‘She’s adopted me’: Vicar’s wife who has been visiting Rose West for more than 20 years reveals how the serial killer calls her ‘mum’ and says she buys her clothes from a catalogue
- Mary Dixon visits Rose prison to talk about everything from television to football
- Devout catholic Mary said she had a calling in life to ‘visit the imprisoned’
- She has also developed a relationships with late Moors murderer Myra Hindley
A vicar’s wife has spoken of how she has visited Britain’s most prolific serial killer Rose West in prison for more than two decades.
Devout catholic Mary Dixon was an official prison visitor, a volunteer who befriends and monitors the welfare of prisoners, and still continues to visit West even though she retired from the role in 2005.
Mary, who is called ‘mum’ by West and buys her clothes from a shopping catalogue, has visited her at Durham Prison and HMP Low Newton in County Durham where she currently resides.
West along with her husband Fred raped and murdered their daughter Heather and buried her under their patio – then did the same to nine others
During visits the pair talk about everything from television, football, politics and religion.
West, who was convicted of killing 10 girls including her own daughter, made up half of a murderous partnership with her husband Fred West – who committed suicide before facing justice in 1995.
The pair abducted, tortured, raped and murdered young women over 20 years – and buried many of them under the floorboards of their home at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester.
The terrace house was later ripped down.
However, West still maintains her innocence and denies ever committing the horrific crimes.
Mary, 79, isn’t phased by coming into contact with murderers such as West as she said she had a calling in life to ‘visit the imprisoned’.
As part of her mission, Mary has had one-to-one encounters, shared conversations and developed relationships with 64-year-old West, as well as late Moors murderer Myra Hindley.
But Mary, of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, says she leaves the crimes of prisoners, who she calls the ‘forgotten people’, at the door.
She said: ‘I go into prison without any thoughts in my head whatsoever. I dump everything. It’s none of my business.
‘I visit after they have gone to prison, not before, not when anything was actually happening.
‘I go into prison blank, I have to. Otherwise I just couldn’t do it, and I can do it. I’m lucky that I can do that.
‘I’m not frightened to bring God into this at all. I am simply doing the work that God expects of me.’
In 1990, Mary picked up the phone and called Durham Prison to ask if she could become an official prison visitor after watching a programme about them on TV.
As part of her application to be a prison visitor, Mary has produced referees, was interviewed by the prison chaplain – her now husband of nearly 20 years, Mike Dixon.
At the time there were 40 women on Durham Prison’s H Wing – a high category women’s prison-within-a-prison.
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Prison visitors were appointed to one inmate who they could visit a maximum of once a week for two hours, and Mary did just that.
For the first seven years of visiting she brought comfort and conversation to three women serving long sentences.
The first was a 24-year-old who was acquitted and released within a year.
The second was a 27-year-old ‘lost soul’ released on life licence in 1993.
The third was a woman three years Mary’s junior who is still inside now, aged 76.
Mrs Dixon cultivated life-long friendships with the latter two and even attended the wedding of her second appointment, who was unusually allowed out with her for one day.
It was when her third prisoner was due to go that West came onto the scene.
For more than two decades, devout catholic Mary has visited Britain’s most prolific female killer both at Durham Prison and HMP Low Newton in County Durham (pictured)
By this point Mary was the chairman of the Durham Branch National Association of Prison Visitors and in that role would come into contact with all the women while on the wing.
She explained: ‘I was hands-on and, being chairman, we visited on the wing then and visited them in their rooms.
‘I would go and visit them and other people would come into the room to see me
and chat. It was very relaxed and peaceful.’
On the final visit to her third appointed prisoner, Mrs Dixon said: ‘While I was in there Rose came into the room and she said to me, would I be her prison visitor?
‘She said ‘I didn’t think I’d be able to have a prison visitor’, not because it wasn’t allowed but because of her high profile, she didn’t feel she could trust anybody to be her prison visitor.
‘She asked me and I said to her ‘So you think I’ve been tried and tested do you?’ and she said ‘Yes I do’.
‘The other prisoners in there had told her to ask me to visit her, she said that they trusted me.
West was convicted of killing 10 girls including her own daughter
‘A prison visitor in there was the most trusted person in the prison. We had nothing to gain, we had no uniform, we didn’t get paid, we were there because we wanted to be there.
‘They and the staff respected us. I said yes. That was April, 1997, 21 years gone April.’
Mary visited weekly until 2005 when Durham Prison’s H Wing closed, leaving West to be the last inmate before her transfer to Bronzefield, in Surrey.
The move marked the end to her official prison visiting but did not signal the end to her relationship with West.
She added: ‘I did keep in touch with her by letter and telephone.
‘I couldn’t ring her but she could ring me and I would visit her, periodically.’
On West’s return to Durham about nine years ago, this time to all-female, high security Low Newton, Mary was subject to a rigorous vetting process to gain a visiting order to continue their meetings.
For confidentiality, Mary was unable to go into detail about their conversations but said they talk about ‘normal things that normal human beings do’.
‘Politics, religion, topical things that are going on in the world, not football but sometimes,’ she added.
Mary was also given permission to do West’s clothes shopping via a catalogue which she continues to do.
West tells her what she wants, she rings it in, takes delivery, sends it unopened to the prison and receives a cheque from the inmate’s account.
Over their 21-year relationship West has grown to see Mary as a mother figure, and calls her mum.
She said: ‘She’s adopted me, they all adopt me.
‘I feel very privileged that somebody would feel like that about me.’
And despite being found guilty of ten murders in 1995, West has always professed her innocence – something Mary has confirmed.
Owing to Mary’s age and inability to drive, their meetings have become fewer and further between.
She said: ‘I maybe visited once every three weeks when she first came back but now there might be a couple of months in between.
‘It’s flexible but she does ring. I ring, book a visit, go to the visitor’s centre and then I go.
‘She would love me to go every day if I could. She’s always delighted.’
When she does go, she either gets two buses and walks for 25-minutes or is driven by husband and Anglican Vicar Mark, who on occasion accompanies her.
The former Durham County Council vice chairman worked as a chaplain in prisons across the UK for several decades and in retirement still holds a licence to operate in the Dioceses of Durham and Newcastle.
Mary says she has no plans to end her relationship with West which she believes will be life-long.
She added: ‘She (West) will never ever come out. As long as I’m able to get there or she’s able to ring I’ll continue just as I would with any other relationship.’
THE MANY VICTIMS OF SERIAL KILLERS FRED AND ROSE WEST
Tragic: Lucy Partington, the cousin of novelist Martin Amis, went missing in December 1973
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.
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.
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