Who is Janet Leach and what is an appropriate adult?

FRED West and his wife Rose were collectively responsible for the murder of 12 young women.

The real harm they caused is even more wide reaching, as in the case of Janet Leach. She was called to act as Fred West's appropriate adult throughout his police questioning.

Who is Janet Leach?

Janet Leach is an English social worker who because enmeshed in the trial of Fred West, a monstrous serial killer.

Janet had put her name down as an "appropriate adult"— volunteers requested to sit in on interviews with vulnerable suspects.

Janet was called by Gloucester in 1994, asking her to act as an appropriate adult for West.

At the time, Janet was newly divorced from her first husband Barry Leach, the father of her four sons, and training to be a social worker.

West was nearly illiterate, so Janet was in charge of coaxing him through police interviewing. She tried to teach him to read and write.

Although he would not admit his crimes to the police, he allegedly made his shocking confessions to Janet in graphic detail.

Janet later said: "Fred would tell me these horrible things as if he was discussing the weather."

In her role as appropriate adult, Leach was bound by a con­fidentiality agreement which meant she could not tell the police about his confessions.

She threatened to resign as West’s appropriate adult, to West's horror. She told him she would stay if he confessed to the police, and he agreed.

Where is she now?

After her ordeal with West, Janet's partner died from a heart condition in 1999.

By 2010, she had remarried and had started a new career as a health professional, living in the suburbs of Gloucester.

In 2011, the Daily Mail revealed that Janet's new husband, a retired lorry driver, died, leaving her heartbroken.

Leach has said that she is “haunted for ever” by what West told her and that she was “destroyed” by her experience.

What is an appropriate adult?

In English law, the police are supposed to appoint an appropriate adult when children and vulnerable people are suspected of committing a crime.

This is to reduce the risk of a vulnerable suspect being led into an unsound confession by the police. 

Appropriate adults are meant to "support, advise and assist their clients".

Usually, an appropriate adult is a parent, guardian or social worker.

The job is voluntary and unpaid, with no qualifications specified by law.

Why was Janet Leach's relationship with Fred West controversial?

Many were confused about why West was so open towards Janet.

He would not speak if Janet was not present and could call her throughout the week.

She said: “In the early days even the police were gossiping about my role.

“Some assumed I was a relative of Fred’s. Others thought we were having an affair.”

Many questioned why Leach continued her visits to West after police had stopped questioning him.

West and Leach exchanged cards, letters and phone calls and Leach brought West underwear, batteries for his radio and tobacco.

Leach wrote him one letter in prison saying: “Hi Fred, here are the batteries you asked for. See you on Friday. Janet.”

He wrote one to her saying: “You look tired. Please take care of yourself. ps I thank God for having you for my friend.”

Paul, Janet's son, spoke of his anger that his mother was allowed to partake in such an intimate relationship with West.

Back then, he told The Sun: “It’s very dark, but she was consumed by it all and I think she fell under his spell in a big way.

“She disappeared for a couple of days after finding out about his death. She
couldn’t handle the news at all.”

Paul has shed light on the nature of Janet and West's relationship.

He said: “Rose West went through six appropriate adults, they couldn’t handle hearing the details, but my mother kept on going back.

“She was a little scared at the beginning, and needed pills to sleep at night,
but the relationship between them quickly became intense.

“West would refuse to talk if anyone else was sitting in on interviews with
him.

“It’s been said that she looked just like a former lover of his that
disappeared – Anna McFall – and he related to her because of that.

“She had formed this relationship with him. She was teaching him to read and write.”

Paul recalls that West would call their home phone line: “He spoke very slowly and in a deep Gloucestershire accent. He was polite. Extremely polite.”

Controversy arose further when Janet made a £100,000 deal with the Mirror to share her story.

In an unexpected turn of events, she was then called to testify against Rosemary in her murder trial.

During the trial, Janet dramatically suffered a stroke in the witness box after claiming that she hadn't sold her story to the press.

Janet later sued police, claiming she had suffered PTSD as a
result of her experience – but her claims were thrown out of court on a legal technicality.

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