FRED West's official biographer has revealed he always believed the sadistic killer was responsible for the disappearance of waitress Mary Bastholm.
The schoolgirl was last seen on 6 January 1968 waiting for a bus to go and see her boyfriend.
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She is believed to have been offered a lift by serial killer Fred West and then murdered.
Mary's body has never been found with her parents tragically passing away before discovering what happened to their daughter.
Now in an "extraordinary development", 26 years after West killed himself, police are excavating the basement of the Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester where Mary worked as a waitress.
And author and journalist Geoffrey Wansell, who was commissioned to write 'An Evil Love, The Life of Frederick West' by The Official Solicitor in 1995, says he always knew he killed the schoolgirl.
He told The Sun: "I've always believed West had a hand in Mary Bastholm's disappearance. I've never doubted it, I've written it consistently.
"She disappeared off the face of the earth but it was clear West was involved."
Wansell says West told police he never knew Mary, but he was lying through his teeth.
"When Mary disappeared in 1968, carrying a monopoly board, she had been a regular at what was then called the Pop In Cafe on Southgate Street, which West went to regularly and she was seen with him.
"Also went there was Anne McFall, West's 'nanny' and there's considerable evidence that Mary was an acquaintance of Anne.
"There's no doubt at all that West went to that cafe regularly and of course, the other great character in this story at that point was Rose West's father William Letts, who was a very very dangerous and complex man.
"I believe the two of them could have been involved."
West was charged with 12 murders but had confessed to killing up to 30 victims before hanging himself in prison while on remand in January 1995.
His wife Rose West was convicted of 10 murders, and sentenced to 10 life jail terms in November 1995.
In police interviews, West, who liked to play games with investigating officers, denied any knowledge of Mary Bastholm.
"West insisted, 'I've never known the girl, never spoke to the girl in my life," said Wansell.
"He said, 'I'm telling you straight, there ain't no messing, I never knew Mary'.
"Well, I never believed a single word of that, absolute nonsense. I'm sure he knew her, I'm sure that William Letts and he knew her."
Wansell said his research also found that Mary fit the profile of many of West's victims.
"She was vulnerable, a little naive, rather impressed by this rather gypsy like man with wonderful linguistic skills who could talk the hind leg off a donkey and she would have fallen for that charm," he said.
"The only question is where she went and I fervently hope that they might finally have found her. That would be wonderful."
When writing his controversial book Wansell was given access to all the Gloucester police interviews with West and his wife Rose who was later tried and convicted of 10 of the killings – a trial that Wansell attended.
He was also given West’s prison diaries, interviews with his solicitor and the thousands of police witness statements for the case.
The author says he hopes the police have now made the breakthrough Mary's relatives have hoped for.
"They must have more fresh information because you will remember that DSI John Bennett, the so-called senior investigating officer originally, said, we're not going to go around digging out the whole of Gloucester in the search for other victims.
"But this sounds like a very firm piece of information which I do seriously hope will finally uncover Mary Bastholm's remains.
"It's been a terrible period, all the way back to January, 1968. She was a perfectly innocent young girl, worked as a waitress, went to this cafe and fell into the clutches of Frederick West."
The former Times journalist believes, however, that the discovery signals that all of West's crimes may have yet to be uncovered.
"In the end West was prepared to admit that he had killed 12 girls, but he could well have got away with many more murders," he said.
"There were certainly more burial sites over Gloucestershire, but he killed himself and Rose went to jail for the rest of her life, so we may never know."
Cops are now warning the search for the latest victim, which has been launched following a "recent discovery" could take a "number of weeks".
Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said today: "This could be a significant development on a case which has gained a lot of public interest over the years.
"On the basis of the information provided to us, we consider this to be new and potentially important evidence in the case of Mary Bastholm, however further detailed assessments will take place over the following few days to determine the extent of excavation needed.
"The Constabulary has always said any fresh evidence would be reviewed. This has happened and a focused and proportionate investigation will now take place."
Mary's heartbroken family, who have been told about the latest update, have previously urged Rose West to tell them what happened to the missing teen.
And the serial killer's own lawyer suggested in 2019 she could have been an accomplice in Mary's disappearance.
In a statement today, Mary's family said "We are aware of the ongoing developments around Mary’s disappearance and are being kept up to date and supported by Gloucestershire Police Family Liaison Officers.
"Please may we ask for privacy so we can grieve for Mary."
Leo Goatley believes she met West two years before previously thought and could have helped lure Mary into their car as she waited at the bus stop.
A silver locket on a chain, which the family believes belonged to Mary, was also found by police at the West's home, 25 Cromwell Street.
The home – dubbed the ‘House of Horrors' – is half a mile from the cafe on Southgate Street being searched today.
West was a regular customer at the cafe – then known as The Pop In – when Mary vanished.
The builder is also said to have laid a concrete floor in the basement of the eaterie a month before Mary went missing.
Before killing himself, West reportedly confessed to murdering Mary to son Stephen and Janet Leach, a social worker who acted as West’s ‘appropriate adult’ during police questioning.
Family friends of Mary have campaigned in vain for years for police to search the cafe for her remains.
