Chapter 2: A Greater Fear
By the time I was nine years old my parents had got fed up with me running away from home. On several occasions the police had been called out to find me, sometimes the search lasting several days. I often stayed away from school as I knew this was the first place the police would look for me. One day after being caught by police, after running away, I was taken home to be greeted by a strange man.
"Hello," said the man. "You must be Billy."
"This is Mr Ryecroft, the school truancy officer," my mother interrupted. I noticed a suitcase packed by the side of the man.
"Can you tell me where you have been for the last week?" Mr Ryecroft asked.
"Billy, can you tell me where you have been for the last week?" he repeated.
The police were leaving. - "We'll leave you to it then!"
"Thanks officers," Mr Ryecroft called, as my mother showed them out.
Mr Ryecroft turned to me again, "Why haven't you been to school?"
"Because it's the first place the coppers look for me," I said, with my head bowed down.
"Where have you been?" Mr Ryecroft asked, "Been staying at a friends house have you?"
"No," I said. "I've been outside all the time, just sleeping rough, like I always do."
"Would you like another cup of tea Mr Ryecroft?" my mother asked. I could sense she was getting worried.
"Can I have one please mom? I haven't had one in over a week," I said politely.
Mr Ryecroft shook his head, "No thank you. I need to get on with this."
My mother had her evil, 'I dare you' look in her face, as she passed me my cup of tea.
"Could you tell me why you keep running away, Billy? I would like to help you if I can," said Mr Ryecroft.
"You can't help me. It's too late, and nobody believes me anyway. What's the point?" I answered bitterly.
"Just tell me why you run away this time, forget all the other times!" The man was starting to get irritated.
I took a mouthful of tea which hit the bottom of my empty stomach like a stone dropped down a well. I stood up and lifted my shirt, exposing some of the bruises that were still highly visible more than a week old.
"She beats the hell out of me every day, for no sodding reason!" I yelled, in a desperate cry for help. I moved quickly away, in the direction off the toilet.
I could hear my mother shouting, denying everything. "He's always like that when he comes back. He climbs trees and gets into fights, you can ask anyone."
"I know, I know, don't worry, it'll be all right," Mr Ryecroft said, trying to calm my mother down.
I stood listening, wishing someone would do something to make her stop, to make her better, to make the pain go away. I could hear every word she was saying and I could hear Mr Ryecroft accepting everything she was saying.
'I'm really in the shit now, ' I thought. "She's gonna kill me when he's gone!"
I started climbing out of the toilet window and was suddenly grabbed around the waist by the pursuing Mr Ryecroft.
"I can manage thanks," I said.
"Come on, we're going now," Mr Ryecroft said. "I said I would try to help you."
I carried my suitcase and walked with Mr Ryecroft to his car. My mother shouted goodbye as I was lead away but I didn't answer. I didn't know where I was going and neither did I care, this was one beating I was going without!
I was taken to River House Boarding School, Henley-in-Arden. The school was situated just outside a quiet and peaceful little village in the countryside. The air smelt different. I looked at the building as I was driven through the open driveway to its entrance.
'It's huge!' I thought.
When I arrived at the school I felt very lost and confused, but for once in my life I felt safe. The school seemed very large and very old. It was an all boys school with age ranging from about eight to sixteen years. The main building was built of stone and I thought the place was fascinating, like living in a castle. I had never seen such a building before.
The main building was used for eating, sleeping and generally living in. Some of the lads played with their toy soldiers, which they had bought from a shop in the village. They spent hours standing them all up, arranging them in various battle formations, and then spent minutes knocking them all down with marbles. Some lads had massive collections, which probably indicated the length of time they had been at the school. The classrooms were separate to the main building and my classroom was like a large port-a-cabin.
I didn't really mix very much with the other lads in the school and can now only recall one lad from the school, who actually lived in Chelmsley Wood. I still recall a few of the staff. Mrs Wagstaff was my teacher and was the first person I ever opened up to and told about my home-life who actually believed me. She was very sympathetic and understanding and reminded me constantly that I was safe at school.
