Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Cromwell Street Murders – John Bennett

Non Fiction

I don’t read much in the way of more recent true crime but the one exception is those horrific murders carried out by Fred and Rose West. These murders were committed in Gloucester, the largest city to where I spent the latter part of my childhood and where I moved to when I first left home. I already lived in Jersey and was heavily pregnant when in 1994 the garden at 25 Cromwell Street was dug up to reveal the bones of young women.

In the intervening years there have been many books written and I thought I had read them all. Somehow I missed this one, from the perspective of Detective Superintendent John Bennett QPM, the officer in charge of the investigation.

This is an interesting read which takes us behind the scenes and gives some context to what the police knew, in contrast to what the media were able to reveal, and what information they were seeking. John Bennett also works hard to bring the victims and their families to the fore of the investigation, to give them the respect they were so cruelly deprived off when they met their fate at Fred and Rose West’s hands.

Although of course the book doesn’t avoid the murders it certainly doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on them. Instead we have a reconstruction of the house which once stripped of the lurid tabloid details is revealed to be far smaller than might be expected pretty much laying to rest any idea that horrific murders could occur without other adult residents being aware of the fact.

The book is well structured starting with the lead detective giving his recollection of how and why steps were taken to question Fred West further over his missing daughter Heather. The days that followed which included the key revelations made by Fred are all laid out in chronological detail.
Although the book hinges on the crimes of two utterly depraved individuals what it does best is show the reader how a murder investigation really is run. Some parts are devoted to gathering evidence the exact nature of the bagging for forensic purposes, the managing of the media, the questioning of witnesses and of course the horrendous job of talking to potential victim’s families. When you consider that this relatively small police force was handling one of the biggest murder investigations of the British Isles it gives you some idea of the sheer complexity of the task in hand.

John Bennett attempts to be candid about those officers he feels didn’t perform as he would have expected and you get the feeling that there was more on that score that could have been said. This along with tales of family occasions missed and touching tributes to his patient wife while providing some semblance of context became to my mind a little overblown by the time we’d heard various examples. I can’t be the only reader who was shocked at his wife’s reaction during Rose’s trial, particularly as we’d been told that he never discussed any details at home.

This book was definitely informative and in the main incredibly readable and provided me with another viewpoint of this huge murder investigation.

First Published UK: 2005
Publisher: The History Press
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

10 thoughts on “The Cromwell Street Murders – John Bennett

  1. I remember reading about those murders, Cleo! And it sounds as though this really is a detailed, interesting perspective on them. I’m glad you found it informative and readable.


  2. Great review, and I do enjoy seeing how the police gather their clues and evidence and put together their case. I also relate to wanting to read about murders in a place where you’ve lived. When I lived in San Francisco, CA., there was a rampant serial killer at work, and every day I would read the papers and be terrified.

    I don’t think they ever caught that one, though. Sigh.


  3. I’ve never heard of these murders (probably being outside of the UK) but this does sound like a fascinating book-especially being written from the perspective of the lead detective, I don’t think I’ve seen many of those kinds of books in the past…


  4. Wonderful review Cleo! I thought that I’d read most of what was out there also on these murders, though it wasn’t quite as easy to tell from the US. This looks like a good addition to what is out there for sure, as far as filling in the story. I always like to see a story from the law enforcement point of view too. This was just so sad and will haunt many lives for a long, long time because of what they did “for kicks”, supposedly. Thanks for sharing.


  5. This sounds like a really interesting and balanced book. True crime is always very interesting to read, but I imagine it must be horrific for all the people who were touched by the crime (even if it is just living in the same area).


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