Paedo photo shoot

Af­ter what he did to me, this man should never be free

Chat - - Contents - Laura Pat­ter­son, 22

Run­ning around the green, I tapped my friend Paul on the shoul­der.

‘Tag, you’re it!’ I laughed, dash­ing off. It was sum­mer 2001, and I was play­ing with Paul by the flats we lived in.

All us kids knew each other on the block.

Af­ter an hour, Paul went in­side to check what time his tea was.

As I waited by the en­trance, I no­ticed a man on the land­ing.

Bald­ing with some tufts of hair at the back and sides, he was hold­ing a cam­era.

I was 5, out­go­ing, ad­ven­tur­ous – and liv­ing in such a friendly area, I started chat­ting.

‘What are you do­ing?’ I asked him cu­ri­ously.

‘I’m tak­ing pic­tures of graf­fiti,’ he smirked.

When I asked why, the man ex­plained he worked for the lo­cal coun­cil.

Re­al­is­ing Paul had been gone for while, I de­cided to head home my­self.

But as I be­gan to wan­der out of the door, a hand grabbed my arm, tight. ‘Ouch!’ I yelped. Turn­ing, I first thing I saw was the cam­era. The stranger I’d spo­ken to. Ter­ror coursed through me as he bun­dled me off my feet, cov­ered my mouth and took the stairs two at a time.

I kicked and wrig­gled, tried to scream, too. But his hand pushed tightly over my mouth, muf­fling my cries for help.

Tears streaming down my face, I sank my teeth into his hand. ‘Be quiet or I’m go­ing to hurt you,’ he snarled.

Just off the top of the stair­well was a small room.

There, the man dropped me to the floor. I wanted to run. But frozen with fear, I didn’t move as he placed a pink feather boa around my neck. Then he pushed up my skirt and yanked my un­der­wear off.

Af­ter that, things moved in a ter­ri­fy­ing, con­fus­ing blur as he as­saulted me.

He took in­ti­mate pho­tos as I sat on the cold, hard floor, weep­ing in ter­ror. I didn’t un­der­stand what he was do­ing.

Af­ter­wards, I ran home in a panic.

Burst­ing through the door, I saw my mum Ali­son, 23, was get­ting tomato soup ready for tea.

‘You’re early,’ she smiled. ‘You must be hun­gry!’ ‘I’m not hun­gry,’ I croaked. ‘But it’s your favourite,’ Mum soothed.

I told her I wasn’t feel­ing well, then I went to my room to watch a video.

I was so con­fused by what had hap­pened, didn’t know how to tell Mum.

That evening, my grandma Jac­que­line, 40, looked af­ter me while Mum met a friend.

I’d pushed what hap­pened

out of my mind, un­til... The sec­ond Grandma turned off my bed­room light, I let out a pierc­ing scream.

‘What’s wrong, love?’ she gasped, fum­bling for the switch. I paused for a minute, then... ‘There was a man in my pants,’ I sobbed. Her face went white. Soon, Mum was burst­ing through the door with po­lice of­fi­cers.

She wrapped her arms around me.

‘I’m so sorry, sweet­heart,’ she wept.

I could tell from the look in her eyes that she was ut­terly heart­bro­ken.

I was ques­tioned by po­lice, and ex­am­ined by doc­tors.

But the dam­age had been done.

I be­came with­drawn, never

I sat on the cold, hard floor, weep­ing in ter­ror

want­ing to go out­side and play with the other kids.

I suf­fered ter­ri­ble flash­backs, saw doc­tors, be­came depressed.

School was my only es­cape, but I strug­gled to make and keep friends.

I was very ner­vous around men, even those I knew.

Then, a year later, Mum said my at­tacker had been ar­rested.

His name was Joseph Mill­bank, 41, and he’d preyed on other girls, too.

Po­lice ex­plained I might have to give ev­i­dence against him in court. But it never hap­pened. In­stead, in 2002, Mum told me, ‘The bad man is in jail, he won’t hurt any­one any more.’ I fi­nally felt safe. But the echoes of what Mill­bank had done were never si­lenced.

I strug­gled with anx­i­ety and suf­fered from post trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

As I grew older, I be­gan to un­der­stand what had hap­pened to me. And I needed to know more.

In 2011, aged 16, I went on my lap­top, and typed Joseph Mill­bank into the browser.

For the first time in over a decade, I came face to face with my at­tacker. His mugshot had been in the pa­pers.

See­ing his face made me feel sick, i k then th an­gry.

I read the full de­tails of his de­praved crimes for the first time.

Mill­bank had been a self­em­ployed shop-fit­ter, and had abused mul­ti­ple girls while trav­el­ling across Scot­land.

Af­ter his ar­rest, po­lice dis­cov­ered over 400 pho­tos of 32 girls, aged be­tween 3 and 8, on his com­puter.

He’d orig­i­nally been given six years in jail for a se­ries of in­de­cency of­fences.

I learnt that sev­eral vic­tims’ par­ents, in­clud­ing Mum, were so out­raged by the le­nient sen­tence, they’d fought a hard cam­paign to in­crease it. And they’d suc­ceeded. Mill­bank’s sen­tence was raised to 10 years in 2002.

I couldn’t help feel­ing an over­whelm­ing pride in Mum and all the oth­ers who’d fought to keep that mon­ster off the streets for longer.

‘Thank you,’ I sobbed to Mum, throw­ing my arms around her. She’d done all that while never let­ting me know, keep­ing me safe.

Her show of strength taught me I could be strong, too.

I wasn’t go­ing to let Mill­bank haunt me any more.

In the New Year, Mill­bank will be set for re­lease. It makes me sick. I have young chil­dren of my own now. Kids should be able to grow up free of mon­sters like him.

Joseph Mill­bank was said to be a ‘real dan­ger to lit­tle girls’, by the in­ves­ti­gat­ing detective chief in­spec­tor.

So what’s changed since then?

I hope shar­ing my story will en­cour­age oth­ers like me to speak up.

Our voices are more im­por­tant than ever.

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