The bed was warm, comfortable and dry. There were no thorns sticking in my back and I sighed with relief. I was able to close my eyes and go to sleep. Luxury. Food I didn't have to steal, dry, warm clothes and people I wasn't afraid of.
I could hear the high-pitched sound of the bats, but nobody else seemed to be able to hear them. One of the teachers pointed to one as it flew above our heads in the dark of the evening. "Are you afraid of bats?" he asked.
I looked up at the bats, flying in the air, "No. I've never met any to be afraid of them, but I can hear them. Can you hear them?" I asked.
We stood still for a few seconds. . . "No. I can't hear anything," he said. I listened with curiosity to the high-pitched sounds of the bats.
"I can tell if the ground is wet or dry, even if I'm blindfolded and have my shoes on," I told him. It wasn't quite true, I could simply feel and smell the damp air and that was how I knew.
Mr Deadman seemed very old, his face wrinkled with age. He seemed a very kind and patient man and he taught me to swim. This was no easy task for the elderly man, who had problems just getting me into the water in the first place. Mr Deadman could see the fear in my face but he had no idea. I was determined, I was not going in the water.
Mr Deadman spoke to Mrs Wagstaff about the problems he was having with me. I listened to them talking from outside the room.
"He's really petrified. I thought he was just playing up at first, but he's not. He is really petrified," Mr Deadman said to Mrs Wagstaff.
"Show some patience with this one, he's told me things that would make your hair fall out. Has he told you about when he was scolded?" Mrs Wagstaff asked.
"No. He doesn't really talk very much. He keeps saying he will go in on his own, without me being there," Mr Deadman explained. "I've told him rules are rules. I just can't leave you to go in on your own. You might drown. I've even tried leading him in by hand, but he grabs hold of something and will not let go."
Mrs Wagstaff told him a little about some of the things I had told her. "Try not to persuade him to go in the water. Try to find out why he doesn't want to go in. But be prepared, his mother is one real cruel bitch!" she explained.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Go and talk to him. He's in the recreation room, I saw him on my way in just a few minutes ago. He's a good kid really. I'll come with you if you like, he talks to me now," Mrs Wagstaff suggested.
"Hello Miss," I said, greeting my teacher as she entered the room with Mr Deadman.
"Mr Deadman would like to talk to you about your swimming lessons. Will you talk to him?" she asked.
"Tell him what you told me, about why you block the bathroom door so no-one can enter," she suggested.
She turned and spoke to Mr Deadman, "I've explained to Billy our reasons for not allowing the boys to lock themselves in the bathrooms. Billy has told me why he does and there's only Mr Edwards who tries to stop him now. The rest of us are prepared to turn a blind eye under the circumstances. You'll understand why, if he talks to you." I remained quiet for a few minutes, not really wanting to talk to him.
Mr Deadman tried to encourage me to open up and talk. "Why are you so afraid of the water?" he asked.
"I'm not afraid of the water," I stated, feeling as if he were accusing me of something I hadn't done. "I just have to be on my own when I go in it," I told him.
Mrs Wagstaff walked out of the room as she was already starting to get upset, just at the thought of what I was about to say.
"When I was six years old, I was badly scolded. My mother had just finished boiling my sisters nappies in the boiler and was emptying it into a metal bucket, like that one over there." I pointed to the red fire bucket, filled with sand.
"I was getting ready for school. I had got my shorts on and all my school clothes and was trying to get some breakfast from the kitchen, where my mother was working. I guess I must have got in her way. She pushed me and I sat in the bucket of boiling water. My backside was wedged in the bucket, which was so hot I was burning my hands trying to pull myself out of it. The water scolded all my arse and my bits, from my waist down to my legs and I screamed the fucking house down," I said bitterly.
Swearing was never heard at this school but Mr Deadman remained silent as he listened to what I was saying.
"I spent months in bed, lying flat on my belly and every day a nurse had to come and change the dressings on my arse. She would give me a piece of leather strap to bite on, so that I wouldn't bite off my tongue with the pain. My arse was all infected because of all the piss in the water. The dressing always stuck and I had to grab hold of the wooden headboard while the nurse ripped the gauze dressings off and half my skin would go with it. There was all green and yellow puss coming out of my arse because it had all turned septic," I explained.
