Escaping hell

Whena family is this twisted, there can only be one outcome...

Published by: Amy Thompson & Sharon Ward
Published on: 8th November 2010

How can I expect you to even begin to understand what my life was like from the moment Marcus Wesson came into it? The truth is, I can’t. Because even now, 42 years on, I’m only just beginning to come to terms with it myself…
I was seven when Mum first brought her boyfriend Marcus, 20, home to meet me and my nine brothers and sisters. It had been hard enough getting her attention before she and Dad divorced, but now it was impossible.
With so many kids to look after, it was understandable that she didn’t have much time to spend with us individually.
But Marcus made things easier. He always had time for me, teaching me card games and showing me how to make little wooden cars in the garage while Mum cooked our tea.
He had a great imagination, too, for a grown-up. We’d pretend that I was a princess and he was my knight in shining armour, come to rescue me.
‘Do you take me to be your lawfully-wedded husband?’ he’d say, taking my hand and putting on an official sounding voice.
‘I do,’ I’d nod, giggling with joy.
It was just like in the movies when people got married. I hero-worshipped this man who always asked about my day, and paid more attention to me than anyone else ever had. With him, I didn’t take a backseat to my brothers and sisters.
A year later, he moved in. Which was just brilliant!
One night, I woke to a strangle rustling sound. It was Marcus, I realised with a giggle. He must want to play a game.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise what he wanted to play…
‘This is what people in love do, but you have to keep it secret or people will get jealous and try to split us up,’ he told me gently afterwards. ‘One day, we’ll get married properly, and have our own house...’
I was eight, and I trusted Marcus completely. He was my best friend. He’d never do anything to hurt me…
How could I have known that what he was doing was wrong? I was shy at school and we didn’t have any kind of sex education.
By the time I was 15, I was pregnant with his baby.
Marcus told Mum. ‘We’re in love,’ he explained. ‘I want to marry your daughter.’
I held my breath, staring at the ground not daring to meet Mum’s eyes. Was she going to go nuts, thinking I’d stolen her man? Would she realise the truth, throw him out, and I’d be free of the sexual abuse?
Her eyes filled with tears, then…
‘I’m so happy for you,’ she cried. What?! Well, if Mum backed Marcus, then clearly what he was doing was good and right, just as he’d told me. Far from being shocked or disgusted, Mum actually gave her written permission for me to get married – I was too young to do it without her parental consent.
But then, Marcus had a knack of getting people to do what he wanted, one way or another.
So far, I’d only experienced gentle manipulation as he brainwashed me into thinking we’d been ‘making love’ since I was a child, and I believed he was my knight in shining armour.
But after we married, I saw another side of him. A violent, terrifying side.
I couldn’t help wondering, surely other marriages weren’t like this? Sometimes, I’d dream of breaking free of this suffocating love. But he’d controlled me since I was eight, and it was all I knew.
So I put up with the beatings, the rules and regulations. Even after the birth of our first son Dorian, nothing changed.
One night, when Dorian was 18 months old and teething, the poor mite couldn’t stop crying.
‘Shut that baby up!’ Marcus screamed at me.
‘I’m sorry,’ I whispered automatically. I tried everything, but nothing would soothe my boy.
His dark eyes menacing, Marcus picked up a bamboo cane and moved towards the baby’s crib. Whack! He hit the back of Dorian’s little legs, leaving an angry red mark.
‘No!’ I shouted. I had to protect my little boy!
Marcus, calm now, turned to me. ‘It’s how kids learn,’ he explained. ‘Your parents probably did it to you when you were small, but you don’t remember it now. And neither will Dorian when he grows up.’
Really? It was… good for him to be hit? I didn’t understand how, but it had to be right because Marcus said so. And his word was gospel. I was still the child while Marcus was the adult, teaching me the ways of the world.
After that, Dorian quickly learned to stifle his sobs. So did our other kids when they came along. Over the next 10 years, I had 10 more children. Marcus wanted a big family.
‘We’ll have 12 children,’ he’d tell me. ‘It’s God’s wish that we have lots of them to add to his family on earth.’
He was always reading the Bible to me, telling me about how we’d do God’s bidding together.
By the time I was 26, I was a mother of 11. Or at least I would have been. Our son Stefan died at birth, and son Donovan died when he was aged six months.
‘I can’t have any more children,’ I sobbed, exhausted, when Marcus wanted to try for our 12th baby. ‘It’ll kill me to go through giving birth again.’
I thought he’d hit me, and force himself on me. Instead, he agreed to let me have an operation to have my tubes tied.
Wow! What had made him be so understanding? He’d wanted more children so badly.
