Lisa* thought she had hit the jackpot when Philip Barnaby offered to babysit her son. But his seemingly kind offer had horrifying consequences…
By Helen O’Brien Google
I beamed as I spotted Mum waving at me from the doorstep.
It had been months since I had seen my family, and I had been counting down the days to the Easter break from university.
“It’s great to see you, love,” Mum said as she hugged me close.
I smiled back at her: “It’s great to be home.”
But my stomach squirmed as I said it.
I had been looking forward to coming home, but I had also been nervous.
I’d missed a few periods, and I’d been feeling nauseous and had put on weight.
There had been a few short term relationships at uni, but nothing serious, and I dreaded what my parents would say if it turned out I was pregnant and single.
It was a few days before I plucked up the courage to take a pregnancy test, and my heart stopped as I stared at the positive test.
I was up to my ears in psychology exams and totally unprepared for motherhood, I still felt like a child myself. What was I going to do?
I looked at the floor as I murmured the words to Mum: “I think I’m pregnant, I’m sorry.”
She was shocked, but as always Mum was amazingly supportive.
I visited the doctor and found out I was expecting a baby boy, who was due to be born in August 2010.
My heart pounded as I saw the tiny figure on the screen as the doctor scanned my belly.
But I was surprised to realise I was excited as much as I was nervous.
And Mum was just as excited. “We’ll support you through everything”, she said. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
So I carried on with my studies and allowed myself to get excited about the arrival of my son.
The months flew by and when the doctor handed me my beautiful little boy, Harry*, I felt like I could burst with happiness. He was gorgeous.
He was such a cheerful little boy, everyone who met him loved him.
His dad wasn’t around, but my family adored him and helped me to look after him so I could continue with my studies at college.
But my dad didn’t live closeby, so it was down to my four brothers to help out when Mum couldn’t. It wasn’t always easy.
I was desperate to become a sports psychologist and to make a better life for my little angel, dropping out of college was a last resort.
So I was over the moon when a friend, Philip, offered to babysit.
I knew I could trust him, and I knew Harry would love him.
True to his word, Phil was there every time I needed him.
He doted on Harry, taking him on trips to the park or McDonalds. Harry even called him “Uncle Phil”.
My little boy was happy, and I was able to keep up with my studies – it was perfect.
But then after Phil had been babysitting for two years, the social services contacted me out of the blue.
The social worker was kind but firm: “We can’t let your son be alone with Phil anymore, the contact needs to stop.”
I was shocked. What on earth was going on?
But she wouldn’t explain why, I only knew I had lost my babysitter.
Phil had been due to pick Harry up from nursery that day, and I felt irritated as I made other arrangements.
He was great with kids, what was their problem?
I assumed Phil must have got in trouble with the police when he was young. I wondered whether he might have dabbled with drugs.
My fantastic family helped me to fill in the gaps in my childcare. I felt sure there had been a mix up and that it wouldn’t be long before I’d get my babysitter back.
But then one day, in October 2013, when I was cleaning up in the kitchen, I turned around to find little Harry crying.
“What’s the matter sweetheart?” I asked.
He sobbed: “Uncle Phil hurt me, Mummy.”
I couldn’t believe that Phil was capable of harming a three-year-old, but nothing could have prepared me for what came next.
I retched as Harry described what Phil had done and I realised… the sick monster had raped my baby.
My world changed forever in that moment.
“Don’t worry Harry, he won’t ever hurt you again. Philip’s gone and he’s never coming back.” I told him.
I was shaking violently as I called the police with Harry’s words ringing in my ears.
Would they believe me? Would they believe Harry?
But they sent an officer, Lynsey Eglington, straight round to see us and she was fantastic. By 10pm that night Phil had been arrested.
It was after I gave my statement to the police that the social services revealed why they had stopped Phil’s contact with my little boy.
A man had come to them after seeing him with Harry in town, and he told them that Phil had sexually abused him as a child.
He never had the courage to tell anyone about his abuse until that moment, when he realised the same thing could be happening to other children.
My mind was reeling and tears streamed down my face as guilt consumed me – I realised how Harry had changed in the last few months.
My once outgoing and chatty little man had become shy and quiet, and he freaked out around men, especially if I left him alone with them.
He even panicked in the company of his grandad. How had I not noticed that something was wrong?
I thought I had known this man. I was shell shocked as I realised I had delivered my beautiful baby straight into the hands of a perverted paedophile.
As my grief turned to rage, I knew I had to do everything in my power to bring this monster to justice.
I told Lynsey: “Philip needs to be stopped, I want him locked up.”
She smiled at me sadly: “It’s going to be a tough process with Harry being so young, but we will do everything we can.”
I was determined, so Lynsey set about building up a relationship with my little boy.
It was a painstaking process, and hours turned into months as she spent time with Harry to gain his trust and get the evidence and statements she needed.
I wasn’t allowed to talk to him about his time with the police at all, to make sure that his statements were entirely his own.
It was tough, all I wanted to do was ask him how he was and comfort him.
It was pure torture knowing that he had to go through this alone.
But Harry exceeded all my expectations. He was so brave, even when he had to talk to the judge – who he called the “boss”.
I thought my heart would break as he compared himself to his hero – Jake the Neverland pirate.
He said: “I’ve got to do my special job, Mummy. I’ve got to tell the boss the truth.”
He was too young for this, he was still so innocent. But he had also changed.
We could barely walk down the street without him becoming afraid as we passed the sweet shop Phil had taken him to, or the park he had played in with his babysitter. His rapist was everywhere.
I cried myself to sleep every night as each day brought a new challenge for my baby. Life shouldn’t be this hard for a three-year-old, it wasn’t fair.
It was made all the worse as Phil continued to deny everything, which meant the case would be heard before a jury.
At three years old, Harry was set to become the youngest person to ever give evidence in court.
But in April, when Harry was waiting in a specially adapted evidence room while the jury was being sworn in, Phil pleaded guilty at the last possible moment.
He confessed to raping my little boy and sexually assaulting another child in the late 1990s and 2000s.
I felt relief wash over me as we were told Harry would no longer have to give evidence or be cross-examined by the defence lawyer.
I looked straight at the man I had once trusted as I read out my victim impact statement in court, but he just stared silently at the floor.
I told him he had dealt me and my son a life sentence, just so he could get sexual gratification.
Fighting back tears, I called him a monster.
I said: “My main emotion is pure anger and hatred.
“I wish Philip Barnaby could just stop breathing, but then that would be just too nice.”
I sobbed as I heard the judge’s sentence: the evil monster was being jailed for 15 and a half years. Justice.
I knew the police and judge had done all they could, but it still isn’t long enough compared to what my son will have to live with for the rest of his life.
But I am comforted by the fact that the world now knows how perverted Phil Barnaby is – no-one will ever fall for his sick tricks again.
My family and I are now preparing to move to a new home 300 miles away to give Harry a fresh start with new and happy memories.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the guilt of letting a sick paedophile near my baby, but I’m proud of Harry for having the strength to put him behind bars.
*Names have been changed to protect the victim’s anonymity.
If your family has come through a horrific crime, you might be interested in our Survivor of the Year opportunity. We’re passionate about giving survivors a voice in the media – we want to share your story, in your own words, told on your own terms. If you’d like more information, contact us in confidence using the form on the right.