"Can you imagine that Mr Deadman, having layers of skin ripped off while you try not to bite your tongue off in pain?" I asked. There was no reply.
He appeared to be listening, so I continued. "While I was living at home my mother would always put me into scolding hot baths, every bath time. She would hold my head under the water until I was fighting for breath. When I got out of the bath my skin was red raw and if I moaned or cried she would bash my head in with a saucepan. Every single saucepan in our house is full of dents, all the handles are broke, as a result of being continually smashed over my head. When I got out of the bath, I would nearly pass out because of the sudden, massive temperature change. My blood felt as if I had been partly cooked, boiled alive."
"How do you feel about your mother now?"
I raised my head and looked at Mr Deadman. I couldn't believe the question he had just asked. His voice had changed. Mr Deadman was fighting to hold back the distress but I could see it written all across his face.
"How would you feel if someone did all that to you? You don't know the half of it," I told him.
"Would you like me to teach you to swim?" he asked. "I'm not going to push the issue any further if you say no." Mr Deadman obviously wanted to do something.
"Maybe one day," I replied, "but no-one will ever come into a bathroom with me. I really don't give a shit about the rules. I'm not afraid of water. I just don't trust people, not anyone."
Eventually I did enter the water of my own accord. I waited until Mr Deadman was at the far end of the pool and climbed in without being noticed. Mr Deadman turned as he reached the far end of the pool and looked at me holding onto the side. He said nothing, his smile said all he needed to say. He showed a lot of patience with me and eventually taught me to swim breaststroke. For some reason I found I could swim better under water than on the surface. It was a case of 'sink or swim' so I learned to swim, with a lot of help from Mr Deadman, I had mastered one of my fears.
After about six months at this school I was put in the position where I had to face a far greater fear, my mother.
"We have arranged for you to go home at the weekend. Your parents have been in touch and requested that you should be allowed occasional weekend leave from school," I was told by one of the staff.
"Have you thought about your family since being here?" I was asked.
"I've tried not to," I replied. "I guess I do still love my family, I miss my brother and sisters and I miss my dad."
"They miss you too, so we have arranged for you to go home this weekend," the staff member announced.
The weekend came and very nervously I went home. I gave my family all a big hug and they appeared glad to see me. I looked around the kitchen and noticed the curtain wire was no longer hanging up in the place where it used to hang.
'Where the bloody hell is it?' I wondered. I looked at my brother and sisters. 'You've grown, ' I thought.
My mother made a drink and I sat at the table with her. She looked as if she were about to cry and calmly walked round the table and stood next to me. "I've missed you son," she said.
She stood in vain, waiting for some response from me. I was far from at ease. I lifted my cup and started to drink my tea. My mother sat back down.
"I've changed. Look, no curtain wire, no belt. I don't loose my temper anymore. Things have really calmed down now. I've learned from my mistakes," she claimed, as she started crying.
I walked round to my mother but didn't say anything, I put my arm around her and gave her the hug she had been waiting for earlier. My eyes still wondering around the kitchen looking for the curtain wire.
"She isn't so mad anymore," Laurence said, later in the day. "She does get mad but she doesn't beat us like she used to and she doesn't use the curtain wire at all anymore. She just uses the belt sometimes."
"Well, your mothers little pet anyway. She never beats any of you like she fucking beats me. She's just lost her punchbag, that's the only difference," I told him.
"No, honest, she really has changed. She's all right now, most of the time," Laurence stated.
"I bet you don't say that when you're being roasted alive in the sodding bath and I bet you'll go and tell her all this when I'm gone as usual," I said, remaining unconvinced.
The weekend passed by peacefully, without event or pain and I started to believe what Laurence had told me. I returned to school and continued to go home every other weekend. I liked the school and got on reasonably well with everyone.
I often had talks with Mrs Wagstaff, but never really spoke to any of the other staff or lads about anything serious and was not really the type to enter into idle chat. I took part in various activities at the school but mostly kept myself to myself.
