Police searching a Gloucester cafe for a teenage girl who is thought to have been abducted and murdered by Fred West have revealed they will excavate the site after discovering what is feared to be blue material from her coat buried in one area of its cellar.
Mary Bastholm’s disappearance has remained a mystery for over five decades, although there has been speculation over the years since Fred West’s murders were revealed in 1994 that she could have been one of his victims.
The then 15-year-old girl was last seen at a bus stop in 1968, but police have been combing through The Clean Plate Café in Gloucester after an ITV film crew alerted them to possible evidence of a body at the eaterie where Mary worked as a schoolgirl.
Officers say they have now discovered dark blue material that could be a match for the coat Mary was wearing when she vanished. But Gloucestershire Police has denied claims in The Sun last night that they have found evidence of bones in an area of the basement which builder Fred West converted into toilets.
Police revealed there is ‘possible evidence’ to suggest a body could be buried inside the cafe where Mary worked and serial killer West was also a regular customer, so excavation work will now take place.
A statement said: ‘Forensic archaeologists have today confirmed that there are a number of structural anomalies within the cellar that warrant further exploration.
‘Following a review of the analysis Gloucestershire Constabulary has now approved excavation work to begin to establish if any human remains are present.
‘The work will last several weeks but will not begin until at least Wednesday (May 19) while final assessments are made.’
Detectives are expected to provide an update on the search on Tuesday morning.
Mary Bastholm’s family said they were ‘extremely happy’ police were continuing the search, adding: ‘This gives us a chance to potentially put her at rest after all these years.’
Serial killers Fred and Rosemary West are long believed to have played a part in the death of Mary Bastholm, 15, (right) who vanished aged 15. The locket she wore as a bridesmaid at her brother’s wedding (pictured right) was found in their house
Drone pictures directly above the Clean Plate Cafe on Southgate Street show that police have put up forensic tents at the front and rear of the property, where West may have helped lay the floor and built a toilet
A source said told The Sun: ‘Camera images clearly show material which matches the navy blue coat Mary was wearing when she was abducted.
‘In addition, there are images of what look very much like human bones.
‘Great care is being taken to sift through the surface to preserve any potential evidence.’
Specialist digging teams supported by an archaeologist are working in the basement and garden of the The Clean Plate Café in Southgate Street, where West was a regular and may even have laid the concrete floor weeks before Mary vanished.
Forensic teams have removed the fireplace in the cellar of the café, which was a five minute walk from West’s home at 25 Cromwell Street, dubbed the infamous ‘House of Horrors’ where many of the victims were killed and buried.
The news comes amid recently unearthed footage of Mary Bastholm’s father predicting she was taken by ‘someone she knew’ at the Pop In cafe, now called the Clean Plate, where she had worked as a waitress, The Mirror reports.
Her devastated father Christian said said two years after she disappeared in 1970 that it was ‘rather difficult’ to determine the exact circumstances, but added: ‘I will always say is this – she did not go away on her own.
‘For a young girl like that to evade the police for so long well she’d have to be a master of the game wouldn’t she?’
Following Monday’s excavations, Gloucester Police say Mary’s family have been updated with this information and are ‘supportive of the activity taking place’.
The scene in Gloucester where police continue to investigate inside the basement of the Clean Plate cafe
Fred (shown above) working as a builder, and he may have laid the floor that is now being dug up as part of a forensic investigation at the Gloucester eaterie
A production company filming a documentary contacted Gloucestershire Police with possible evidence including an image of what appeared to be blue material buried in one area of the cellar, police said.
Mary Bastholm was wearing a blue coat when she went missing.
Detective Chief Inspector John Turner said: ‘The analysis from our experts and the material provided by the production company means there is enough evidence to justify excavation work beginning.
‘I’ve spoken to the family and was so impressed by their quiet dignity and gratitude for all the work we’ve done and will be doing.
‘They understand it is possible we won’t find human remains but they also know that we will do everything we can to establish if Mary is buried at this location.
‘This will be slow and painstaking work but we have the best people on it and I can reassure our communities that all involved, from my team of investigators, our scenes of crime officers, search officers and family liaison officers to the forensic archaeologists who will continue their work, are absolutely committed to the job ahead.
‘In the meantime, I continue to ask for patience and understanding from all those affected by our ongoing presence at the cafe and thank everyone who has helped us in the last 10 days.’
Mary Bastholm’s family said in a statement: ‘Senior Investigating Officer John Turner has sat with us and explained the ongoing investigation as well as his intentions to excavate the cafe to try and find Mary.
‘We are extremely happy Gloucestershire Constabulary is continuing to try and search for Mary and this gives us a chance to potentially put her at rest after all these years.
‘We want to thank everyone who has wished us support through this distressing time, and we are continuing to be in close touch with the investigation team, and are being kept up to date with any new developments.
‘We hope this is a chance to finally get closure for Mary and would like to continue to ask for privacy whilst the excavation is ongoing.’
Mary Bastholm vanished aged 15 from a bus stop on Bristol Road in Gloucester, on January 6, 1968.
The teen had been waiting to catch a bus to meet her boyfriend in Hardwicke, Stroud, after a shift at a nearby Pop-In café in Southgate Street.
The 15-year-old’s body has never been found but it is believed that Miss Bastholm was murdered by Fred West, after it was reported he had admitted the murder while on remand in prison before he killed himself in January 1995.
Officers dismantled the cellar’s fireplace and cleared the basement of rubbish, picture frames and menus with an archaeologist also brought in to help with the search for human remains
Both of Mary’s parents, Doreen and Christian Bastholm, died before they could learn the truth behind what may have happened to their missing daughter.