But a cadaver dog was recently taken to the site by a TV documentary team and is said to have shown a positive reaction in the basement.
In addition, ground penetrating radar is said to have shown up a suspicious image below the concrete surface.
The TV team contacted Gloucestershire Police with their findings and a full search of the basement area under the guidance of an archaeologist was launched this morning.
A source said: “This is an extraordinary development which will hopefully finally solve the mystery of what happened to Mary.
“She went missing more than half a century ago and clearly great care is being taken on the excavation to preserve any remains and potential forensic evidence.”
However, Gloucestershire Police are likely to face questions over why they waited so long to excavate the cafe’.
LIVES LOST: The victims of Fred and Rose West
The nanny of Fred and Rena West’s children, McFall was believed to have been murdered in 1967.
She was pregnant when she died, with West believed to have been the father. Her body was found in June 1994 in a shallow grave.
Fred West denied murdering McFall but he is said to have confided to a visitor after his arrest that he stabbed her following an argument.
This happened before Rosemary West met him.
With Fred in prison for the theft of car tyres and a vehicle tax disc, Rosemary was left to look after eight-year-old Charmaine.
A neighbour is said to have found Charmaine tied to a wooden chair with her hands behind her back with Rosemary standing with a large wooden spoon.
Rosemary claimed she’d been taken by her mother Rena but her skeleton was found at the Midland Road property, hidden and missing bones.
Rena is believed to have been murdered by strangulation to avoid an investigation into Charmaine's whereabouts.
Rosemary was not charged for this murder.
Lynda Gough, 21, was the first sexually motivated killing conducted by the Wests.
She moved into Cromwell Street in April 1973, having had affairs with several lodgers. The Wests later claimed she’d been asked to leave after hitting one of their children.
Strangulation and suffocation were the likely causes of death.
Carol Ann Cooper
Cooper was murdered in November 1973 aged just 15.
She was allowed to spend the night at her grandmother’s house before a doctor’s appointment the next morning.
But she somehow ending up on Cromwell Street and was killed by the couple.
Her body was found more than twenty years later.
A 21-year-old medieval English student at Exeter University, she returned home for Christmas in December 1973.
She left a friend’s house in a rush to get the last bus from Cheltenham to Gretton on 27 December, and was abducted.
She was found more twenty years later, her dismembered body in the cellar of Cromwell Street.
A 21-year-old Swiss sociology student at Woolwich Polytechnic.
She had planned to hitch-hike to Ireland in Easter 1974. Her family reported her missing having not heard from her for some time.
Prosecution believe she was abducted before being killed, with Fred West later building a fake chimney over her grave.
Just 15 at the time of her death, Hubbard is believed to have been abducted by the Wests.
Her body was found following an excavation in the concrete and plastic membrane of the cellar floor.
In the summer of 1974, Mott, 19, moved into 25 Cromwell Street but later went missing when she was living in Newent.
Her body was found in March 1994, 19 years later, with West having concreted over the floor of the cellar.
The first victim buried outside the house, Robinson had an affair with Fred West, and by autumn 1977, she was pregnant with his child.
It was initially claimed the 18-year-old had moved to Scotland but her body was later found.
When questioned, Rosemary West, herself pregnant with her daughter Tara at the time of the murder, claimed she did not remember her, which was described as “ludicrous” by the prosecution.
The last murder with a sexual motive established. She disappeared just before her 17th birthday, having been seen at 25 Cromwell Street throughout the summer.
Her body was buried underneath the patio.
The first child born to Fred and Rosemary West, there is no evidence the 16-year-old was aware of the killings.
Sexually abused by her parents and having told friends, she suddenly went missing in 1987, with Rosemary claiming she had gone to Wales to be with a lesbian partner.
The couple would joke to their other children that they would “end up under the patio like Heather” if they misbehaved.
This – and Fred's abuse of his other daughter – led to the search warrants for the property, and subsequently to their arrests.
It first came to their attention when Fred and Rose West were arrested in 1994.
According to Mary’s childhood friend Chris Roberts, the tenant of the cafe told cops he had found a school exercise book possibly belonging to Mary secreted behind brickwork in the toilet area of the basement.
The book “was collected by the police but the Bastholm family were not informed of its discovery.”
Mr Roberts launched a petition in 2012 calling on police to search the basement of the café, known at that time as The Oasis.
However, cops rejected the petition appeal.
Then Chief Constable Tony Melville wrote to Mr Roberts and told him: “The evidence is in no way categorical.”
He said the book found by the previous café tenant was an old diary that was not connected to Mary.
The police chief added of Mary’s fate: “West is the only suspect for the murder but no details about her whereabouts have ever come to light.”
The depraved couple embarked on a 17-year killing spree – abducting young girls from bus stops and raping and torturing them.
They murdered at least ten girls and buried them at their House of Horrors at 25 Cromwell Street.
Their mutilated bodies were discovered 20 years later buried under the patio and in the cellar of the home.
None of the nine skeletons dug up was complete.
Three other bodies were uncovered at Fred's previous home in Midland Road and two fields in Much Marcle.
Anyone with information regarding Mary's disappearance can complete an online form using reference number 99 of 11 May.
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