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Foster Mom From Hell

January 29, 2008 permalink

Last year British Foster mother Eunice Spry was convicted of child abuse. A newspaper has published an excerpt from an upcoming book by one of her victims, Alloma Gilbert, now an adult. Abuses include beatings, food torture and forfeiting her birth name. While not all foster parents are as bad as Eunice Spry, multiple foster placements make it likely that a foster child will encounter at least one foster mom from hell.



How I survived being starved, beaten and tortured by my Jehovah's Witness foster mother

Panic is bubbling up through my body. My tongue is dry and my stomach is churning horribly, although I'm not hungry.

To distract myself I start fiddling with my pretty bead bracelet. I like the feel of the smooth chunks of coloured glass as they roll between my nervous fingers. I don't know if I can go through with this.

I steal a glance at the face of the female detective who is sitting next to me in the back of the police car. She looks very determined, while I feel extremely wobbly.

Alloma Gilbert
Inspiring: Alloma Gilbert, now 22, is studing to be a veterinary nurse

"You look nice, Alloma. Very smart." DC Martell is smiling encouragingly, as the car nudges through the heavy morning traffic towards Bristol Crown Court, where I will shortly be giving evidence in a child abuse case against my foster mother of ten years, Eunice Spry.

The detective is a reassuring presence. But in my mind I am still remembering Eunice's scrawny hands around my throat, trying to stop me from speaking out, squeezing the very breath from my body.

Then I remember that the owner of those terrifying hands is now safely in police custody, and I finally find my voice. "Thanks," I say to the detective. "But are you really sure there'll be a screen?"

DC Martell's face softens. "I'm sure, Alloma. She'll be brought into court after you've arrived, so you really won't see her face. I promise."

I nod slowly, trying to take this in. God I hope you're right, I think, because if she can see me, she can get me. The minute I'm skewered by her gaze, by those hard, grey eyes that bore into my very soul, then I'll be lost.

The car pulls up outside the imposing court building and I'm hastily shepherded inside.

An official brings me a cup of tea and tells me I might have to wait several hours to be called. To be honest, after so many years of suffering in silence, I don't suppose another few hours will make a huge difference.

For me, the real issue is whether or not other people - in this case, a jury of 12 complete strangers - will believe the extraordinary story that I, my younger brother Thomas and our foster sister Sarah are going to tell them. We can only wait and hope.

That story begins, for Thomas and me at least, back in the spring of 1991, when we were still living with my real mum and dad in the genteel spa town of Cheltenham.

As a little girl I knew absolutely that my parents loved me. That security is the greatest gift you can give a child and is something most of us are lucky enough to take for granted. I don't.

Eunice Spry
Sadistic: Eunice Spry was sentenced to 14 years in jail

I am grateful to my mum and dad for showing me warmth and affection, for every hug and kiss and kind word. Without the memory of being loved once, I might not have survived my horrific years with Eunice Spry.

My parents had met very young and although they adored their children, our home life was somewhat chaotic.

My mother's health was fragile and both my parents had experimented as teenagers with drugs, leaving them with problems for which they were still bravely seeking help when I was a little girl.

Every day they would go to a local drug rehabilitation centre, often taking me and, later, Thomas with them. They'd do their best to make it a fun outing for us, taking us for lunch in the canteen and going to the park on the way home.

But by the time I was six and Thomas was around three, they were struggling to cope. My father forgot to pick me up from school one day, then again, and then quite regularly. My teachers started to get worried. Some days my parents didn't manage to get me to school at all.

It was at this point that Eunice Spry came into our lives. My parents already knew her because she had looked after me briefly as a baby while my mother recovered from an operation.

Now, at this difficult period in their lives, they turned to her for help again. How could they ever have foreseen the dreadful consequences of their decision? My parents were Eunice's victims, too.

Eunice Spry had originally come to them recommended by Gloucestershire Social Services as a registered childminder and foster carer. She was in her 40s, a pillar of the community and a devout Jehovah's witness, as well as being the mother of two children. Her credentials seemed perfect.

By the time I met her as a six-year-old, Eunice's children had grown up and she had adopted two young girls: Charlotte, who was a couple of years older than me, and Sarah, who was about the same age. She readily agreed to help take care of us as well.

Looking back now I can see how Thomas and I must have seemed like the sweetest little ripe cherries, ready for the picking. With her gimlet eyes, which missed nothing, Eunice must have entered our house and seen the disorder that pointed unmistakably to a family in trouble.

She was kindness itself on her first visit to our house, chatting to us all in a friendly, lively way. She taught me to knit with needles and wool she'd brought specially, and before she left she invited us to her house for Sunday lunch.

Eunice's semi-detached house in Tewkesbury, around 15 miles from ours, was a revelation. It was warm and cosy and packed with games, toys and videos, not to mention her five cats.

