In the arms of evil

Appearances can be deceiving - as I discovered to me terrible cost...

Published by: Jai Breitnaur
Published on: 5th May 2011

There was no way I wanted this week to end. I’d travelled from Somerset to London to see my pal Mark Harrison, 32, and now, as we wandered along the River Thames eating ice cream, I didn’t want to go home.
I’d fancied him ever since a friend of a friend had introduced us a year ago – he was so chatty and funny. But, despite him visiting me in Somerset every few months, nothing had ever happened.
Until last night. We’d finally kissed!
‘I can’t believe I’m going home,’ I sighed.
‘Don’t,’ he grinned. ‘Stay here with me.’
‘What?!’ I laughed, almost dropping my flake.
‘We could finally be together,’ he urged.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. That night, I ripped up my return ticket!
It was an impulsive decision, but I’d been single, unemployed and living with my mum the week before. Why not give love a chance? This was the fresh, exciting new start to life I needed.
Mark and I moved in together and, a few weeks later, I got work as a waitress.
‘Well done,’ Mark grinned when I told him.
‘Did you have any luck?’ I asked. He’d been unemployed for a while, but had been making a real effort since my arrival.
Now, though, he looked serious.
Sighing, he sat me on the sofa. ‘Thing is,’ he said, ‘I’ve been in prison for driving without a licence, no one will touch me with a barge pole.’
‘Why didn’t you say?’ I said.
‘I didn’t want to scare you off,’ he said. ‘You’re everything to me.’
My heart melted. Driving offence? So what…
‘We can manage,’ I smiled. ‘All that matters is that we’re together.’
But, a few weeks later, my bubble burst. My period was late. Oh heck… It was one thing to set up home with someone – something else completely to have their child.
Sick with nerves, I showed Mark the positive pregnancy test, sure he’d have me on a train back to Mum in seconds. After all, he already had two daughters from a previous relationship.
But his face broke into a grin. ‘That’s perfect!’ he cried, giving me a big hug.
Trouble was, Mark was still struggling to get a job, so when I was six months pregnant, Mum suggested we move back to Somerset and work in her pub.
‘As long as I can get back to see my girls,’ he told me.
‘Of course!’ I smiled.
A couple of weeks later, and Mark had made arrangements to have a day out with them.
‘We’ll take them to the park, then to McDonald’s,’ he said as he packed for the treat.
‘Sounds a great time,’ I said, pulling my chef’s whites over my baby bump. ‘But unfortunately I can’t come, I’m working.’
Mark froze, his face like thunder. ‘This is a family weekend away!’
‘Don’t be daft,’ I said. ‘I’ve never even met the girls…’
Before I could finish, he started screaming at me. ‘Your mum’s controlling you, she’s ruining everything,’ he spat.
I stood there gobsmacked – he’d never shouted at me before. Then the unthinkable happened.
He slapped me.
‘Oh! Babe… babe, I’m sorry,’ he whispered as I clutched my cheek, my mind whirling.
I couldn’t get my head around it. Why would Mark – my romantic, caring, funny Mark – hurt me?
‘Just go,’ I croaked.
While he was in London, I spent the weekend working with my head down. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened, I just thought and thought.
Finally, I worked it all out. Falling in love, moving, having a baby, had put a lot of pressure on both of us. He just needed time to cool off.
On Sunday, he was back. ‘Karen, I’m sorry,’ he said, as we sat at the bar. ‘I was angry. Come back to London with me. I’ll get a job, it will never happen again.’
Sobbing, I fell into Mark’s arms. It was all a big misunderstanding.
Back in London we struggled to get jobs, and money was still tight. But so what? We were together, and looking forward to our little one’s arrival.
By nine months, my belly was huge. I lay on the floor trying to ease my aching back, and smiled as Mark walked into the room.
‘Hi love,’ I said. He grinned at me. And, without warning, leaped on me, landing on my swollen, pregnant belly.
‘Argh!’ I screamed. White-hot pain flooded my body. ‘The baby!’
Rolling over, I pulled myself up. But as I stood, something trickled down my leg. Blood!
‘I-I’m bleeding,’ I cried. Mark shrugged, and just stared at me.
What the hell?
‘I need to get to hospital…’ I sobbed, grabbing my bag and stumbling out of the house. Luckily, Newham University Hospital was just up the road.
Pain pulsed from my stomach through my whole body. In a daze, I stumbled into A&E.
Suddenly, a gentle arm wrapped around me. Mark!
He must have followed me. ‘She’s bleeding,’ he called to a nurse desperately. ‘Please help.’
‘Quick, follow me,’ she said.
With one arm tenderly around my waist, and a worried expression on his face, he helped me into a cubicle. Then he leaned down and whispered in my ear. ‘Tell anyone what happened, and you’ll be dead before morning.’
My blood ran cold. There he was, talking calmly to the doctor, looking so concerned.
Was I going mad? Had I imagined him threatening me?
I didn’t know anyone in London, there were no friends to call, no family to stay with, no money even. I couldn’t even call Mum – we’d fallen out when I left to come back to London.
I was trapped… Like a zombie, I lay still while doctors examined me, Mark watching my every move.
When a scan showed my baby was fine, he took me home where he fussed around me like the perfect boyfriend.
‘Put your feet up,’ he said. ‘I’ll get you a cuppa. We were lucky this time.’
