that's life (Australia)

How a T-shirt caught my rapist

Australian mum Annie*, 50, waited 27 years for justice

- As told to Kathryn Lewsey

See you later,’ my boyfriend Tom* said, kissing me on the cheek. ‘Have a good one,’ I smiled. It was 1987, and aged 16, I’d recently got a place with Tom in Kalgoorlie, WA.

Tom was working night shifts so it meant I’d be home alone.

After doing some ironing,

I got into bed and drifted off to sleep. But waking in the middle of the night, I saw that Tom was already home and sleeping next to me.

Why does he smell of alcohol? I wondered.

Touching his face, I gasped as I felt stubble on his chin – Tom had shaved before going to work.

Quickly realising it wasn’t him, I started to scramble out of bed.

But the man had woken up and he punched me before pulling me back.

I screamed as he pounded his st into my head and face.

Dressed in just Tom’s T-shirt and a pair of undies, I felt so vulnerable. ‘Help!’ I shouted. It was so dark that I couldn’t make out his face.

Everything was a blur as he bashed me before throwing me into the wall.

Blood was pouring from my face, and my heart was hammering.

‘Please don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything,’ I pleaded through tears. Grabbing my head, he forced me to give him oral sex.

Fighting back, I punched him hard in the groin, causing him to fall back.

Then, I franticall­y ran outside and onto the driveway.

But the man was close behind, and within seconds he tackled me to the oor. I screamed at the top of my lungs as he yanked my hair, dragging me across gravel back into my home.

Then, he picked up the iron I’d left out and started whacking it across my face.

The pain was unbearable. Afterwards, he raped me again, before choking me.

I’m going to die, I thought, as I drifted in and out of consciousn­ess.

Suddenly, headlights shone through the window and the man ed out the back door.

Staggering out to the front, I saw a police car.

My clothes were ripped and I couldn’t stop crying.

‘It’s okay, we’re here,’ an of cer soothed as he

Fighting back, I punched him hard in

the groin

wrapped a jacket around me.

Tom met me at the hospital and, the next morning, Mum arrived too.

Seeing me, she started to weep. My hands were wrapped in bandages to heal my torn ngernails, which had been damaged when I was dragged across the driveway. And my face was black and blue.

Despite everything, I just felt lucky to be alive.

Terri ed my attacker would track me down, I moved back in with Mum.

Police worked out the man had managed to break in through a window.

Within days, they had a suspect – a man who’d been living in a pub on my road.

After eeing from my place, he’d washed his clothes before going on the run.

‘We’re trying to nd him,’ the detective promised.

I tried to get on with my life, but I suffered from PTSD and couldn’t spend a night by myself.

Tom and I split, and in time, I met Scott*. We married, moved states and had four wonderful kids.

My attacker had never been caught and, though I did my best to enjoy life, I still lived in fear of him.

Then, one day, 22 years after that awful night, an of cer told me they were reviewing my case. They wanted it solved.

With advancemen­ts in technology, they re-examined evidence that’d been stored in boxes for two decades.

The review uncovered new DNA on the T-shirt I’d been wearing that night, which matched their suspect – Paul James Carr.

His DNA was also found on my pillowcase.

He’d been jailed for a murder he committed in New South Wales, six months after attacking me, and was sentenced again in 2008 for aggravated burglary and wounding.

Finally, in 2013, Carr, 46, who’d been 19 at the time of my attack, was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, breaking and entering with intent and deprivatio­n of liberty. At Perth District Court, he pleaded not guilty.

This meant I had to testify and recount the details from that terrible night.

‘I’m so proud of you,’ Scott told me afterwards.

Thankfully, on October

22, 2014, a jury found Carr guilty of all charges.

After 27 years, I nally had justice. Carr was sentenced to eight years in jail, which was backdated to 2013.

As soon as he was locked away, I could sleep in a house by myself. I felt safe.

Recently, Carr was due to be released as he’d served his prison sentence. I was terri ed at the thought of him walking the streets.

However, he remains jailed under the High Risk Serious Offenders Act 2020, ahead of a court hearing.

I’m sharing my story so other survivors know you aren’t alone and it is never your fault.

Now, I’m a mental health peer worker, which involves using my own experience­s to help others struggling.

Whatever you’ve been through, there is support out there. No-one has to battle on their own. ●

If you need help, call Lifeline free 24/7 on 13 11 14 (Aus) or 0800 543 354 (NZ).

After 27 years, I finally had

justice

 ??  ?? A mugshot from 1986
Paul James Carr
A mugshot from 1986 Paul James Carr

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