From the very first time we went there, Thomas and I loved it. Before long we began staying overnight, and then for whole weekends.

I now know from the evidence gathered for the court case that Eunice was "grooming" my mum. She bribed her with presents, offers of washing and cooking and the promise of a good life for her children, so that Mum would entrust us to Eunice's care.

For a year we shuttled back and forth between our house and Eunice's until the inevitable day when my father called us into the living room and said he had something important to tell us.

"You know you like going to Eunice's for the weekend?" he said. "Well," my dad paused and looked at the floor, "you'll be living there from now on."

My mum was in floods of tears. I crawled over to her and she put her arms around me. I felt sad and scared because I loved my mum, but I also felt a twinge of excitement, if I am totally honest.

"It's all right, Mum," I said. "I'll be fine. Thomas and I will be OK."

"Yes, love, I'm sure you will," said Mum, through her tears.

What she did not know, and what would later emerge in court, was that Eunice had by now been struck off as a carer by Gloucestershire Social Services, because they thought she already had too many children to look after.

Eunice had made a private arrangement with my mum after she had been de-registered. How the funding was arranged I have no idea, although I came to understand how clever and devious Eunice was when it came to playing officials off against each other.

By the time I was seven-and-a-half, I had moved to Eunice's full-time and the pattern of my life had reversed. Thomas and I would visit my parents for an occasional weekend or evening, and Eunice's house was now to be called "home".

I quickly settled in to my new routine, however, and I liked my new school and classmates. I was a chatty and sociable little girl and not afraid to ask questions. Like most children, I simply accepted the new situation.

Only now do I realise that almost from the moment I got to her house Eunice wanted me to forget about my past life. She made it clear, for example, that we were to think of her as our real parent.

"Call me Mummy," she insisted, and as Charlotte and Sarah did, we did too.

However, she stressed that during our occasional visits to see our parents we had to remember to call her Auntie Eunice.

The second thing we had to do was to change our names. I was upset about this, as I loved my name, Alloma - it had been chosen by Mum after she'd read it in a book about fairies and mystical people.

But Eunice didn't like it. In her eyes it was a "magic" name and therefore, according to a curious expression she used, "demonised".

This came to light one day as Thomas and I were sitting at the table with Charlotte and Sarah. Eunice gave a book to Charlotte and said mockingly: "Pass this to the Devil's child next to you." This, apparently, was me. I blushed and felt very embarrassed. I looked up and Eunice showed no emotion at all.

Charlotte smirked and looked at Eunice, who said maliciously: "Yes, they're the Devil's kids all right."

Eunice put a piece of paper in front of me. "There's a better choice of names for you," she said. "Better than your demonised name, anyway."

Tears stung my eyes. My name was a link with the family I loved. But I looked up at Eunice's stern face and I knew I had to choose. No question. From that day I became Harriet, not Alloma.

It was all very confusing. I was seeing a new, bad-tempered side of the kind lady who had taught me to knit, which was really rather scary. I didn't like it at all.

Several curious events from that time stick in my mind. One of them is the day I went swimming with Charlotte and we met by chance two of her biological siblings, from whom she'd been separated when she went to live with Eunice.

When we got home I was full of the news. "We've just met Charlotte's brother and sister!" I blurted out. Eunice's reaction was extraordinary.

She stopped what she was doing and strode towards me with a terrifying look on her face. She seemed to have grown in size and was towering over me, her face white and taut with barely suppressed rage.

"Oh, no you didn't," she snapped. "They were just friends."

Charlotte said nothing and looked down. She obviously knew not to quibble. But I didn't know any better. "But we did - we saw her brother and sister."

Eunice suddenly leant forward and tapped me sharply on the mouth. I was totally taken aback. It hurt a lot, and I hadn't the slightest idea why she had done it. It was the mildest taste of what was to come. I had stepped into dangerous territory.

All these years later I'm still trying to understand whether Eunice's cruelty was born of a religious belief that she needed to teach us a lesson, or whether she sincerely felt that what she made us do, or what she did to us, was improving our characters.

Either way, her outlook was punitive and extreme, with everything divided into black and white, good and evil, and with her as the judge.

When I look back on living with Eunice's regime I think of it as going down a flight of steps to a basement. On the first few steps, I had to get acclimatised to the drop in light and temperature.

As I went on, it began to feel damp and uncomfortable, until finally I descended into a cold, rat-infested, stinking cellar where I was tortured sadistically until I screamed for mercy. But no mercy came.

After the tap on the mouth, Eunice began to mistreat Sarah, Thomas and me - although not so much Charlotte, whom she seemed to adore - on a regular basis, starting with flicks and hits on the mouth and then clouts to the head.

