'Pillar of the community' jailed for nine years for sexually abusing his own stepdaughter

Bournemouth Echo: Picture posed by model Picture posed by model

WHEN Sarah (not her real name) discovered her husband was sexually abusing her daughter it was, she says, “like a bomb going off underneath me”.

The bits of her world were “flying around everywhere like a huge explosion and I could not make it stop. Everything was turned upside down in a couple of hours”.

Earlier this year, what she thought was her normal, loving, family life was shattered into a thousand pieces.

Her husband – who the Daily Echo is not identifying to protect the victim, his own stepdaughter – has just been jailed for nine years at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Judge Peter Johnson branded the churchgoing professional in his 50s, “dangerous and warped”for his “grotesque acts”. He described the victim impact statements read to the court as “harrowing”.

The court was told that his victim who is under 15, has considered suicide as at times “does not feel as if she wishes to live any more”.

Now the young girl’s mother has spoken exclusively to the Daily Echo, to highlight the devastating effects of her husband's actions.

“I would like nothing more than to shout his name from the rooftops and stand up in our church on a Sunday and tell everyone: ‘You know that man who you thought was so dependable, well he’s a paedophile. He abused my daughter’. But I can’t.”

But she warns others to look for the signs of abuse in their own children and in those who might be perpetrators. Even those closest to you.

“One of the most frightening things of all is how plausible these people can be. My husband was a churchgoer, a pillar of the community. He worked for a global financial firm based in London. No-one had a bad word to say about him and he would do anything for anybody.

“By and large these abusers are always seemingly the nice, dependable people. That is how they manage to insinuate their way into communities and families. And it’s also a way of trying to cover themselves if allegations are made. People would think ‘no, not him. He couldn't possibly have done that’.”

“He is very well educated. He appeared to know something about everything which is part of the way these people try to control you. With hindsight it’s as though he read a textbook on how to behave while all the time grooming my daughter and those around him.

“She was a classic victim.

Someone with low esteem, not eating properly, not many friends, introverted and anxious.

Abusers play on that kind of vulnerability and they use it. My daughter’s problems such as self harming were put down to bullying and of course he encouraged that theory at every opportunity.”

Sarah first met the abuser a decade ago and they were married a couple of years later.

“I was a single mum and was pleased to have met someone who seemed to be perfect for me and who appeared to love my two daughters. They loved him. It is such a betrayal. People like him act like they absolutely adore your children, which to you is a big attraction.

“We don’t know how long the abuse was going on for because he may have been touching her inappropriately when she was a lot younger. As well as being plausible these people are very patient. I believe I was targeted as a single parent with daughters and that the abuse was years in the making. Abusers see what they can get away with and build up bit by bit.”

Sarah confronted her husband (divorce proceedings are underway) one evening. They were all out for a family meal when a friend texted her to say they needed to talk.

Sarah’s daughter had confided in a school friend and she had in turn spoken to her own mum.

“I went round to see her and she told me what my daughter had said. I went straight home and spoke to her and I knew within 30 seconds that she was telling truth. Children can't make up the kind of thing she was describing. All parents should be aware of this.

“Then I spoke to him. At first he denied it, then he said it was all a misunderstanding. Then he broke down and gradually admitted it. I called him a monster and said the best thing he could do was hand himself into the police station straightaway.”

Sarah says she is now suspicious of every man. “I don’t want to even think about a relationship with another man, not until my children are grown up. My radar is jammed on the suspicion setting. I have no idea how I will ever unjam it.

“Thank goodness for the support of members of my family and friends. I just don’t know how we would have coped. As well as all the emotional and psychological trauma for my daughters and me, we’ve had the financial rug pulled from underneath us because he cancelled all the direct debits from his prison cell.

“I can only pay the mortgage with the help of my parents but I know there are people in my position who are not so fortunate.”

She feels guilty for, as she sees it, failing in her duty to protect her own daughter. “I invited him into my home. I feel it’s my fault.

