A pervert calls
What TV man really wanted…
Cold callers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people flogging tea towels…
Some visitors you just don’t think twice about. ‘Who is it?’ I called down the stairs, hearing Mum open the front door.
After my parents had split in 2003, me and my mum, Tracey, 33, had moved to Rushden, Northamptonshire, from Leicester.
Mum saw some bloke for a bit, and ended up pregnant with my little brother.
Now, three years later, it was just the three of us, and our little maisonette hardly saw any callers. Mum never let strangers in. So my ears pricked up at the sound of heavy footsteps coming inside.
Curious, I put down my Polly Pocket to listen. Mumbled chatter. Then, Mum shouted back, ‘TV licensing.’
I didn’t know what that meant, but knew it was nothing an eight-yearold girl would be interested in. So I went back to my toys.
One day soon after, though, I heard those steps again.
‘This is Dan,’
Mum smiled. ‘The guy that came to see we were paying for the TV.’
Before I had a second to think, Dan Lishman said the magic words, ‘Do you want to play hide and seek?’
Talk about brilliant! Mum was always too busy cooking and cleaning to play. Normally, I had to beg her. But this guy was so up for it. He even let me and my brother do all the hiding!
I’d crouch in the in-built cupboard in my bedroom, rocking and giggling in the dark, as I waited for Dan to find me. Mum seemed happy, too. After school, I’d pull my brother onto the windowsill and sit watching for Dan’s black estate car.
Sometimes, he’d turn up. Other times, he wouldn’t.
I figured it was to do with his work checking people’s TVS. It sounded pretty important. Sometimes, though, I’d worry. What if he’d found other boys and girls to play with?
But Dan never let us down. One night, about a month after I’d met Dan, he turned up extra-late. After just a few games of tag in the living room, it was already past my bedtime.
‘Come on. You’ve got school tomorrow,’ Mum said.
‘Right, you take the little ’un, and I’ll put this one to bed,’ Dan smiled.
Excited, I rushed upstairs and changed into my pink nightie with Winnie-the-pooh on.
Minutes later, Dan walked in holding a Mr Men book from my collection.
‘I love those,’ I chatted happily, climbing under my pink fairy duvet.
Dan perched on the edge of my bed as he read. At some point, his hand worked beneath the duvet and began stroking my thigh.
‘Must be time to sleep,’
I guessed, thinking he was trying to soothe me.
But, as I snuggled down, Dan’s hand worked its way up my leg, under my knickers. As his rough fingers groped at my delicate skin, I stared at the walls.
Mum had told me to watch out for strangers; weird men trying to lure me into the back of their vans.
Dan wasn’t that.
He was a friend.
So this must be what friends did. Lying still, I let myself feel numb until he climbed to his feet.
‘Don’t tell anyone else, your mum will be angry,’ he grunted. Angry with me?
I didn’t want that. Confused, I pushed the whole thing to the back of my mind. It wasn’t like Dan had changed. The next time we saw him, he played tag with us just like he always had.
He smiled like normal and made us giggle.
So, a few weeks later, when Dan called me into the bathroom,
I went happily.
His back was to me, he was fumbling around with something.
‘My belt’s stuck… ’ he mumbled.
Mum told me to watch out for weird men
It wasn’t friendship. It was abuse!
Suddenly, he grabbed my hand and pulled it towards him.
My fingers brushed the spongy flesh poking out from his jeans.
Shocked, I pulled my hand away from him.
I ran downstairs, and Dan made his excuses and left soon after.
After that, we never saw Dan again.
We carried on waited by the window for a while. Then, we all moved on.
Mum never said why he’d gone. Sometimes, I’d think back on that time in the bathroom.
Had I made him angry like he said Mum would be?
It wasn’t until I started secondary school and had sex education that I found out what had happened had a name, and it certainly wasn’t friendship.
It was abuse!
Sick with the realisation, I couldn’t stop replaying what had happened in my head.
I only remembered two instances of Dan’s abuse. But what if there were more? Tortured, I was desperate to share my burden. But Dan’s warning rang in my ears.
So, instead of telling Mum, I went to my cousin’s flat in the same tower block as ours after school one day.
He was in his early 20s – he’d know what to do.
As he busied himself cooking, I perched on the edge of a chair nearby, and mumbled, ‘I need to tell you something.’
He barely looked up.
I forced the words out of my mouth before I could stop them. ‘Dan abused me.’
My cousin froze.
In seconds, he’d run up the stairwell and told Mum. Minutes later, she ran to find me.
My body tightened ready for the blow.
This was it. She’d shout at me and throw me out.