I continued going home for weekends and started going for the occasional holiday. On the whole the weekends went fairly well but the holidays seemed rather long. Although my mother had stopped the beatings, the tension and atmosphere was unbearable at times.
"Why don't you come home to stay?" Laurence asked me. "We all want you to come home, don't we?" He put the question to his sisters.
"Yeah, we all do. You've seen mom's all right now. Why don't you come home to stay?" they asked me.
"I can't," I replied.
A few more visits passed without incident and then my parents put me on the spot. "We would all like you to come home to stay. It cost us a lot of money to keep you in luxuries at that school of yours, so we're asking you if you would like to come back home to stay?"
I was happy and content at the school and would have liked to have been able to stay. I didn't want to go home, not at all.
"Well? We're waiting for your answer," my mother demanded, waiting impatiently for her reply.
"Yeah, I'll come back home," I sighed, afraid to keep my mother waiting for her answer.
"Are you sure that's what you really want, because we can sign you out anytime providing you agree?" my mother said.
"Yeah," I sighed. I was lying. I never wanted to go home, but was afraid to say any different.
After fourteen months at the school I was discharged and returned home. When first returning home it seemed as if my mother had really changed for the better, but it didn't last.
I returned to Coleshill Heath school, but this stay was fairly short as I had reached the age to attend comprehensive school. I started going to Whitesmore Comprehensive in Chelmsley Wood. After only a few weeks back home my mother reverted back to her former self.
I was sat at the breakfast table, which was a great privilege at any time, as I often had to go without food for days even while in the family home. I sat eating some porridge with my younger brother and younger sister. Michele was still getting washed and dressed. She would get no breakfast as the table would be cleared at our mothers command. I accidentally knocked my cup over and the tea poured all over the make-shift table cloth, an old ripped up sheet.
I started panicking, frightened of what my mother may do. I tried not to upset her and got down from the table."Sorry mom," I said remorsefully, "I've spilled my tea. Can I have the dish cloth please?"
My mother turned, looked at the table and went berserk. She grabbed me by the hair and dragged me back across the kitchen. "Look what you've done to my bloody table cloth," she snarled furiously, as she rubbed my face in the tea stain, upsetting all the other breakfasts and cups of tea.
"Get it cleaned up and that stain had better come out or your really in trouble!" she ordered. She bounced my head off the table and I fell on the floor.
She reached down and sank her finger nails into my face and dragged me across the kitchen floor. I could feel my face being distorted from her grip and tried not to resist but could feel my flesh being torn and the blood running down my face, dripping onto my shirt collar. I could feel my face swelling as I removed the table cloth and placed it in the washing basket, which was standing by the kitchen sink with its contents waiting to be washed.
"That was only polished yesterday," my mother insisted angrily, as I cleaned the wet table.
'I know, I bloody polished it, along with the rest of the bloody house, that's why I was late for school, ' I said silently to myself.
I went to walk out of the kitchen after cleaning the table. My mother dragged me back by my face with her nails hooked into my cheek again, more blood running down new wounds.
"You forgot something, haven't you?" she said, as she stuck my head in the washing basket, the blood now dripping onto the table cloth.
"If you think I'm cleaning up your bloody mess, you've got another thing coming. Get it washed," she demanded.
I took the table cloth to the bathroom and put some hot water in the bath, with a little soap powder. My mother entered the bathroom and saw the blood was still running down my face and dripping into the bath.
"Wasting all my bloody hot water now, are you? You little brat! About time you had a wash isn't it?" she snarled.
My mother grabbed me at the back of the neck and stuck my head in the water with all the aggression and strength she could find. The water was as hot as I could stand to put my hands in. I emerged dripping wet and half cooked, gasping for breath.
"No bloody school today... Bastard," I muttered behind my mothers back, as I reached for the towel after she had left the room.