It was as if he believed I’d had an accident. I was so confused – I even started to doubt he’d jumped on me.
Two weeks later, when our son John arrived, Mark was still the doting father.
‘He’s beautiful,’ he whispered, holding him for the first time. ‘He’s got your eyes.’
I nodded, my head spinning. I didn’t know who Mark was any more, and now I had a newborn and no one to turn to.
Over the next few months, Mark’s moods swung from happy family man to violent thug, often without warning. I tried keeping my head down, but the tiniest thing could set him off.
Once we were sharing a cigarette, and he hit me for smoking too much. Another time he threw a glass at me when I didn’t clean the lounge.
And he constantly reminded me there was nowhere to run, no one who could help.
As I became more afraid of him, he took more control – locking the doors so I couldn’t get out, guarding the telephone.
The only time I saw my old Mark was when he played with our baby boy.
‘Coo-chee coo,’ he’d grin, helping our little man sit up or while reading to him.
He was a model father.
For nine months, I’d been living in terror. My only respite was when Mark went out. One night he told me he was going out to walk the dog, but still wasn’t home by the time I went to bed. It was light when I smelled Mark’s beery breath on my face.
‘Hello babe,’ he sneered, sliding into bed next to me.
‘What time is it?’ I muttered.
‘It’s 7am. Come downstairs and share a cigarette with me.’
Bleary-eyed, I followed him into the lounge. But, instead of lighting a cigarette, he turned on me, his eyes blazing.
‘You didn’t hang my jumper out!’ he screamed suddenly.
‘What?’ I croaked. ‘Not now, Mark, please, I’m tired…’
His fist slammed into my face, blows rained down on me.
‘Stop! Stop!’ I screamed, hearing John crying upstairs.
Running up to our bedroom, I grabbed my little boy and held him close.
‘Give him to me!’ Mark shouted his demand.
‘No, he needs a bottle,’ I lied.
He frog-marched me to the conservatory. I looked around confused… No! He’d snatched John from my arms, pushed me inside and locked the door all in one swift move.
I threw myself at the window. There was Mark, standing in the lounge grinning, John in his arms.
Mark opened his hand and…
‘Don’t!’ I screamed.
He slapped John’s tiny cheek. My son’s screams filled the air, along with the sound of slapping.
Desperately, I pulled at the door handle. It wouldn’t budge. I hammered on it with all my strength, ignoring the pain.
Now Mark was holding John by his wrist, spinning him round his head. I felt sick, my own screams joining my son’s.
Then I froze. John was being held upside-down by one leg. His tiny face was crumpled in pain and fear. Mark looked me right in the eye, smiled, and let go.
‘Oops! I dropped the baby!’ he laughed, as John’s head hit the floor. This was beyond sick. Mark was a psycho.
‘That’s my baby,’ I cried. ‘Hit me, not him. It’s me you want to hurt!’ Grabbing a chair, I tried to smash through the reinforced glass, but it was no use.
I dropped to my knees, rubbing tears away with my bloody hands. Finally, Mark sauntered over and unlocked the door
This was my chance! I sprang to my feet and burst past him before he could stop me.
Grabbing John, barefoot, my nightie flapping around my legs, I sprinted into the street and didn’t stop until I’d reached the hospital, where I told a doctor everything.
Within minutes I was in a private room, and the police were called. As doctors took John away for examination, I told the officers everything and they arrested Mark.
‘I knew he’d been to prison for a driving offence,’ I said. ‘But I never dreamed he had this in him.
‘A driving offence?’ the officer frowned. ‘He was in prison for assaulting an
I felt such a fool. He’d lied to me from
the start.
I’d thought we’d been in love, I’d made excuses when times got tough, but I’d never meant anything to him.
‘Doctors have said that your baby will be fine,’ the police liaison officer told me gently as I cuddled John. ‘He has some cuts and bruises’
That sicko. How could he have done that to any child, let alone his own?
‘We can’t find a women’s hostel for you to stay in,’ the officer added. ‘You’ll have to go back to the house, just for one night.’
With Mark in custody, I said I didn’t mind. But, walking through the front door, I stopped.
The upturned chair in the lounge, broken ornaments, handprints on the conservatory windows where I’d tried breaking the glass… Seeing it all again was like reliving the nightmare.
That night I didn’t sleep a wink, but just held John tightly. Next day, I was transferred to a women’s hostel in Kent.
Nearly 17 months later, Mark’s case came up at the Old Bailey court in London.
I had to relive the whole thing and show the jury what Mark had done to John using a doll.
It was worth it, though. He was found guilty of causing actual bodily harm to John, and he admitted hurting me. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Finally, me and my son could start to rebuild our lives. We got a flat back in London, and I became a nursery school teacher.
I haven’t said anything to John about his dad, and I try hard to give him a normal life, but recently I had a call from the police telling me Mark had been released on licence – and had gone missing.
‘Don’t go home. He might try to find you,’ they warned.
For three days, me and John hid at a friend’s until police caught Mark. He’s been locked up again now, but it won’t be forever.
I just hope he’s not stupid enough to come looking for us – but if he does, I’m ready to fight back this time.
Karen Hodder, 28, Canning Town, London