“I have always thought I would know in that situation, but you don’t. There was never a single solitary moment when I thought something was not quite right.

The police told me the mother is always the last to know.

“It’s also an incredibly isolating experience, not being able to talk to people about what has happened because of the need to protect my daughter’s identity as a victim. It’s such a help to be able to go to a support group and have an outlet for all this.

“I am trying to deal with this with my daughter while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that my marriage has been a sham all these years.”

The guilt is not confined to Sarah. Her daughter worried that she had broken up the family and that her mum would be angry that she had lost her husband. Her stepfather told her no one would believe and mummy would be cross.

“Of course I was not angry with her and have told her that over and over. I am just so angry at all the devastation he has caused. He is sitting in the protection of his prison cell and we are left picking up the pieces. So many people have been affected by this. It’s not just ripples, it’s tentacles. He has made a mess of so many lives.”

Judge’s voice shook after guilty plea

SARAH’S daughter has urged any young person suffering abuse to come forward and not to suffer in silence.

She said: “Call Childline or speak to a teacher or a friend if you can’t go to your mum. Write a letter but speak up and it will stop.”

Sarah said: “She doesn’t want others to go through what she has suffered and if by speaking out it makes a difference to just one child it will have been worth it.

“We are all determined that some good will come of this. She is only young but she wants to be a social worker to help others.

“She has been amazing, very courageous. It’s a miracle she is still alive and I am so thankful for that.

“Many children endure abuse until adulthood and only then do they feel able to come forward. We were lucky in a way that it was a much shorter period.”

Sarah understands that what she and her daughter are now suffering is a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Her daughter cannot bear noise, sleeps poorly, has panic attacks and is frightened to go out.

She is like a rabbit in the headlights.

"She will have to unpack all of this at some stage but as the judge said, the effects are lifelong and permanent."

Sarah says the family is grateful for the nine year sentence, which included time for breach of trust. "In many cases the sentences are derisory. We were fortunate in that regard at least."

Sarah paid tribute to Dorset police's Child Protection Unit and her daughter's school. They had been "amazing. She urges anyone with concerns to call the NSPCC helpline.

Helplines

  • NSPCC 0808 800 5000 nspcc.org.uk
  • Childline 0800 1111 childline.org.uk
  • MOSAC (Mothers of Sexually Abused Children) 0800 980 1958 mosac.org.uk n Dorsetaction onabuse.com 01202 732424

Figures

  • 1 in 20 children have been sexually abused
  • Over 90% of those children were abused by someone they know.

*NSPCC statistics

Comments (13)

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6:09am Fri 6 Dec 13

pete woodley says...

Back in the sixties,a mother once confided in me that she suspected her husband was abusing his daughter,but did not know what to do.I informed a older policeman,who i knew,who handled the matter very carefully and the husband was put down,albeit a very light sentence.Unfortunate
ly i met up with the family later on,and felt very uncomfortable in the presence of the father,and found it difficult to even speak to him.During my life i have met several ladies who have revealed they had been abused by family members,and was made aware of how it affected them.I sincerely believe,it is more common than most imagine.When i was once a patrolman,with the council,and covered bournemouth gardens,i was informed by more than one child that a TV personality,and a council official,had approached them,and invited them to their flat,i reported this to the police, and council,and NOTHING was done.I have never forgotten this.
Back in the sixties,a mother once confided in me that she suspected her husband was abusing his daughter,but did not know what to do.I informed a older policeman,who i knew,who handled the matter very carefully and the husband was put down,albeit a very light sentence.Unfortunate ly i met up with the family later on,and felt very uncomfortable in the presence of the father,and found it difficult to even speak to him.During my life i have met several ladies who have revealed they had been abused by family members,and was made aware of how it affected them.I sincerely believe,it is more common than most imagine.When i was once a patrolman,with the council,and covered bournemouth gardens,i was informed by more than one child that a TV personality,and a council official,had approached them,and invited them to their flat,i reported this to the police, and council,and NOTHING was done.I have never forgotten this. pete woodley

7:35am Fri 6 Dec 13

VeronikaJolova says...