I was beginning to get a clear idea of what life with her was going to be like: an endless succession of rules, punishments and bizarre rituals.

One of the very worst of these was the daily toilet check. After breakfast we were marched to the toilet where we were required to perform, and not allowed to leave the bathroom until we'd done so.

It was terrible, and I was petrified. Of course, the more anxious I got, the less I was able to deliver. We were also forbidden to go to the toilet at any other time of day.

But the torture didn't end there. If we didn't come up with the goods in the morning, Eunice would administer an enema. The big syringe would come out, filled with green washing-up liquid mixed with water.

Eunice would bark at me to pull my pants down. She would then shove in the syringe, push the plunger in and order me to hold on to the soapy liquid for as long as her whim dictated.

When it was over I would go to school feeling utterly horrible, hoping no one would ever find out what had been done to me at home. Unbelievably, this appalling regime continued day in, day out until I finally escaped from Eunice when I was 17-years-old.

With Eunice, we discovered, you were either in her good books or her bad books. Charlotte was generally in her good books, as was Robert, a baby taken on by Eunice shortly after we went to live with her.

The rest of us were almost invariably in some sort of trouble, especially if we didn't go to sleep when we were supposed to.

I found this out the hard way one evening when I became aware of Eunice standing in the doorway watching me as I pranced round my bedroom in my nightie after lights out.

"Right," she said. "You're obviously not tired. So I'm going to make you tired." With that she yanked me out of the room and pulled me to the top of the stairs. Was she going to push me down?

"You're to walk up and down these stairs all night," she told me. "I mean all night. Right the way through."

I looked up at her mean, hard face. She had to be joking. It was dark and cold, and I had bare feet and no dressing gown. But she wasn't joking.

"Go on, what are you waiting for?" I started walking down the stairs to the bottom, Eunice watching my every step. At the bottom I turned, I suppose half hoping she'd relent.

"Come back up, this instant," she said.

I went back up the stairs, my little legs already aching. At the top Eunice simply gestured silently for me to go back down again. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. What would my mum and dad say if they knew? Or my teachers?

Eventually Eunice went to bed and the house fell silent, but I knew I had no choice but to keep going. As the night wore on I started to trip up because I'd lose concentration, even consciousness, from time to time.

Then I'd come to, having fallen momentarily asleep, and find myself standing up in the hall, wondering what on earth I was doing there in my nightie in the dead of night. This punishment happened more times than I can remember.

One of the most terrifying things about Eunice's discipline was that it was never doled out in temper. It was always done in a cold, hard, calculating way, often hours and sometimes even days after the misdemeanour had been committed.

Then, when she was ready to let rip, she would grab me by the arm, drag me into the living room and close the door.

While I stood trembling, she would fetch a piece of wood that she kept under the stairs with her Jehovah's Witness books. It was about two feet long - I think it was the handle off an old copper saucepan or something.

"Take your shoes and socks off," she would command, tapping the stick on her left palm, as if testing its weight.

I remember the first time this happened. I had no idea exactly what she was going to do and just stood there trembling in my bare feet. Suddenly, Eunice bent over and I felt a most enormous "clunk" across the toes of my right foot. The pain seared through my bare feet, and I screamed out loud.

"Be quiet," said Eunice. "Don't fuss. You'll make it worse for yourself."

How could it be worse? I was shaking and crying, but Eunice was bent double again, raising the stick and now she was going at my toes with great, unrelenting clunks. Clunk, clunk, clunk ... on and on, five, ten, 15 times. Then she changed foot.

"Stand still, you'll make it worse," she said again.

By now I was beside myself, yelping and screaming. But there was no let-up until the punishment was finally done.

A few times after being beaten like this I'd ask Eunice for a hug and she would briefly put her arms round me. For a moment I would feel comforted. It was twisted and makes me feel sick now, but children need affection so much that they will ask for it even from their abuser.

After these beatings my toes would be black and blue all over. I remember once at the swimming baths - before Eunice eventually put a stop to such outings - one of the dads noticed my bruised toes and asked: "How did you do that, then?"

I just said: "Something fell on my feet." Young as I was, I knew somehow that I was not supposed to tell the truth about Eunice's behaviour.

In 1994 our lives took a strange and new twist. Unknown to us, Eunice had befriended an elderly man named John Drake, who owned a huge farm near the affluent, pretty market town of Pershore, north of Tewkesbury.

John had never married and was now living alone. He was also suffering from lung cancer and needed nursing care. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Eunice had spotted an opportunity to inherit the farm and make herself a lot of money.

In the autumn of that year, without any explanation from Eunice, we went to live with John full-time. For me yet another new life had begun, although not everything had changed.