Our five sons and four daughters were all home-schooled. Although I still felt badly how Marcus would punish them if they were naughty, I knew better than to argue with him. Punches, kicks, burns, I’d had them all. Once, he’d even throttled me until I’d passed out – I’d thought he’d kill me.
Leaving wasn’t an option. It wasn’t just the violence and fear that kept me at home, either – it was more about the mind control. This man had been brainwashing me for almost 20 years, it was virtually all I knew.
Despite everything, I still had good in me, though. When my sister Rosemary, 29, got into trouble with drugs, I agreed to take in her four daughters, too – Sofina, 11, Ruby, eight, Brandi, seven and Rosie, five.
They were such lovely girls and got along so well with their cousins. They’d help me with the housework and looking after the little’uns. Marcus doted on them.
Ten years passed. Then my daughter Kiani, 18, fell pregnant.
‘Whose is it?’ I asked, confused. She’d never talked about a boyfriend… She stared at the ground, refusing to answer. Something about her expression looked so familiar.
I’d stood exactly like that when Marcus had proposed to me in front of Mum.
In a flash, that made me gasp aloud, I realised the hideous truth. My husband had been abusing his own daughter – and now she was having his baby!
With mounting horror, I realised that was why he’d been so understanding about not having more kids with me a few years ago. He’d known he’d have more… with his own children.
Did I confront him? Run away? No, I did nothing.
Please don’t judge me, you can’t think worse of me than I do myself. My only excuse is that after living like Marcus’s slave for so long, I was somehow convinced that his word was law – and breaking it was impossible.
When Kiani had a daughter, Lilabelle, Marcus looked every inch the proud father.
Smiling, he kissed the top of my head.
‘The lord wants me to carry on having lots of children,’ he told me. ‘He wants me to impregnate our kids with my sperm.’
I shuddered, horrified, but too scared to speak.
‘I’m Jesus reborn,’ he added, matter of factly. He was totally mad. Maybe I was, too – maybe we all were thanks to everything he’d put us through.
Years passed. Our nieces Sofina, Ruby and Rosie, along with our daughter Sebhrenah, all fell pregnant by Marcus, too. When I was 44, I had nine children, two nieces, three grandchildren and four great nieces and nephews living with me.
Somehow, Ruby and Sofina persuaded Marcus to let them move out. I was so happy for them when he agreed, although he demanded a high price – they had to leave their kids with us.
One day, I popped out and, when I got back, my two nieces were there, being held back by two policemen. What on earth was going on?
‘Give us our children back!’ shrieked Sofina.
‘He wants to take our babies,’ yelled Ruby.
Oh dear God, they wanted their kids, and must have called the police. I went cold imagining Marcus’ reaction. There’d be hell to pay.
But then I spotted him. He was walking inside the house, calm as you like. Relieved, I wandered inside, too.
Odd. The house was silent – no babies crying, no children laughing and playing.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a coffee table pushed up against the door to the lounge. My heart pounded as I moved across to it… slowly pushed it aside… opened the door.
I can’t describe the feelings that washed over me in that moment, as my eyes fell on the sickening sight in front of me.
Marcus was on one knee beside a pile of bodies, his shirt covered in blood. Wooden coffins were lined up beside them…
‘No!’ I gasped, stumbling back. ‘No, no, no…’ The lifeless faces of my children, nieces, grandchildren, great nieces and nephews were pale and blank.
They were all dead. Little Java, my granddaughter, was just a year old. The oldest victim was my 25-year-old daughter, Sebhrenah.
I ran from the room, and collapsed in the arms of a policeman, screaming.
As he sent a colleague inside, darkness took me…
When I came round. I prayed it was a bad dream. It wasn’t.
Somehow, Marcus had got wind that Sofina and Ruby would be trying to take their kids away from him. And just before the police arrived, he’d convinced all the kids that he knew God’s will – which was for our children to kill them all, then commit suicide.
Nine of my relatives died that day, each one shot through the eye.
Mad, isn’t it. But after a lifetime of brainwashing, violence and abuse, my abnormal family didn’t know any better. They may have pulled the trigger, but it wasn’t them who were guilty of murder – it was Marcus, but he denied it.
Luckily, a jury found Marcus, 57, guilty of nine counts of murder and 14 sex crimes, including the rape and molestation of his underage daughters and nieces.
He was sentenced to death.
There are no words to explain how it feels to lose so much. My children were what had helped me to survive the hell Marcus subjected us to.
The five who are still alive are all that keep me going.
It’s taken five years of counselling for me to finally appreciate how brainwashed I had been.
I’m making the most of my new freedom. Starting a college course in English and computer skills has helped, although I still find it strange mixing with people who aren’t my family.
It’s as though I’m living in a different world. One I’d dreamed about, but never dared believe exists. I’ve escaped from hell and lived to tell the tale.
Elizabeth Wesson, 50, California, USA