Nearly all sex abuse goes on within Family and friends !! Fact !! Which is why people are so quick to blame an unknown person !!!!.. NO one likes to admit what goes on in the family !!! Its called Shame
Nearly all sex abuse goes on within Family and friends !! Fact !! Which is why people are so quick to blame an unknown person !!!!.. NO one likes to admit what goes on in the family !!! Its called Shame VeronikaJolova

8:10am Fri 6 Dec 13

Huey says...

A shocking and sobering article. Well written as well.
A shocking and sobering article. Well written as well. Huey

9:55am Fri 6 Dec 13

bubbles20 says...

my heart goes out to the young girl and mother. Never blame yourself. I totally understand how you feel but promise you life will get better for you. Nine years is not enough
my heart goes out to the young girl and mother. Never blame yourself. I totally understand how you feel but promise you life will get better for you. Nine years is not enough bubbles20

11:03am Fri 6 Dec 13

speedy231278 says...

Church and child abuse. Will they ever not be synonymous?
Church and child abuse. Will they ever not be synonymous? speedy231278

1:20pm Fri 6 Dec 13

spooki says...

My sympathies with the poor family. He ok now tho isn't he.. while this poor woman has to go through reality with her lovely daughter. I can't even begin to imagine how they feel, but I hope the daughter soon realises none of it was her fault, her mum isn't cross with her and she IS worthwhile and has a beautiful life ahead of her. She's lucky she had a friend who decided to say something.
My sympathies with the poor family. He ok now tho isn't he.. while this poor woman has to go through reality with her lovely daughter. I can't even begin to imagine how they feel, but I hope the daughter soon realises none of it was her fault, her mum isn't cross with her and she IS worthwhile and has a beautiful life ahead of her. She's lucky she had a friend who decided to say something. spooki

6:36pm Fri 6 Dec 13

wildchildthe!st says...

Although the article is printed to highlight this type of issue im afraid in my opinion the removal of inoffensive comments by the echo has a negative effect which may also contribute to the small numbers of comments.Perhaps people are still afraid or unwilling to discuss this subject and continue to brush it under the carpet which is a shame for anyone whose life has or is being affected by this type of abuse
Although the article is printed to highlight this type of issue im afraid in my opinion the removal of inoffensive comments by the echo has a negative effect which may also contribute to the small numbers of comments.Perhaps people are still afraid or unwilling to discuss this subject and continue to brush it under the carpet which is a shame for anyone whose life has or is being affected by this type of abuse wildchildthe!st

6:43pm Fri 6 Dec 13

Jellybean123 says...

I am so sorry to read this story, what a very brave daughter, sister, mum and grand-parents. The worst is over. With family and friend support you will all grow strong, it is a new year in a few weeks time, make best of what is left of 2013 and look forward to the new year and new beginning. Very best wishes to you all
I am so sorry to read this story, what a very brave daughter, sister, mum and grand-parents. The worst is over. With family and friend support you will all grow strong, it is a new year in a few weeks time, make best of what is left of 2013 and look forward to the new year and new beginning. Very best wishes to you all Jellybean123

12:26am Sat 7 Dec 13

Adrian XX says...

This woman has also lost her soulmate - it makes the devastation even worse.

Children do need to be educated by their parents on the perils of sexual abuse - they need to be told that it is far more likely to be a family member than a stranger who abuses them.
This woman has also lost her soulmate - it makes the devastation even worse. Children do need to be educated by their parents on the perils of sexual abuse - they need to be told that it is far more likely to be a family member than a stranger who abuses them. Adrian XX

2:45am Sat 7 Dec 13

Dlt_debz says...

