicar and his wife who was visiting the prison.They thought she was innocent.
"She said:" Now they are my mother and my dad ", and that bothered me, because I could not choose to ignore my own parents.
"Even so, I remained loyal to Mama, she said that Dad influenced her and controlled her and that she had made a pact to stay with him as long as she did not hurt the children.
"But it started to sound implausible, if that were the case, why did not she leave when Heather" disappeared "? Not only would she accept that her daughter had disappeared, right? And why would mom conspire with sexual abuse? I started thinking about everything, doubts arose.
"Then, when he wrote to me from prison – his letters came every week – and he said he would try to be a proper mother and tell me everything I needed to know, I decided to ask about Heather the next time I visited her.
And I saw her writhe. I thought: "You will not give me an honest answer for all your promises." And he has never done it. You never received direct answers. It makes it worse for the families of the victims because it is the only one alive who knows the truth and, nevertheless, has not told it.
& # 39; She is a hypocrite. She became quite high and powerful in prison, intervening in our lives, claiming that my sister Louise would not be a good mother, ignoring the fact that she and Dad had been responsible for sexually abusing her.
"She was always the first to judge others, and when I realized that she treated us all differently, I told her that it was very unfair.
& # 39; She stopped writing to me. I am no longer on your visitor list. It was a great relief to end the contact with her. It had become a burden.
"Her death will be next (she's 64), and I suppose she could make a confession on the deathbed, I just wish she would tell the truth to the authorities, and we would all know, would not we?
Mae West was always determined to achieve; to get out of the resentment of the corruption in which she was raised, despite the efforts of her parents to keep her immersed in him.
Although Fred despised her and belittled her, she booked clients for Rose, who operated from a boudoir on the top floor of the house (customers passed by Mae's room and asked if she was "available"). , she aspired to escape to a better life.
"When I turned 18 I had a good job as secretary of a managing director, a car, a stable boyfriend, Rob, and we signed our first mortgage," he recalls.
But within four years, the established conformity of this new life ended abruptly. The police were dismantling her family's home, her father was in custody and had been coaxed into joining Rose in a "safe house."
Mae (photo on the left) with the brothers Heather and Stephen
Inevitably, his relationship with Rob ended. "We did not have much time to enjoy it," he says. It is a moment of deep sadness.
Today, her dress is relaxed but modest. Scrupulously neat in a floral blouse, a navy cardigan and pressed jeans, it is slim and elegant. Her hair, like her mother's, is black as ink, her eyes are dark brown. But despite his middle-class accent and his outer balance, he struggles against demons inside.
She has been with her husband Pete, 39, whom she met when they both worked for the same insurance company, for 14 years, after having had their daughter Amy, now 23, during a long-term relationship. .
But the specter of her parents' crimes still pursues her. With each past relationship he wondered how and if to address the subject of his parents.
Pete recognized her from a photo of her childhood that was published before they started dating, no explanations were needed, but her fears about future friendships remain. After her son Luke was born almost nine years ago, she became agoraphobic, too frightened to leave home in case she was recognized as a Westerner.
"I had my son and I stayed at home too long, I just did not go out," he says. & # 39; It was really isolated. I hid for eight years. I sat in a room and yet I knew I had to go out and get a job, be "normal" again.
& # 39; In the end, I called Victim Support. I said: "I'm the oldest daughter of Fred and Rosemary West." There was a pause. I felt I had to explain, and the whole story was spilled.
Through Support for Victims, Mae was referred for weekly sessions with a psychotherapist. "I thought it was all about dealing with my past," he says, "but it was not like that." It is about the present. I did not say: "I need help to face the abuse". I said that I wanted my future to be better, and we wrote a list of things that I wanted to change.
They were small steps, and every week I had homework. One week was: "Walk to school with Luke and talk to another mom on the playground." The following was: "Invite her to the round".
& # 39; And I learned that I do not have the name West tattooed on my forehead.
In the past, if people asked, "Are you Mae West?", I answered "Yes" and felt that I had to tell them the story of my entire life. But now I would say: "Why do you ask?" The psychotherapist has taught me that people are unlikely to respond: "Because I am a meddlesome bug."
Mae started working again, has a job in the retail sector and says it is a "big step forward", and hopes to one day get a college degree, a long-term ambition she would never have realized in her adolescence as her parents . He believed that a woman's only job was to "raise".
The chaos and terror of her education have also made her cautious.
"When I was a kid I would look at the door when I was taking a shower in case Dad came in. I can not stop doing it, even now, I learned strategies to cope and I'm still hypervigilant.
"I can not stand being cornered in a corridor or a room, I'm alert to all the horrible things that can happen.
"Once, Mom said," When you've seen bad things, you can not close your mind to them, "and I think I'm much more conscious, your mind never rests.
She learned, too, from her childhood when she was raped by her uncle, to cut her emotions.
"I can not talk about how I feel," he says. – It's weird. I cut my feelings when my uncle abused me. I did it to protect myself. I'm practical I'm very good to help if one of my sisters needs the washing machine fixed, but if it sounds crying, I do not know what to say or what to do.
Your home, unlike Cromwell Street, is a place without secrets: there are no hidden rooms, dark corridors, forbidden areas. The John Lewis furniture, the Next accessories, the diaphanous and diaphanous spaces reflect their place in a civilized world of middle class aspirations and values.
However, he will always cling to a link with his past: he remains in contact with all his brothers. They are, in a sense, the self-help group that society can not provide.
"We have all faced each other in different ways," he says. & # 39; They were very close. I talk to my sister Louise every day on the phone. There are very few people you can turn to who share our background.
"Even in our own family, we've all had a different experience, and as much as people try, they can not understand, they just do not know what we've been through, right?
"They say that families are divided by these things, but we have stayed together, in fact, we are very lucky."
Some names have been changed.
Monday: Mae West begins her incredible story