To friends and neighbours Jessica’s family appeared just like any other, but a secret evil was lurking and behind closed doors hers was a house of horrors…
By Helen O’Brien Google
I jumped as I heard the front door slam shut. It meant my mother, Wendy, 43, had arrived home and I braced myself for what was to come.
I knew immediately she wouldn’t be in a good mood – she never was – and I would get the blame, somehow.
One of my earliest memories of my childhood was when I was eight years old. Mum was angry at me for not tidying my bedroom – and punched me hard in the face as punishment.
I can still remember the ringing in my ears as she slammed her fist into my face. But Mum hadn’t finished.
After that. she forced me to sleep in the garden, shivering in the freezing November night air in nothing but my pyjamas.
Believe it or not, this was ‘normal’ family life for me. I never knew my father and grew up in fear of my mother.
She never worked and didn’t seem to be able to keep a man in her life. As a result, there were different boyfriends appearing all the time.
I was always relieved when she was loved up – it took the focus away from me and for a few months at least, everything was normal. Each time a relationship ended however, she became angry at me again.
‘I hate you,’ she spat almost daily. ‘I wish you were never born – I wanted to get rid of you but my mother wouldn’t let me.’
She targeted me far more than my younger half-siblings, Jack, now 16 and Louise, now 20, branding me a ‘devil child.’
In a way, I told myself that it was better that she picked on me – as I was the oldest. At least if she was hitting me, then they were ok.
Mum’s mental torture was agonising but her physical attacks were even worse. I was 11 when she hit me hard in the face with a saucepan.
As the warm blood trickled down my face, I started shaking in shock and Mum realised she had to take me to the hospital.
When we arrived, she simply told medics I’d fallen in the shed.
‘If you say anything, I’ll kill you,’ she hissed in my ear. I believed her.
‘She’s so clumsy,’ she told the nurses, and even kissed me on the forehead and held my hand as they stitched me up. ‘I’ve told her not to go climbing around the place but she never listens.’
A doctor told me I was lucky not to lose my eye and I was given over 100 stitches. I still have the scar now.
Mum was good at playing the doting parent when it suited her. But as soon as we got home, her mood would always change.
‘Get to your room!’ she would scream at me. I would happily oblige – but then she would punish me further by not letting me eat that night.
At school, I had hardly any friends. I was withdrawn and moody – preferring to be invisible. I was known as the ‘odd’ girl because I didn’t have any confidence to speak to anyone.
When I was injured, my mother kept me away from school in case anyone noticed.
Then when I was 13, Mum became convinced that I had stolen money out of her purse. I wouldn’t dare, but that didn’t stop her from plotting another evil attack on me.
She pinned me down and started to slowly cut my foot open with a knife.
‘This is what you get for being a thief!’ she yelled as I writhed in agony. I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.
This time, she told nurses at the local hospital that I’d stood on glass, and watched as they needlessly operated to check if there was any glass left in the wound.
It was sick. She was sick.
On the surface, we were a normal family – but play time with Mum consisted not of board games and baking cakes – instead her ‘games’ involved me choosing between one of three horrific punishments.
It was usually a choice of being whipped hard with a dog chain, being plunged headfirst into icy-cold water, or she would hold my head over the gas hob.
Other times she would tie me up and throw me down the stairs. Life with my mum was hell.
I lived under her reign of terror and was in constant fear that she’d carry out her ultimate threat to finish off the job, and kill me.
I never went to the police, I didn’t think they’d believe me. I felt like a stupid little girl with nowhere to turn.
I was 15 when I finally escaped her evil clutches. Mum had hit me in the arm with a broken glass in the dead of the night, all because I had fallen asleep on the sofa.
She had decided that I wasn’t allowed to sleep that night – and by dozing off I had deliberately disobeyed her order.
Without thinking, I fled the house. It was 3am and I found myself at the hospital again, but I couldn’t summon up the courage to go in.
Instead, I sat outside on a nearby bench, shaking with fear and covered in blood. Medical staff and a security guard soon spotted me and encouraged me to get fixed up.
Once inside the hospital, nursing staff told me I had damaged the tendons in my arm.
‘Would you like us to call your mum?’ one woman asked kindly, but my reaction startled her.
‘No!’ I shouted. ‘Please don’t call her – she did this to me. Don’t call her – she will kill me tonight.’
She was alarmed, but nodded at me. About half an hour later, the police arrived and I broke down in tears.
I told them everything, and to my surprise, they listened. More than anything, I begged the officers not to take me home.
It all happened pretty quickly after that. Social services were called out that night and I was put into care, along with my half-brother and sister.
I was scared – but the sense of relief I felt was overwhelming.
Meanwhile, Mum was arrested and charged with four counts of child cruelty, seven counts of assault and one count of unlawful wounding.
Police found all the evidence they needed – the dog chains just as I had described them, and traces of my blood all around the house.
I went to lots of different foster homes over the next year, and while I was waiting for my mother’s trial I tried to turn my attention back to school.
Luckily, I managed to pass 11 GCSE exams, gaining Bs and Cs, before going on to train as a nursery nurse.
A year after I went into care, I met Michael, 23, a serving soldier and in October 2012 we married. We have two beautiful children together, Ben, four, and Amy, one, and it’s now that I’m a mother myself that the true extent of my mum’s cruelty has really hit me.
In April 2008 my mother – Wendy Bury – was given an indeterminate public protection sentence at Durham Crown Court.
Michael held my hand tightly as the judge delivered the verdict. He said it was the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen and jailed her for a minimum term of three-and-a-half years.
As Mum was taken down to the cells she screamed that she would forgive me for what I’d done. I just stared at her – I couldn’t believe she was so twisted.
She wasn’t even sorry – right until the end, she believed it was all my fault.
Desperate for answers, I visited Mum in prison in March 2012 and took my social worker for support.
It took me half-an-hour to face her – I was shaking and my legs just wouldn’t move. When I finally entered the visitors room, she looked thinner than I remembered her.
When she saw me she started to cry – but she didn’t seem happy to see me.
‘I want to know why you did what you did to me,’ I asked, but she simply shrugged.
‘I don’t know, I don’t know why it was you,’ she replied. She then went on to ask me questions about my life – but she never once apologised.
I still suffer with paranoia – when Michael is away I worry non-stop, and I can’t sleep if I spot an unfamiliar car in our street.
But I am more outgoing than I was before – and my children have made me the happiest I have ever been. I am fiercely protective of them both and they are spoiled rotten.
Now, I’m focussing on my own wonderful family, but I don’t know if I’ll ever truly get over my Mum’s evil abuse.
She was the one person in the world who was supposed to love and protect me above all others. Instead, she betrayed me in the cruelest way imaginable.
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