The bizarre regime of daily rituals and punishments went on as usual - washing-up liquid down the throat for lying or answering back, strangleholds to teach us a lesson, daily clouts around the head. Slaps on the mouth and punches continued as before, albeit well out of John's sight and hearing.

As for school, it soon became clear that commuting back to Tewkesbury every day was impractical. Instead, Eunice applied to be our home tutor.

By doing so, she succeeded in removing us from any sort of normal life and contact with the outside world, as we now no longer saw our parents.

We slowly but surely became trapped on the farm, our only outings being to Jehovah's Witness meetings or the local shops to run her errands.

It was shortly after we moved to the farm that Eunice decided to get a dog. He was a lovely black labrador puppy called Jet, and I was given the job of house-training him.

As I was only about nine at the time, I knew nothing about how to do this, and of course he would make a mess all over the place, which enraged Eunice.

One morning she came into the kitchen and found that Jet had done his business in the night by the back door. She was furious. "Come here," she snapped.

It was me, not the dog, she was commanding. Eunice was glaring at me with her dead, grey eyes, her thin mouth clamped in a mask of disapproval. I crept over to stand next to her, head down, my legs feeling weak. What was she going to do now?

Suddenly she grabbed me by the back of my hair and forced me to my knees, which hurt as they hit the unforgiving tiled floor. Inches from my face was the pile of dog mess.

Slowly, Eunice pushed my head further down. The stench entered my nostrils, turning my stomach and then, with a sudden further push, my face was in it. The wet, stinky mass was going up my nostrils and over my cheeks and eyelids and I had to fight it from going into the corners of my mouth.

Eunice pushed my face into the mess and rubbed it back and forth, round and round. After about a minute she stopped and released me.

"That's how you teach dogs not to poo," she said. "You rub their faces in it. Got it?"

Telling me that I was not to wipe it off until she said so, Eunice marched out of the kitchen, leaving me shaking with revulsion.

Meanwhile, John Drake's health was deteriorating quite rapidly. One morning, as I was playing with Charlotte, Eunice burst into the room and told us he had died.

She showed no emotion whatsoever as she took us to see him, stroking his hands and, bizarrely, encouraging us to do so too.

When the will was read a few days later, we discovered that the farm had been left in trust to Charlotte, Eunice's favourite adopted daughter. There was some money for Eunice as well. She had triumphed. She had set her sights on her goal and had attained it.

While John was alive a pretence of normality had been kept up, but all that now ended. Eunice started to keep the curtains closed permanently, so no one could see in from the outside and, of course, we couldn't see out. It really did feel as though we were her prisoners.

Only on the rare occasions when a school inspector came to see us were things any different. Then Eunice would put on a show worthy of Mary Poppins, buying us all new books and getting us cleaning the place until it sparkled.

When the inspector came we'd be sitting at the table, writing, with clean hair and scrubbed faces. As soon as they had gone, things returned to normal.

One day, I was in the kitchen when Eunice appeared, looking very angry. It was the third day in a row I'd forgotten to buy some throat sweets she'd asked me to get from the village shop. I knew I was in for it.

"Where are those throat sweets I told you to get?" she demanded.

I knew that saying anything at all would inflame the situation, so I stayed still, hoping the storm would pass.

"Cat got your tongue, has it?" she said. "Well, I'll give you a sore throat, then you'll know how it feels."

Next, I was being dragged unceremoniously out of the kitchen by my arm and into the living room, where I prepared myself for the usual beating. I noticed, however, that this time there were two sticks, not one.

"Open your mouth," said Eunice. Coming towards my opened mouth was a long piece of wood, wedge-shaped and about a foot long. To my horror, Eunice thrust the wood into my mouth, past my new front teeth, until it hit the soft tissue at the back of my throat.

I retched hard, tasting the wood. I could hardly breathe. In response, Eunice pushed the wood in further. This time she is going to kill me, I thought.

Then I felt the familiar, sickening thwack on the soles of my feet. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. I was being hideously assaulted on two different parts of my body, and if I protested, the wedge would be driven further down my throat.

Afterwards I lay on my side in a foetal position, shaking from the shock, moaning and weeping while holding my throat with both hands.

"You won't forget those throat sweets now." And with that, Eunice swept out of the room to get on with the rest of her day, satisfied at another sadistic, soul-saving job done.

Ten years later, in court, I would hold one of the sticks she routinely used to thrust down our throats and show the world the two inches of dried blood still staining the end. It was shortly after this appalling incident that something inside me finally snapped.

I was 11 by now and had been enduring Eunice's terrible physical and psychological cruelty for nearly five years.

It was all to do with a piece of cheese that had gone missing from the larder. You'd think someone had stolen the crown jewels from the fuss Eunice made. She was absolutely convinced I had taken it.

To this day I believe Jet was probably responsible, but Eunice refused to believe it, and set out with ruthless determination to pin the crime on somebody else.