In 1970 Mrs Bastholm told ATV: ‘Well, she came home about half past six, and had her tea, and sat in this corner, where I’m sitting and enjoyed the Bernie Winter show.
‘She went out about between 10 and quarter past seven with a carrier bag with a Monopoly set in to catch the 25 past bus at the end of Tuffley Avenue.
‘And that was the last we saw of her.’
Rose West’s former solicitor Leo Goatley, who represented her for 12 years including at her 1995 trial for murdering ten girls and young women, and who also visited her in prison on dozens of occasions, alleged that Rose could have been involved in the disappearance in his 2019 book.
Mr Goatley alleges that Rose, who was 14, already knew Fred by then and this could have been her first homicide experience.
Mr Goatley writes: ‘When Fred was remanded in custody at Winson Green, he told his son Stephen that he had killed Mary Bastholm.
‘She [Rose] was an accomplice, albeit a junior accomplice, who may not have been present at the time of dismemberment, but in all probability was present at the time of death. She knew he was a killer.’
Schoolgirl Mary Bastholm served tea, cake and sandwiches in the Gloucester eaterie then called ‘The Pop In’ and now called ‘The Clean Plate’
A tent was placed outside ‘The Clean Plate’ cafe in Gloucester on May 11, where specialist teams and an archaeologist are scanning the basement for Fred West’s missing victim
Mr Goatley writes that there is a consensus among experts that ‘it is more than likely that there were other unknown victims of the Wests’ reign of terror’.
Fred West had claimed there were 20 more victims, but did not give precise details of the location of other remains, other than to talk vaguely about a ‘farm’ where he would take his captives.
Mr Goatley writes: ‘It is my belief that when Fred talked of other victims who were buried at a ‘farm’ near Gloucester, this was his cryptic way of intimating that victims who were killed at Cromwell Street were then dismembered, put in sacks and bin liner bags, thrown on the back of a dustcart and unwittingly taken to Hempsted Tip [on the edge of the city]. To the Wests, Hempsted Tip was a farm.’
Pleading for Rose to break her silence in 2014, Peter Bastholm, Mary’s brother told Sky News: ‘I think Rose knows exactly what happened to Mary because I assume she and Fred discussed it between themselves. Whether she will ever disclose it, I really don’t know.
‘It would be a final act to find Mary’s body and lay it to rest after all these years, after all we have gone through.’
Fred West, who admitted killing 12 victims and may have murdered 20 more, was also said to have laid the concrete floor there just weeks before she disappeared 53 years ago
He told Sky News in 2014 that his wife had identified a silver locket on a chain that had been found at the West’s Cromwell Street House of Horrors as Mary’s which she had worn to their wedding as a bridesmaid.
Mr Bastholm said: ‘We had a photo of [the locket] and police took it away to examine, but because it was a black and white picture they said they could not tell if the locket was silver or gold, so nothing came of it. But it was exactly like the one found at Cromwell Street.’
In 2012, on the 44th anniversary of the disappearance of Mary, a petition was set up calling for Gloucestershire Police to search Mary’s remains at a cafe on Southgate Street.
Chris Roberts, who set up the petition and knew Mary, believes West had installed a concrete floor as part of a basement toilet conversion at the cafe around the time of Mary’s disappearance.
His petition to search the building was rejected by Gloucester police in 2012, who said there was no new evidence to investigate.
THE TRAGIC VICTIMS OF THE HOUSE OF HORRORS MURDERERS
Although Fred West was convicted of killing 12 women and Rose 10, the pair are thought to have killed up to 20 more.
One victim who was almost certainly killed by West was his former girlfriend Anne McFall who like the others, was found in a shallow grave with body parts missing. West denied it.
The warped pair used whips to torture their victims as well as their own children.
Fred West committed suicide by hanging himself in a prison cell in January 1995 — before he could stand trial for the murders.
Rose West is still a prisoner at HMP Low Newton in Durham, having been handed a rare ‘whole life tariff’ for her part in the killings.
Confirmed victims include:
Charmaine West, eight: Fred West’s stepdaughter from his first marriage, Charmaine was murdered by Rose in 1971 while Fred was in prison.
Rena Costello, 27: Charmaine’s mother Rena, Fred’s first wife, was murdered when she arrived to pick up her daughter Charmaine in August 1971. With Charmaine already dead, it is thought Fred killed her to avoid an investigation.
Lynda Gough, 20: Miss Gough was a lodger in the West’s home and was killed in April 1973. Rose told her mother she had moved to Weston-super-Mare.
Carol Ann Cooper, 15: The teenager disappeared while walking home from the cinema to her Worcester children’s home in November 1973. Her remains were found buried in the Wests’ garden.
Lucy Partington, 21: After spending Christmas with her family in Cheltenham, Miss Partington disappeared after leaving to catch a bus. The student was the cousin of novelist Martin Amis and the sister of author Marian Partington.
Therese Siegenthaler, 22: The South London student was killed in April 1974 after disappearing while attempting to hitch-hike to Ireland.
Shirley Hubbard, 15: One of the Wests’ youngest victims, she disappeared on her way home from college in Droitwich. When her body was discovered, her head was completely covered in tape with a rubber tube placed in her mouth to allow her to breathe.
Juanita Mott, 18: Miss Mott, a former lodger at 25 Cromwell Street, was living in Newent when she vanished.
Shirley Robinson, 19: Another lodger, Miss Robinson was killed in 1978 after becoming pregnant with West’s child.
Alison Chambers, 17: The teenager disappeared in August 1979 and her remains were later found beneath the patio at 25, Cromwell Street.
Heather West, 17: Repeatedly raped by her father, Heather complained to friends about the abuse and was murdered by her parents in a bid to keep her quiet.