THE policeman who led the investigation into Fred and Rose West has broken his silence following the screening of a controversial documentary about the mass murders.
Former, now retired, Gloucestershire Detective Superintendent John Bennett initially refused to comment on the ITV drama Appropriate Adult until after the screening of the second part series yesterday but today he spoke out.
In a statement issued to the media Mr Bennett said:
“The series was advertised and commented upon by those involved in its production, before showing, as a “factual Drama” intended to be “Thought provoking” following “Extensive research”.
Each programme was preceded with a notice stating “This is a true story”. Apart from the home life and personal and private circumstances of Janet Leach, of which I make no comment, this was not a “Factual Drama” neither was it a “True story” it was a “Fictitious Drama” based on fact, though diversely the mannerisms and psyche of Frederick West captured and enacted by Dominic West and Emily Watson of Rosemary West are hauntingly accurate.
The production has defended its making of the series by stating it was intended to be “thought provoking” not intended as a profit making financial enterprise for entertainment though we now know it was a joint production for subsequent showing on American TV.
The series went far beyond any justifiable claims of “dramatic licence” and “simplification” by creating dialogue and scenes which did not take place at all, these just sensationalising the story and not furthering it, wrongly depicting how Janet Leach was treated and her involvement, giving her a kudos she far from deserves.
I have never previously made comment about Janet Leach though now reluctantly feel forced to do so.
This series painting her as a “victim” and wrongly portraying the sequence of events and her contact with and payment by the Mirror Group whilst grossly exaggerating her involvement is an insult to the true victims, their families, which very much includes the extended family of the Wests’, the witnesses who so courageously gave evidence, the investigating team, and its professionalism, also the many professionals and others who worked so hard to unravel the horrific crimes and bring the Wests’ and others to justice.
It is true ITV conducted years of “extensive research” but seemingly for the purpose of the “story” dismissed and misrepresented relevant facts which they know they were made aware of - including her evidence given at the trial.
For this series, 17 years on to convey to a generation that witnessed the horror and tragic events in Gloucestershire unfold and now the next generation that was then too young to know, that the content of this series truly and accurately reflected what occurred, when it does not, I believe is wrong and inflammatory and needs saying.
Anyone having seen these programmes should not base any opinion purely on the content.
I would like to make it clear that I do not criticise the media purely for making such programmes concerning this or any other investigation and defend their right to do so sensitively and accurately for a clear and honest public interest purpose when something might be learned from the content rather than merely for entertainment and commercial gain”
All members of the production were freely advised by me directing them to information already in the public domain of precisely why, how, where, when, Janet Leach came into the investigation.
I was not allowed to see the series before it was screened.
Other victims & Mary Bastholm:
Frederick West has been proven never to have told the truth about any aspect of the murders he and Rosemary West committed.
He told the same story of further victims to Janet Leach and others including members of his family and whilst always similarly describing the buildings changed the location then cunningly waited to see if what he said what was revealed in the press and on occasions it was.
He then knew who he could trust. No one knows other than possibly Rosemary West whether any other murders were committed.
In respect of Mary Bastholm, it must be a possibility that Frederick West was involved in her disappearance, he had not yet met Rosemary Letts (later West) when she went missing.
He was questioned about this and always denied any knowledge to detectives.
The file was reviewed in 1994 -1995 resulting in a further 250 lines of enquiries being pursued and over 100 people further interviewed. The file in relation to her disappearance remains open. Her relatives have always been kept informed.
Finance was not ever limited to pursue the investigation, well over 300 areas where Frederick West and or Rosemary West had contact were reviewed and considered by me as the Senior Investigating officer and then personally by Dr Tony Butler then the Chief Constable.
During this and based on what was considered credible evidence some fruitless searches not requiring a search warrant were made. A further review took place some 2 years later by then Chief Constable Dr Tim Brain following claims of further victims made in a then controversial documentary drama shown on Channel 5.
This again found no further searches were warranted. No evidence has ever come to hand that there were any further murder victims or that any further searches could be justified.
* In response to Mr Bennett's statement ITV's Janice Troup today issued the following response:
"We took the legitimate editorial decision to focus our drama on the largely untold story of how an ordinary mother and housewife, Janet Leach, became involved in one of Britain's most notorious murder investigations when she took on the role of Fred West's 'appropriate adult'. This is a drama not a documentary and the film has a caption at the start telling viewers that some scenes are created for purposes of dramatization.
"We have not attempted to whitewash Janet - her portrayal in the drama is subtle and balanced, and shows an ordinary woman subjected to an extraordinary situation. We depict her decision to accept the newspaper deal to sell her story, and how that was exposed in court during the trial of Rosemary West, as well as showing that her motivation was not simply financial.
"We met former Detective Supt John Bennett on several occasions to discuss the making of a factual drama based around the case of Fred and Rosemary West. Not only because he had led the police investigation, but also because, like others involved in the case, he had subsequently written a book about it.
"He showed some interest in acting as a paid consultant on the project but we didn't pursue that option. We took the legitimate editorial decision to focus our drama on Janet Leach.
"It is certainly not ITV's wish to cause distress to the families of the Wests' victims, or their children. Two of Fred and Rosemary West's daughters have praised the drama and from those of the victim's families still contactable we have only received positive comments.
"The film neither recreates the crimes, nor attempts a definitive psychological analysis of Fred and Rosemary West. Like This Is Personal and See No Evil it is about the effect of the crimes, rather than crimes themselves. Whereas those earlier dramas focussed variously on the police, the victims and their families, and the families of the murderers this one places at its centre a woman who was almost an accidental witness to the uncovering of what happened at 25 Cromwell Street.
"John Bennett was not shown the drama prior to broadcast as he wasn't involved in the production. However, Gloucester Police were shown the drama ahead of transmission."