But this time I'd had enough. I don't know whether it was my outrage at all the previous punishments, or just growing older and more defiant, but I utterly refused to admit to something I hadn't done.

"It wasn't me," I said. Eunice stared hard at me and came and bent over me. "Answering back, are we?" she said. "Well, you can starve."

I wanted to say "Fine!" but I didn't. I knew better than that. I knew when to stop. I just stared back at Eunice, making my eyes dead and blank. She stared back and we were locked together like that for a few moments.

This was the first moment I had ever really stood up to her and although it was only a small thing, and I knew I was going to be hungry afterwards, I felt a tiny edge of triumph.

And so I starved. For a week she gave me nothing - not a single scrap to eat. It was a real battle of wills, and I became so weak and sick that I was hallucinating.

In my desperation, I resorted to the pig bin and feasted greedily on mouldy boiled potatoes, vegetable peelings and pig nuts. It was revolting, but I just hoped it would give me the energy to survive.

Eventually, maybe after a week, Eunice handed out some food at a mealtime to me, as well as the other children. There was no apology, no explanation, no making up. I was suddenly just included.

I guess she felt she had to feed me something or I would die. Whatever the explanation, the rebellion had begun and battle lines had now been drawn.

There was a long way to go before I'd finally be free of her clutches, as I'll explain on Monday. But at last I had hope.

� Adapted from Deliver Me From Evil by Alloma Gilbert, to be published by Pan on March 7 at £6.99.

Source: Daily Mail (UK)

Escape from a living hell: The horrifying moment my Jehovah's Witness foster mother handed me over to a sex predator

Alloma Gilbert
Alloma is now looking forward to the future

In April 2007, foster mother Eunice Spry was sentenced to 14 years in prison for abusing children in her care. She beat the youngsters with metal bars and made them eat vomit. On Saturday, in our first extract from a new memoir, one of Spry's victims, ALLOMA GILBERT, revealed how she survived her ordeal. Here, in the final part, she describes how Spry allowed her to be sexually abused - and the bitter-sweet moment her tormentor was brought to justice...

My foster mother was incandescent with rage. "What's this?" she barked, holding up a bag of porridge oats. I knew better than to say "a bag of porridge oats" - that would certainly have earned me a beating, or worse. There was obviously something seriously wrong.

"You left it out," continued Eunice accusingly, tipping the bag's contents on to the kitchen table. I could see that mixed in with the oats were little brown lumps - mouse or even rat droppings.

There had, I knew, been some rats recently around the dilapidated old farm where we lived, and I dare say she was right that I had forgotten to put the bag away the day before.

Eunice said nothing more, but scraped up the oats and put them into a saucepan, droppings and all. She then poured in some water, and stirred.

"I'll make your breakfast for you," she said.

When the concoction was cooked, she spooned a large, steaming helping into a bowl. It was a far bigger portion than she would usually allow me for breakfast - Eunice was unbelievably mean with food.

She handed me a spoon. "Eat it," she commanded.

When I didn't move, Eunice pushed the spoon into the bowl and brought it up against my closed lips. "Open wide."

It was pointless to resist. Obediently, I opened my mouth and swallowed the vile mixture. It tasted like the soles of my Wellingtons after I'd cleaned out the chicken shed.

My gorge rose and I could see a glint in Eunice's eyes - her satisfaction would be complete if I threw up there and then.

But I didn't. Instead, I fought to turn myself off at the emotional mains and ate the whole lot.

I could tell Eunice was waiting for me to give up so that she could give me a beating, but I was determined to show her what I was made of.

She was obviously disappointed. "Well, you do that again and you'll get it again," she said.

By now my stomach was churning. I have to hold it down now, I told myself. Just blank yourself out.

Eunice started tidying up and I feigned as much nonchalance as I could muster. I could feel my gorge rising again, but I swallowed hard as saliva filled my mouth and kept my face as blank as I could. Slowly, I moved towards the kitchen door.

The second I was out of Eunice's sight, I ran like the clappers down the field, where I threw up the entire contents of my poisoned stomach.

But I hadn't given her the satisfaction of seeing it. And most important of all, I had chalked one up to me in our battle of wills.

baby Alloma Gilbert

If my childhood with my foster mother Eunice Spry had been traumatic - as I described in this paper on Saturday - my young womanhood, before I finally escaped from her evil clutches at 17, was quite appalling in its physical and psychological brutality.

At least when I was young I had been to school for part of the time, having contact with other adults and children.

I had even very occasionally seen my natural parents. Now I was being taught at home and living as a virtual prisoner, half-starved, on a rundown farm in the middle of nowhere.

I also hadn't had any contact with my family for years.