Nothing had really changed. I continued going to school very late and the beatings continued almost daily, often for very little reason, if she needed reason at all. The misery was beyond description, the heartache beyond repair. I wanted someone to shoot me through the head to make the pain stop. The curtain wire was brought back out of hiding. I squirmed around the kitchen floor with my arms wrapped around my head and face, trying to protect myself from the rain of blows from the steel whip. I prayed to God that she would lose the wire. I often tried to hide it but she just took another one down and used that until she found the wire with half its thin plastic coating missing. The part- bare steel spring was her terrorist weapon. Her mind, so evil that I believed she was the devils servant. I just wanted her to go back to hell, but hell had come to live with me and I was the devils servants prey.
I regularly missed days off school as I was very often in such a terrible state after being ripped to pieces that I needed to be hidden away at home, out of public view.
My mother gave me no chance to do any homework set by the school and often tore up my school books. I would not tell my teachers at school about my home life and was regularly caned at school for not having my homework done without giving any excuse.
"You have the worse time-keeping record in the history of the school," the headmaster told me. "School starts at 8.45am, not 10.30am. Have you no excuse laddie?"
"No Sir," was the usual reply I gave.
"Well bend over that chair, let's see if a little reminder will help you," he said, as he proceeded to cane me across the backside.
'Few more bloody stripes won't be noticed, ' I thought. 'The cane doesn't hurt that much anyway. Curtain wire is a real killer and besides, at least you can count, which is more than my bastard mother can do.' I quietly took the punishment for being an hour and a half late.
It was very rare that I could take part in any physical education lessons, due to the fact I could not take my clothes off and let people see the state of my back and body. I was covered in painful deep bruises, of various colours, according to age. Bruises covering over 70% of my body and an additional 10% covered in claw marks. I often had to forge my mothers signature to excuse me from P.E.
One particular day my mother was beating me when someone knocked the front door of the house. As my mother opened the door I tried to run passed her and out. She grabbed me before I could get out. She closed the door, swung me around by my arm and smashed the top of my head into the corner of the wall. My head split wide open and I fell to the floor, unable to get up, completely dazed, almost unconscious. Nobody really knows who it had been at the door, it may have been the dustbin men trying to find out what all the screaming was about. The neighbours never took any notice of my agonizing screams.
My mother made an attempt to stop the bleeding but had to call for an ambulance. The blood was pouring down my face, the dishcloth and the teatowel were completely saturated in blood. She came with me in the ambulance to East Birmingham Hospital where I had eight stitches to the gaping wound. My mother told the hospital, so convincingly, that I had tripped up on some carpet while running around in the house and had hit my head.
On that same night, as I lay in bed, my mother came into the bedroom, grabbed me by the top of my pyjamas and started bashing my head in with a heavy cast-iron frying pan. "Your bloody snoring is keeping your brother awake," she yelled fiercely.
I wasn't even asleep before she came into the room. I was lying in bed, silently thinking about the days events.
My head opened up again and I could feel the blood pumping out of my head. I was too afraid to get out of bed. I lay there with the blood pumping, my face saturated in the pool of blood that was soaking into my pillow. I just lay helplessly in my bed sobbing, bleeding.
'At least if I bleed to death my problems will finally be over, ' I thought. I heard the front door opening. 'Dad's home! He's early tonight, it's only about 10.00pm.'
I climbed out of bed. "He might help me," I whispered to myself.
I went to my father with the blood pumping out of my head, pouring down my face and into my eyes. My pyjamas were saturated in blood.
"What the bloody hells happened to him?" my father asked, in an alarming voice as I collapsed at his feet.
"You better have a bloody good answer for this, you bitch," he aimed at my mother, as he picked me up.
My father took me to hospital to have my head stitched for the second time and carried me for most of the five-mile journey home. He accepted a lift from a stranger who stopped to help the man who had, unknown to him, only just got home from a fourteen- hour work shift. My father was grateful to the stranger and gave him his last packet of cigarettes, with no money to buy anymore.
When we finally arrived home I went back to bed. I was very tired and feeling very sick. I could hear my parents in the room at the other end of the hallway arguing.
"You know how clumsy he is, always running about and fighting at school," my mother offered, unremorsefully.
My father was very angry. "I know there is something going on behind my back," he said. "I can't understand why it's always him getting hurt. The other kids don't look like him, do they?"