‘Oh, love, you’ve done nothing wrong,’ she sobbed, wrapping me in her arms.
That night, the police came round.
At one point, an officer excused himself for a radio call.
When he returned, he smiled at Mum and said, ‘Don’t worry. He’s already been arrested.’
‘That was quick!’ Mum gasped.
‘There were other allegations,’ he admitted.
By then, aged 12, I knew what he meant.
Dan had been abusing other children, too.
That night, Mum held me as we stared blankly at the TV late into the night.
There was nothing on, but neither of us wanted to be alone.
Between shows, a Crimewatch update popped onto the screen, featuring an array of e-fits.
I’d watched the show with Mum before.
Normally, the pictures looked like Mr Potato Heads – all dodgy ears and mismatched eyes.
One of them was spot on, though.
Those same eyes – eyes that had once seemed so kind…
I sat up.
‘That’s Dan,’ she mumbled. The presenter explained the man was wanted for the rape of a 12-year-old girl in an airing cupboard. They mustn’t have known he’d already been caught.
He’d tricked his way into the girl’s house pretending to be a gas man coming round to check the boiler.
He’d moved on from being the telly man. But it was the same manipulation.
Days later, I went to The Serenity Unit in Northampton. There, kind people talked me through what had happened for a video statement.
A few months on, Mum started going to court every day.
When I asked, she’d tell me little bits of information.
There was no point hiding the truth…
I’d grown up now. All too soon.
So Mum told me how Dan had once been a police officer, serving as a special constable and a police constable.
In fact, he’d only been forced out of the police four years before we’d met him because of allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
But he’d gone on to get other jobs that allowed him into people’s homes.
He was a mobile dog groomer. Then, of course, the TV licensing man.
He knew people would let him in.
Then he could worm his way into their lives, their families.
He’d even faked other jobs, like pretending to be the gas man and a plumber.
One day, in January 2011, Mum came to pick me up from my aunt’s with a big smile on her face.
‘He’s got life,’ she choked. At Coventry Crown Court, Daniel Lishman, 37, was convicted of 26 offences, and asked for four others to be taken into account.
This included one count of rape and 12 of sexual assault.
He’d also been found with a huge stash of sickening child porn.
He had hurt so many people. As well as what he’d done to me, Lishman had abused girls between the age of eight and 14, two young boys and a woman in her 20s.
Three of the child victims were disabled.
Judge Peter Carr told Lishman, ‘About 10 years or so ago, you began what can only be described as systematic sexual abuse of your victims, who were, in the main, very young children.’
He called him, ‘Every parent’s worst nightmare… cunning, devious and extremely plausible.’
But the man who’d worn so many faces didn’t show any emotion as he was jailed.
Outside court, a police officer from Northamptonshire Police said, ‘Over the years, Daniel Lishman sought the company and attention of children, and put himself in a position of trust.’
He added that Lishman ‘enjoyed being in authority.
He got pleasure from being taken into people’s confidence and being able to abuse children’.
I imagined he’d be locked up for ever.
But life, I later learned, meant a minimum of 10 years.
Aged just 13, I went into therapy. Still I struggled.
I had fierce nightmares. When I left school, I had to give up my shop job as
I was terrified every customer was him coming back for me. He’d had so many disguises. I found myself terrified of men. Even a simple hug from a friend could leave me sickened.
I hated opening my front door, and couldn’t trust people in positions of responsibility. I’d run to my room if someone unexpected called. It took years of hard work and intense therapy to get my life together.
Now, I’m in a good place. I feel strong.
I’ve got an incredible partner of a year, who supports me, and Mum and me are the best of friends. But in just two years, Lishman will be able to apply for parole.
The thought of him being free will be absolute torture for me. That’s why I want to get this evil man’s face out there.
I’m sure he has more victims. In fact, when the police had arrested him, they’d found a memory card in his sock.
On it were pictures of him abusing an eight-year-old child blinded by a pair of taped-up goggles in the back of his van.
An animal like that must have targeted even more innocent children.
I know it’s not easy coming forward but, if you’ve been hurt by this man, please contact the police. You will be believed.
We were defenceless children when evil came knocking.
Together, we can make sure the door is locked on this monster for ever.
Amy Hannah, 20, Rushden, Northamptonshire
I thought Dan was my friend, but he turned out to be a paedophile
He posed as a TV licensing man to get into my home
My innocence was stolen I only understood what happened to me when I was older
Lishman was given a life sentence, as the judge dubbed him a parent’s nightmare
The former police officer wore many faces, including a dog groomer and plumber
My mum had been my rock throughout my ordeal