The only consolation was that I was not alone - with me were my younger brother Thomas and Eunice's three other adopted or fostered children: Charlotte and Robert, her favourites, and Sarah, to whom she was particularly cruel.

Unfortunately, Eunice often played us off against each other so that we were not able to unite against her cruelty as much as we should have.

I still wonder whether Eunice used to lie in bed at night thinking of the next horrible thing she would do to us all. Certainly, some of her punishments involved a good deal of ingenuity on her part.

One of her favourites was a torture she'd devised, known as the "invisible chair".

We had to crouch down on our haunches in a sitting position, with our backs or shoulders leaning against the wall, sort of squatting, and we'd have to stay there for ten minutes to an hour, maybe even two.

I found it incredibly difficult to stay upright, and my legs ached terribly, so I'd often fall over.

But Eunice would watch and hit me with a stick, or shout that I had to get back into the upright, crouching position in the invisible chair and stay there until she was satisfied.

Later, when I got a bit older, the punishments changed slightly to cause me the maximum psychological and physical discomfort.

Eunice would sometimes, for example, make me stand naked at the end of her bed - something I found hideously embarrassing, as I was extremely self-conscious about my developing body.

If she fell asleep I'd quickly cover myself up, or lie down on the floor. But then she'd wake up again and shake me or shout at me, and I had to spring back to my standing position. Naked again, all night long.

Eunice's attitude to nakedness and sex was somewhat ambivalent, and made life very confusing for us as growing teenagers.

On the one hand she would say it was natural and fine for us children to be naked, but at the same time she was also very prudish about anything to do with sex or sexuality, perhaps because of her strict interpretation of her Jehovah's Witness faith.

During those years of puberty she certainly gave us no sex education or guidance to prepare us for the adult world, and because we never mixed with other young people, we were completely ignorant of the most basic facts of life.

Eunice Spry
Eunice Spry was sentence to 14 years in prison after a string of child abuse offences

As a result, I was completely unprepared for a catalogue of sexual abuse I suffered over a period of many years at the hands of one of Eunice's old friends, a man I shall call Kevin.

I don't know where Eunice knew him from but he was quite a rough type who seemed very interested in my developing body.

Whenever he came to visit, he would make me sit on his lap while he put his arms round me. Then he would put his hands on my legs and move them up my thighs.

One day, he put his hands on my crotch. "You know, you're a very attractive girl," he said in a leering voice, which completely freaked me out. I had no idea what was going on.

Another time, Kevin sat me on his lap and told me to touch his trousers in the crotch area. "Go on," he said. "I'll give you a quid if you touch it."

By "it" I sort of guessed he meant his penis, as I'd seen my brother naked and knew men were different.

I was utterly confused and didn't feel right about what was going on between us but I suppose, on some strange level, Kevin provided me with human contact, some kind of touch and warped affection - so starved was I of love and attention after years and years with Eunice.

Later, when I was around 16, Eunice even seemed to want to encourage Kevin's behaviour towards me, telling me how much he liked me, as if she were matchmaking.

On one occasion, when we went on a holiday with him, she even made us share a room together, albeit with one of the other children.

I protested, but even then Kevin continued to molest me and indulge in gross indecency in my presence.

I spent literally years trying to convince him that I wasn't interested. When I finally succeeded, he became extremely aggressive and unpleasant.

Compared with all this, something else that Eunice made us do was probably quite benign, although it still makes my stomach churn when I think about it.

She used to make us give her a massage, as though we were her young slaves.

She would lie on the floor or on a sofa and read a women's magazine and we would have to massage her feet and her back.

It was revolting to have to touch and give pleasure to this woman who hurt us so much.

Also, I found her physically disgusting, and as I was being told to pick the dead skin off her flat feet, or massage her bony shoulders, I would look with fascination at her saggy boobs hanging around her armpits, or her dry wrinkly skin.

Afterwards, we would laugh about it together and mimic her, although very quietly. It was one of the few times we were united against her.

I've never really been sure why Eunice took on five children after her own two daughters had grown up, but I'm convinced that part of the reason was that she saw us as a financial meal ticket.

The allowances she was paid for looking after us gave her a good source of income - although she was always after more.

For example, she worked out that if she had us registered as disabled for some reason, she would get more money.

So at different times during our childhoods Eunice campaigned to get Sarah, Thomas and me diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.

She would be eligible for disability carer's allowance for each child, if she succeeded.

Somehow or other Eunice had got a prescription for the drug Ritalin for Sarah, having had her diagnosed as autistic.

Buoyed up by this success, Eunice then tried the same strategy with Thomas, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and prescribed Ritalin, too. Later, she would do the same for Robert.

So it was only a matter of time before Eunice decided, when I was about 12, that I was the next suitable candidate for some "treatment" and I was taken to see a psychologist.