"I can't even go to work in peace. You better start taking better care of them kids, I'm telling you!" he exclaimed. My father was mad, I had never heard or known my father so mad before.
I was listening and could hear the lies my mother was telling him. I wanted to go into him and tell him the truth. I stayed in bed. I knew my father would have to go to work the next day and I would have to face my mothers anger alone.
The next day my father left for work at about 6.30am and my mother came straight into me. She took me outside in my pyjamas and locked me in the shed. She kept me locked in this cold, dark, dirty shed for three days and nights, each day giving me a piece of dry bread and a cup of water. I sat in the corner of the shed, wishing I was dead. After the third day she let me out.
"Your first job, clean the shed," she demanded. She did not let me out in three days, not even for the toilet.
"If you run away I'll lock you in there again. Do you understand? Now clean up your mess," she demanded maliciously.
My father had not noticed that I had been missing from the house. The school and the police had been told I had run away from home.
Knife throwing also became another pass-time for my mother. The chip pan was very small and so when chips were cooked for the evening meal they had to be made in two batches. Michele had peeled some potatoes for the evening meal and my mother cut up the potatoes and cooked the chips. The children sat around the table eating egg, chips and peas.
My mother was cutting the second batch of chips, when suddenly and without warning she turned and threw the knife. The blade hit me straight in the head. "Can't even offer your own mother a chip," was the statement that left her mouth.
I left the table and walked out of the house. When I got halfway up the garden path, the blood started streaming down my face. I didn't run away this time. I just sat on the doorstep, with the blood running down my face while my family sat round the table eating their food. My mother had not gone mad enough to warrant running away this time. I tried to take such minor incidents in my stride.
As I sat on the step the thought suddenly struck me, 'Why didn't she just dish herself a few bloody chips up? She was in control of the bloody things.'
By the time I was eleven years old, I had a large scar down the centre of my head and three knife scars in the side of my head, where my mother had thrown knives at me. Staff from my schools had taken me to hospital on more than one occasion to have wounds stitched or treated. I had lost count of the small scars in my head.
Once after running away from home I was caught by police while looking for somewhere to sleep in the farmlands area of Coleshill. The officer cringed as he saw the state of my face and asked about the marks. At first I told the officer that I had fallen out of a tree.
"I know you're telling me lies and suggest you tell me the truth," the officer said. "You've nothing to be afraid of and I want to know what the hell's happened to you."
The officer noticed more marks on my neck. He took me over to the police Landrover so that he could see more clearly and lifted my shirt. I was afraid to say anything but so desperately wanted to say something to make it all go away, to make the nightmare stop.
The officer called his colleague over, "Just take a look at this," as he exposed my back to his colleague in the beam of the headlights.
"Tsss, Jesus... I've never seen anything like it. He's as skinny as a rake." The copper was trying to make me laugh but it didn't work. I had nothing to laugh about and didn't find much to laugh at. I was so very desperately in need of help and so very miserable.
"I think he's been on a pirate ship. Have you been on a pirate ship?" he asked.
"No. I told you, I fell down a tree," I replied.
"It must have been some savage tree to do something like this. Come on, let's go and have a chat and a cup of tea," the officer offered, as he helped me into the Landrover.
At the police station my back was photographed and some of the wounds treated against infection. I was questioned further.
The police started talking among themselves. "He's not saying anything and we're ready to arrest his father."
"It wasn't my dad," I shouted. "He doesn't know anything about it. It's my mom that does it," interrupting their conversation, trying to defend my father. The police took me back home and questioned my mother.
"He's always doing things like this. He goes running away every time he's told off and always comes back in a state. He gets into gang fights," my mother told them, trying to sound convincing.
"We're not idiots," the officer told her. "He's told us what you do to him and we're warning you, if anything like this happens again, your children will be put into care and you will be arrested."
