My foster dad was supposed to care for me... By Abbey Richards

Giggling away as my mum Tracey pushed me on the swing, I was giddy with happiness.

‘Higher mum, higher!’ I yelled out as I flew through the air, and we both erupted with laughter.
I was only four, but already I could tell there were times when Mum wasn’t so happy though.
One day I was at nursery, and I was called away by the teacher.
There were people there I didn’t recognise.
‘Hi Abbey,’ one of the women said. ‘Your mum needs a bit of a break, so we’re going to take you to another house to stay with another family.’
I was so confused. But I didn’t have the chance to ask any questions before I was taken away and put in a car. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.
I was so upset, and I didn’t understand why any of this was happening.
To try and deal with it, I withdrew into myself. I was so shy and quiet, I quickly became a shadow of the happy, bubbly child I used to be.
I was moved around from foster home to foster home, like a broken toy being thrown around. I was miserable.
By the time I was placed in my fourth foster home, I was sick of moving.
‘This is Rex and Carol,’ the social worker said, pushing me through the door.
When she left, I was scared.
Something about Rex made me feel uneasy.
‘Come on then,’ he snapped, leading me upstairs. ‘This is your room.’
I put my bag down on the floor and sat on the bed as he walked out. I felt so alone.
I’d hoped this foster home would be different, but I felt just as much of a burden. The atmosphere was tense and hostile.
I tried my best to keep my head down and stay out of the way.
Something about Rex made me feel constantly on edge.
One day as I was finishing my breakfast, Rex was about to leave for work.
‘Come on then, give me a kiss,’ he said, leering at me.
I tried to hide behind Carol, but he grabbed hold of me and forced sloppy kisses all over my face and neck.
‘Come on, give me a proper kiss on the lips,’ he said as he groped my bum.
It made me feel sick.
From then on I tried to hide away whenever he was around. But he always found me.
‘Hi beautiful,’ he’d sneer. ‘You’ve got sexy legs, you look good.’
I was so young, I didn’t really understand what he meant. But I knew it made me feel scared and uncomfortable.
He often walked around naked too.
One day I was having a bath when Rex came in.
‘Let’s get you nice and clean,’ he said.
But as he washed me, his hand slipped down below and he started groping me.
Back in my bedroom as he dried me off, he laid me down on the bed and started tickling me with a toy. Then he pressed his body on top of mine and put his hand down my trousers, before forcing a finger inside me.
It made me feel sick. But there was nothing I could do, and no one I could tell.
So I just kept quiet and shut down, and prayed it would be over quickly.
From then on, whenever it was shower time I would cry and try to hide. But he always found me, and dragged me kicking and screaming into the bathroom.
I was only there for about six months, and then one day I was up in my bedroom when Carol came in and started packing all my things into a bag, before a social worker came and took me to McDonalds.
As I sipped my drink, she said: ‘You’ve got a dad who lives in Scotland. You’re going to live with him now.’
I’d never met my dad, and I didn’t know anything about him. But I was so relieved to be away from Rex. The social worker told me he had a wife and a newborn baby, and although I was nervous I was excited to meet him.
Finally, I’ll be safe, I thought.
Life with Dad wasn’t the picture perfect family life I’d imagined. I hoped that I’d be able to see Mum again now I was with family. But when I asked about her, he shut me down.
When I was 18, Dad got a new job and we moved to Australia.
One night I met a friend for a drink and got introduced to a guy called Chris.
There was an instant attraction, and we spent the whole weekend together.
Things moved quickly, and we soon got our own place.
One day I was scrolling through Facebook when a message popped up.
It was from my mum.
Hi my beautiful princess, I miss you and love you so much.
My heart stopped as a lump formed in my throat.
I’d thought about my mum every day since I was taken from her, and I never thought I’d hear from her again.
Straight away I replied, and messages started pinging back and forth.
‘I have to go and see her,’ I said to Chris.
So I booked a flight back home to the UK.
As I sat on the plane I was a jumble of nerves, fear and excitement.
But when I walked through the airport and saw Mum standing there, I finally felt like I was home for the first time since I was taken from her.
As she hugged me tight I felt like a little girl again.
Slowly but surely Mum and I started to build a relationship again, and it was everything I’d always hoped it would be.
I continued to fly back and forth between Australia and the UK, and Chris came with me to meet Mum too.
It felt like everything was finally falling into place.
I was back visiting again when Mum came and sat next to me, her face grave.
‘Abbey, something’s come up,’ she said. ‘Do you remember Rex and Carol?’
Hearing his name again made me feel sick. My stomach dropped, and tears started rolling down my cheeks as I whispered: ‘Yes.’
The look on Mum’s face told me she already knew what he’d done to me, and it all came flooding out.
It turned out the police had been in touch with Mum, as someone else had made a complaint about Rex.
‘They need to speak to you,’ Mum said. ‘You’re a key witness.’
I was hesitant, but when I heard about all the other girls he’d abused too I knew I had to speak up.
I flew back and forth between the UK and Australia, trying to maintain my job and my life there while I helped the police build a case.
In time, Rex Case appeared at Southampton Crown Court charged with 18 offences of sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape of girls in his care. Five of us were there to give evidence against him.
Chris flew out with me to support me. Reliving everything in court was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
The court heard that Rex had been allowed to systematically sexually abuse young girls like me in his care over a 30-year period.
When the jury found him guilty we all held hands and I wept with relief.
The judge branded Case ‘cunning and depraved’, and told him he’d abused his position of trust as he jailed him for 21 years.
I felt like a weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted from my shoulders. The whole world seemed like a different place, brighter and full of colour for the first time.
Chris and I went back home to Australia. But I came back to visit Mum, and while I was here my visa expired.
I was trying to get it sorted, so when the phone rang one day I thought it would be about that. But it wasn’t good news.
Chris had had an accident at work. He’d fallen into a coma, but he’d passed away.
I was devastated. Chris had been the first person who’d made me truly happy, and his strength and support had helped me through the trial.
I went to Australia for his funeral, and I made a decision.
Without Chris, there was nothing keeping me there anymore. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad.
‘I’m moving back to the UK,’ I told Mum.
It was the fresh start I needed. I rebuilt a proper relationship with Mum, and qualified as a hairdresser. Finally, it felt like my life was back on track.
Case was later sentenced to a further four years after another girl came forward, and earlier this year, a serious case review highlighted failings in the foster care system that led to Case being allowed to get away with his abuse for so long.
I was glad they were being held to account. But I was angry too.
He should never have been allowed to get away with it.
It’s only now I really feel able to speak out about it, and I want answers.
Why did social services fail to stop this monster?
I’m glad he’s behind bars, and I hope he never sees the light of day again. But I still don’t feel I’ve had justice.
I was just a child when I was placed with him, I was scared and alone. But there was no one there to help me. Some girls spoke out, but nothing was done. Knowing he could have been stopped sooner makes me so angry.
Rex was meant to care for me, but instead he robbed me of my childhood.
No sentence will ever be enough for that monster.
I just hope lessons have been learned, and no little girl ever has to go through what I went through again.

Abbey wanted to raise awareness of failures in social services so that no other little girl suffered the abuse she did. She bravely spoke out to a leading women's magazine after Sell My Story helped Abbey put together a sensitive and thought-provoking piece. If you want to highlight a particular issue our cause, get in touch with our team to find out how we can help.


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