Before I went into the room to meet the doctor, Eunice primed me on how I was to behave, on pain of punishment if I didn't.

I had to pose as if I had Asperger syndrome. She had done her research carefully and explained I had to be very inarticulate and shut down.

I had to say absolutely nothing if I was spoken to, and not reply if I was asked a question directly. I had to keep my head down, look at the floor and she would do all the talking.

On this occasion, however, the psychologist smelled a rat. For some reason, and I don't know why, the psychologist did not buy into the Asperger's stunt and sent us home without a prescription.

As I left her office, she said: "I think you're playing games with me." I wanted to burst out laughing.

Eunice was, of course, utterly furious and told me I would be dealt with the minute we got back to the farm.

Once home, and after a thorough beating, Eunice decided to see for herself if I had Asperger or not, and gave me some of the other children's prescriptions of Ritalin for a week.

From an adult perspective, and as a mother myself now, I believe it was not only incredibly dangerous to give me drugs prescribed for somebody else but also evil and utterly irresponsible because, in doing so, Eunice set me off in a direction which, until then, I didn't know existed.

I got hooked on the drugs - they brought me complete psychological relief from all the isolation, fear and pain that I was experiencing.

Every day I helped myself to her supply, taking around ten or 12 tablets. Later, I'd be taking 14 or 16.

Eunice had hoarded so many pills - I guess she kept getting repeat prescriptions - that she didn't notice her stash was going down. So I continued to take Ritalin for a long time, probably three years or more.

I have mentioned that we were badly and erratically fed, and as a result were all extremely thin.

Eunice noticed, however, that by the time I was in my teens I enjoyed the fact that I had a slim figure - it made me feel as though I might be attractive.

Since happiness was not allowed, now that I wanted to be thin, she decided maliciously that she had to do something about it.

Eunice had a new eating plan: I was to eat lard. A whole pound before every meal. "You need fattening up," she'd say.

I had really never eaten anything so revolting in all my life. Even the rat-poo porridge was not as bad as having to fill my mouth and my system with this stinking, oily, piggy-smelling gunge.

To this day, the smell of sausages cooking still turns my stomach.

By the time I was nearly 17, I had been enduring Eunice's hideous regime for a decade and, very gradually, it was beginning to dawn on me that I might be able to make my own way in the world.

I used to take our dog for long walks, which gave me a real taste of freedom. These stolen moments without being watched helped a new idea crystallise in my mind - scary, but also exciting.

I had reached an emotional and psychological crossroads.

I started to drop enormous hints to Eunice, and she must have got sick of my nagging, because one day she suddenly said: "You'll be leaving tomorrow, so you'd better get yourself sorted. Be ready by nine in the morning - I'll drive you."

Without even saying goodbye to my brother and the others the next morning, I clambered into the car, wondering where my destiny lay.

"I'm taking you to Bristol," Eunice piped up suddenly.

Bristol? I knew nothing about Bristol. Why there?

"You'll be in a youth hostel. I'll pay your rent for a month."

Perhaps she hoped that by taking me to a huge city she could ensure I didn't meet anybody I knew and spill the beans, or maybe she thought I'd be unable to survive and come crawling home again.

Either way, what she did that day when she walked away from the youth hostel was effectively to abandon me.

I had no knowledge of how to survive on my own, no funds, no phone, no list of people to turn to if I needed help. I had nothing.

The months that followed my release from Eunice could be described as the very steepest of learning curves.

With the help of a charity for homeless people, I found accommodation in various hostels around the city and learned how to apply for both benefits and employment.

Off the leash at last, I caught up on my lost youth in what I now call my "wild time".

I tried drink and drugs of various kinds and discovered for the first time in my life my ability to attract men of my own sort of age.

This was not a positive experience. I was, I believe, the victim of an attempted date rape, and I had several other fleeting and unsatisfactory sexual encounters.

By the time I was 18, I was pregnant by a man I'd met while working in McDonald's.

The relationship was never going to last more than a few months, and so I became a single mother, living alone with my baby girl in council accommodation at the age of just 19.

It was very difficult at first. I had no idea what to do, and although I was still with my baby's father, he was unsupportive.

Perhaps because I was having such a tough time, one day in August 2004, when my daughter, Ivy, was three months old, I finally decided it was time to track down my parents, which I did by writing to every address in the road where they used to live to see if anybody knew where they'd gone.

Our first meeting was very emotional and a bit awkward at the same time. There was so much to catch up on, and I didn't quite know how much to tell them about what had happened.

They seemed genuinely delighted with their granddaughter, though - my mum kept crying and hugging her and my dad looked pleased as punch.

He told me on later visits that my mother couldn't sleep at night for feeling so bad about what had happened to me during all the years we were estranged.