Within minutes after the police leaving the house she started all over again. The steel curtain wire came whipping through the air, repeatedly crashing down onto my back. My cries ignored, she had no mercy, only hatred drove her on. She sank her talons into my face, tearing deep gashes and chunks of flesh. She bounced my head off the walls repeatedly until I could no longer get to my feet. I didn't really understand what it meant for the children to be put into care but I did not run away this time.
My desperation had reached its peak. I just couldn't take the pain any longer. I waited until everyone was asleep, then went into the kitchen. I heaved and my stomach churned as I swallowed down a hundred little tablets, that continually popped back up only to be swallowed again. I left a note on the kitchen table saying, "I just want the pain to stop, I'm sorry but I can't see any other way."
I really hoped I would be dead by morning but woke up in East Birmingham Hospital the next day, after having my stomach washed out. I was returned home but the nightmare never seemed to end. I was eleven years old and I hoped and I prayed to God to die.
In 1972 the family moved house again, to a four-bedroom house in Ely Close, Chelmsley Wood. My mother arranged the furniture, hung the pictures and hung the curtain wire behind the kitchen door. The beatings and whippings continued almost daily and I was running away constantly. While living in this house a neighbour who lived two doors away heard my agonizing screams and came to investigate. I had already been whipped. I was lying on my stomach, face down on the floor, holding onto the back doorstep trying to pull myself out of the house. My mother had got her claws hooked in my face and was trying to pull me back inside the house by my face. The heavily built neighbour ran up the path, physically picked up my mother, sat her in a chair and sat on top of her. My mother had still got pieces of my flesh hanging from her finger nails.
I ran out of the house, slamming the door behind me so hard that the reinforced wire mesh glass fell out of the door. I hadn't even got a shirt on my back. My body covered in severe whip marks, the blood dripping down my chest from the gashes in my face, pieces of flesh still hanging, which hadn't completely been torn away. In severe discomfort I wandered to the river, near to the woods. I sat and tried to bathe my wounds in the cleanest part of the river that I could find. There weren't many building sites left on Chelmsley Wood by this time. The building sites had provided a supply of clean water, but now there were all gone. The river was the only other readily available water supply. I was so grateful to the neighbour who had saved me some skin. Nobody had ever done anything like that for me before. The neighbours generally just turned up their television sets to drown out the agonizing cries and horrific screams, of a child who was so clearly and desperately in need of help.
Shortly before Christmas 1973, my mother sent me out to find a job to start earning my keep. I tried for several weeks to find myself a paper round or milk round so that I could earn some money. At twelve years old I was very small for my age. Nobody would give me a job. I really tried my best to find any kind of work. For about three weeks running I returned home without any job or money. My mother was not prepared to listen to any excuses. She grabbed me around the throat, rammed my head against the wall and held a knife under my nose, pushing it hard under my nose.
I pleaded with my mother, "I've been all over ..."
"I'm not interested in your excuses, you lazy bastard, I'm telling you to get out and get some money and not to come back until you've got some. Do you understand, am I getting through that thick skull of yours?" she questioned, as she bashed my head against the wall a few more times.
I tried to explain,"I've tried..."
"Didn't you bloody hear me?" she said, "I told you, Get some money, not try. I don't care how you get it. Just get it!" I knew exactly what she meant by this last comment which she had stressed so strongly.
Again I went out, licking the blood that was running to my mouth from the minor cut under my nose. After walking the streets in the freezing cold weather for several more hours, I went into a shop to steal some biscuits to eat. While in the shop I saw a young boy come into the shop to buy some things and noticed he paid with a £10.00 note. I left the shop and waited for the boy. I punched the boy in the face, stole his money and went home. I gave this money to my mother.
"I've found myself a job on the milk round, that's my wages for today and tomorrow," I told her.
I really was sorry for what I had done and it played on my mind. 'At least I can just walk the streets tomorrow and try to find a real job, without having to find any more money.'
"Sorry kid, I wouldn't have done it if I had any choice," I muttered quietly to myself.
The following day I went out again, but still no job was to be found, and the same the following week. I knew I could not return home empty handed, so I returned to the shop where I had robbed the boy the previous week. I followed another boy into the shop and robbed him when he came back outside. This boy had less money than the one from the previous week and started to panic.