I feel so sorry for this family, this poor excuse for a man had been welcomed with open arms in to their family and he tried to destroy them, I don't know if the wife and step daughter can see this but if they can then then they need to know there is only one person to blame for what has happened to this family and that is the husband, please try not to kick yourselves over this, what has happened will never be forgotten but when you realise that he his the only one to blame then you will not only find it easier to live as close to a normal life as anyone possibly could after going through what you have but you will be able to give the best support that you possibly can to anyone that you meet that is going through what you have been through
I feel so sorry for this family, this poor excuse for a man had been welcomed with open arms in to their family and he tried to destroy them, I don't know if the wife and step daughter can see this but if they can then then they need to know there is only one person to blame for what has happened to this family and that is the husband, please try not to kick yourselves over this, what has happened will never be forgotten but when you realise that he his the only one to blame then you will not only find it easier to live as close to a normal life as anyone possibly could after going through what you have but you will be able to give the best support that you possibly can to anyone that you meet that is going through what you have been through Dlt_debz

8:25am Sat 7 Dec 13

ashleycross says...

In the old days a man like this would have had both mother and daughter detained in a mental hospital if they dared to tell anyone.
Nowadays it can go two ways, the police can help with a prosecution if the mother helps, or the girl is taken into care if her mother sides with the man, which is sadly the main reason for children being in care or on the streets.
In the old days a man like this would have had both mother and daughter detained in a mental hospital if they dared to tell anyone. Nowadays it can go two ways, the police can help with a prosecution if the mother helps, or the girl is taken into care if her mother sides with the man, which is sadly the main reason for children being in care or on the streets. ashleycross

1:30am Mon 9 Dec 13

Mrs C. A Townend says...

I have a message to the daughter. Please do not blame your self, you did not ask for this to happen to you and no child deserves to go through it. Well done for taking the courage to come forward and speak out, that is a very difficult thing to do but you have made the first step to stopping this horrible abuse.

I went through this as a child, and I never spoke out. The reason being he was disabled, nobody would believe me and every body liked him. When I reached adulthood, I became ill but eventually I did speak out to a professional and my husband who I found were supportive. I did eventually tell my family, who still don't believe me, and most no longer speak to me. In my opinion that doesn't matter, because even though I left it too late, I told someone and have recovered from the trauma it left me with, even though admittedly, I lost a lot through the illness. However, on a positive note, I learned from this and my life is back on track, I am doing courses now that are teaching me to protect and help others through the same thing, and although I still have to rebuild my life, I am getting stronger every day and so will you. I hope you will be able to believe in yourself enough one day, to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and eventually you will be ok. Your mum sounds like a wonderful person who cares about you, and if you look around, you will find others do too. Again well done for speaking out, and I will be thinking of you.
I have a message to the daughter. Please do not blame your self, you did not ask for this to happen to you and no child deserves to go through it. Well done for taking the courage to come forward and speak out, that is a very difficult thing to do but you have made the first step to stopping this horrible abuse. I went through this as a child, and I never spoke out. The reason being he was disabled, nobody would believe me and every body liked him. When I reached adulthood, I became ill but eventually I did speak out to a professional and my husband who I found were supportive. I did eventually tell my family, who still don't believe me, and most no longer speak to me. In my opinion that doesn't matter, because even though I left it too late, I told someone and have recovered from the trauma it left me with, even though admittedly, I lost a lot through the illness. However, on a positive note, I learned from this and my life is back on track, I am doing courses now that are teaching me to protect and help others through the same thing, and although I still have to rebuild my life, I am getting stronger every day and so will you. I hope you will be able to believe in yourself enough one day, to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and eventually you will be ok. Your mum sounds like a wonderful person who cares about you, and if you look around, you will find others do too. Again well done for speaking out, and I will be thinking of you. Mrs C. A Townend

8:58pm Wed 11 Dec 13

nikkip71 says...

I really hope that Sarah can rebuild her family after this truly life changing event. I can't even begin to imagine the extent of the horror that has had to be faced up to.
I really hope that Sarah can rebuild her family after this truly life changing event. I can't even begin to imagine the extent of the horror that has had to be faced up to. nikkip71

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