Excavation work is to begin at a cafe in Gloucester after police found “possible evidence” of where a suspected teenage victim of serial killer Fred West may be buried.
Forensic archaeologists have been undertaking exploratory work at the Clean Plate cafe in Southgate Street in connection with the disappearance of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm who was last seen alive in January 1968.
Gloucestershire Police had received possible evidence from a TV production company to suggest the body of the missing teenager could be buried at the location.
Forensic archaeologists have confirmed that there are a number of structural anomalies within the cellar that warrant further exploration and excavation work will now begin.
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.
“In the meantime, I continue to ask for patience and understanding from all those affected by our ongoing presence at the café and thank everyone who has helped us in the last 10 days.”
In a statement, the teenager’s family said: “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 Police 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 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.”
Serial killer West, who died in prison in 1995 aged 53, was previously suspected over Mary’s disappearance.
Along with his wife Rose, West tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women over a 20-year period.
Mary’s disappearance in 1968 was at a time when Fred West, who often did jobs in the street where she worked as a waitress in a cafe, was abducting girls in Gloucester.
Mary’s body was not found during the 1994 excavation of the West’s home, now known as the “House of Horrors”, on Cromwell Street in Gloucester.
West was charged with 12 murders, but took his own life in a Birmingham prison before his trial.
Rose West was convicted of 10 murders in November 1995 and is serving life.