'What the fuck am I going to do now? Mother's never going to accept this as a weeks wages, ' I thought. I returned to the shop the next day but the shop was very quiet and the customers too big for me to rob.
'I've got to think of some other way of getting some money and damned quick, or she's gonna kill me.' There was no doubt in my mind... Only fear.
I knew that a lot of people had extras delivered by the milk man on Sundays, like eggs, bread, potatoes and pop. I had stolen some of these goods before for my own consumption but now I had to steal for another reason.
For about six weeks running, I waited outside the same shop each Saturday and robbed boys of the money they had. On Sundays I followed milkmen and stole anything and everything I could find. I sold the goods cheaply to people on the streets, telling them it was fresh farm produce and each week giving the money to my mother, in varying amounts. By this time I had got into the habit of stealing, even when there was no need. I began stealing things I simply wanted rather than things I needed, which was something I'd never done before.
After about six weeks of robbing kids outside the same shop I was caught by the shopkeeper with large Alsatian dog. I was arrested by the police and charged with `Robbery with violence'.
The police told my mother that I had committed a very serious offence and would have to go to court. My mother phoned my father to come home from work. I was terrified. When he arrived home she told him what had happened but my father did not hit me, he was too angry.
My father glared at me, the anger clearly visible in his eyes. "You had better keep right out of my sight," he said. "Because if I start, I'm likely to kill you stone dead, you little bastard."
I thought about the time when I was seven years old and my father burned my hands on the cooker for 37pence. The thought of what he was likely to do for the robbery of a possible £40.00 made me a nervous wreck. A few days passed, my mother continued whipping me and ripping my face to pieces and I ran away.
Walking the streets of Coleshill in the freezing winter weather, I knew of a car in the area which was regularly covered by a full size tent-like car cover. I had slept beneath this cover before. I went to the car that was parked in the driveway of a house, removed the car cover and took it to Chelmsley Woods. I erected my new tent in the woods, covering it over with brambles to hold it down in the winter winds. The brambles also provided some very good camouflage and protection from intruders. I packed my clothing with newspaper and wrapped my feet in tin foil in order to try to keep warm. It was the middle of December, frost lay all around and it was bitter cold.
This time I was caught by my father who took me home and unleashed his anger. "You're going to know how those kids felt that you robbed, you thieving little bastard. Did you punch 'em in the face, like this?" - Bang!
"Did you punch 'em in the guts, like this?" Another punch sent me sailing backwards across the room.
"Did you kick 'em in the back, like this?" Thud! After about six or seven punches and kicks from my father it stopped, but it was not over yet...
My father held my hands over the flames of the gas cooker while I was screaming in pain and struggling to get away from him. He tried to sit me on the top of the cooker but somehow I managed to struggle free, but I couldn't get away as he had locked the doors. Then it was my mothers turn. She sat me in a chair and sat on top of me while she tied me up. I screamed in agony as she put lighted cigarettes on my finger nails, the pain was so intense it felt like all my raw nerve endings were being burned. I let out the most agonizing screams that the whole street must have heard but nobody came to help. I was completely helpless, there was no possible escape and there was no mercy. I was trapped in hell.
My father then made me stand on the spot for nearly twenty-four hours. I was stood in the living room while my father was sat on the settee. His eyes were closed and he was tired but fully awake.
"Can I go to the toilet?" I asked.
"Stand there," he ordered coldly.
"I need the toilet and can't wait," I stated desperately.
"Stand there," he replied, not bothering to open his eyes.
I couldn't hold it any longer and thought my bladder was going to burst. I sighed with relief as it ran down my trousers but I felt so humiliated and ashamed. I stood in my wet trousers with the puddle in my shoe and I started to fall asleep while still standing on my feet. My father gave me a crack with the belt to wake me up. Each time I started to fall asleep he gave me another crack with the belt to wake me up. I was so tired and exhausted that I could hardly stand up, but I had to stay standing and had to stay awake.
This punishment lasted for two days and one night with one form of torture after another. I had suffered before but this was without doubt the longest two days of my life.
Chapter 3: Five Years