Soon after I re-established contact with my parents I received a huge package from them. In it were masses of cards: they had gone out and bought a card for every birthday and Christmas that they had missed with me (to replace all those that they knew Eunice was binning), as a way of saying sorry.

Both of my parents had written little notes in the birthday cards, saying things like, 'Happy Birthday, Bright Eyes', marking special events like my eighteenth birthday.

They still feel sad that they have missed so much of my life.

After my disastrous relationships, I was in no hurry to start another one. But I had begun chatting to somebody on the internet who had become a virtual "friend".

He was very helpful and supportive through difficulties, and eventually we decided to meet.

The attraction was mutual, and we have now been an item for a year. His name is Sy and he works as a drugs counsellor in Bristol.

He is so thoughtful and kind that I finally told him a bit about life with Eunice - as much as I could bear to talk about - and he was horrified. And when the ghosts of my past came back to haunt me, Sy was there to support me.

The fact that Eunice was brought to trial is down to the bravery of Sarah, who after years of torment eventually confided in members of Eunice's Jehovah's Witness congregation, who encouraged her to go to the police.

Quite rightly, they didn't want people to think that their religion would ever condone such behaviour.

When the police contacted me to ask if I was happy to make a statement to support Sarah's case, I said I was. Of course I was.

However, I don't think the police, or anyone else for that matter, knew what a can of worms they were opening. Or more like an ocean full of poisonous snakes.

Eunice was arrested in February 2005, although it took two years before she came to trial.

As the case was being prepared, I was thrilled to be reunited with my brother Thomas, whom I hadn't seen for two years. He, too, had been in contact with our mum and dad.

On March 20, 2007, as I was sitting watching Ivy playing with her toys, the phone rang. "We've got a conviction."

The detective constable sounded ecstatic in my ear. "She's been found guilty of 26 counts including child cruelty, unlawful wounding and assault."

A month later, Eunice was sentenced to 14 years in prison. She'll be 72 by the time she gets out and Ivy will be 17 - the same age I was when Eunice abandoned me in Bristol.

Now, when I have nightmares about life at the farm, Sy is by my side. He is a wise, kind man who protects me and makes me feel like I am a good person and worth something.

He is wonderful with Ivy, and we are slowly growing into a family. A loving, caring, normal family, which is all I ever wanted. I don't know what the future will bring but I am hopeful that we will spend it together.

� Adapted from DELIVER ME FROM EVIL by Alloma Gilbert, to be published by Pan on March 7 at £6.99.

Source: Daily Mail (UK)

Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 14:49 GMT

Abused foster son publishes book

Christopher Spry
Christopher Spry has broken his anonymity to publish his book

A Gloucestershire teenager who suffered years of mental and physical torture at the hands of his foster mother has published an account of his experience.

Eunice Spry was jailed for 14 years in March 2007, after being convicted of 26 charges including cruelty and wounding.

Her foster son, Christopher, 19, and his two sisters told the court how she rammed sticks down their throats.

Mr Spry said he wrote the book, Child C - Surviving a Foster Mother's Reign of Terror, to put the horror behind him.

"There were beatings all over the body with gazebo poles, bamboo poles," he told the BBC.

"She mainly targeted the feet which don't scar as much as other parts of the body.

"There were torture positions, there were sticks being shoved down our throats to keep us quiet while we were being beaten."

The offences took place in two of Spry's homes in Tewkesbury between 1986 and 2005.


Mr Spry said the cruelty was not just physical.

"We were locked in a room for more than a month with little food, little water," he said.

"We weren't let out to have washes, or go to the toilet.

"When my nan came over, they all had a roast dinner downstairs and she brought the roast dinner upstairs and left it in the room with us and told us not to eat it.

Eunice Spry
Eunice Spry was found guilty of 26 charges

"We were just sat there, looking at this beautiful roast dinner after being starved for nearly a month and it was torture."

A year after his foster mother's conviction, Mr Spry said he was still suffering nightmares.

"Of course, there were medical injuries, I can live with that, but the nightmares...

"I don't get much sleep and you see it all playing back in your head. You just see her face and it's really hard to sleep. That's the worst thing."

Lessons learned

During the case, the foster children were referred to only as Victims A, B and C.

Mr Spry admitted he would like to make some money from the book but said that breaking his anonymity and writing it had been therapeutic.

"You hear a lot in the newspapers, in the press of what it was like, but to actually read from a first person's view is different.

"I wanted people to know what really happened and to put it behind me, to get it in the past and move on."

During the trial, the court heard that the abuse was not spotted by health professionals over a period of 20 years.

Spry portrayed herself as a loving, caring mother and denied all the charges.

She had told the court: "I sweated blood for these children. I've worked non-stop. I love them. I still love them."

After the trial, the chairman of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board, Jo Grills, said lessons would be learned from the case.