If you tell... SANTA WON ’ T COME At that moment, my whole world turned upside down
A sick threat used to hide even sicker actions. elizabeth, 35, learned the awful truth about her partner too late...
The washing machine was spinning, dirty plates were piled high in the sink and there were toys all over the floor. Business as usual, once the kids had gone to bed.
I took a deep breath, prepared to tackle the chaos.
Then some hands appeared on my shoulders, giving me a massage.
‘Go and put your feet up,’ my partner Tony, 23, said.
‘But look at the state of the place!’ I replied.
‘I know,’ he told me. ‘I’ll sort it.’
I collapsed in front of the telly, thinking how lucky I was.
I’d loved being a single mum but it had taken it out of me. Then Tony came along and everything changed.
We’d met at my local and instantly there was a spark.
Tony had a gorgeous smile and a wicked sense of humour.
I liked him a lot, but I needed to be wary because of the kids.
It took a good few months of dating before I felt ready. We all went to a local restaurant – and within minutes, the children’s howls of laughter filled the air. Tony was a natural. Colouring with Ella, 6, playing games with Luke, 7.
Soon we were doing everything together. Trips to the park and zoo, movie nights at home.
We’d welcomed Ruby after a year together.
Tony doted on her. Me, too.
Her first summer, when the older two were off school, we were always out and about, having adventures.
And Tony was always on hand to help clear up the chaos afterwards.
On the first day back at school in September 2015, he helped, running around to find Luke’s school bag and making sure his hair was combed.
‘Ella, hurry up, we’ll be late,’ I shouted up the stairs.
All the while, I was bundling Ruby into her buggy.
I kissed Tony goodbye at the door as he waved and blew kisses to the kids, then we were off.
Luke raced ahead, eager to catch up with his friends.
But Ella hung back with me, strangely quiet. Until… ‘Tony’s weird,’ she blurted. ‘What do you mean?’ I laughed.
She went quiet again, shook her head, and I heard her whisper to herself.
‘If I tell, Santa won’t come,’ she said.
I felt a cold prickle. Her voice sounded robotic, like it was something she was reminding herself about.
‘Ella, you can tell me anything,’ I said stopping in my tracks.
‘But Santa won’t bring my roller boots,’ she almost wailed.
Crouching to her level, I asked her one more time to tell me what was wrong.
She took a deep breath and said, ‘Tony told me to… to touch his bits.’
My legs went to jelly. ‘Did he do anything else?’ I asked.
She nodded, gestured to her own private parts.
‘He put his hands there,’ she whispered.
In that moment, my whole world turned upside down.
That man I’d woken up next to, the one who’d fed the kids cereal before kissing me goodbye...
He was a monster.
I felt physically sick, wanted to confront Tony right then.
But as if she read my mind, Ella begged me to keep quiet.
I bought her the roller boots that evil man threatened to take
I don’t want to be on the naughty list. Tony said that if I told, Santa wouldn’t come,’ she cried.
Disgusting! Using Father Christmas, a child’s fantasy, as a ploy in his sick acts.
‘Mummy will sort this. But no matter what, Santa will bring you presents.’ I soothed.
I managed to get her into school, knowing that she’d be safe there, at least.
Not sure what to do,
I headed to social services, feeling like a gibbering wreck.
But at the entrance, I noticed someone watching me.
‘What are you doing here?’ he called from his car.
My mind raced. He should have been at work. He must’ve suspected something was wrong and followed me.
Had he been watching me and Ella? I couldn’t let him know I was on to him...
‘Just here to ask about Ruby’s nursery,’ I smiled sweetly.
He seemed to accept it and shouted one more thing before he drove off.
‘I’ll see you at home later,’ he said. ‘Love you.’
‘Love you, too!’ I replied, the words burning in my throat.
As soon as I saw his car turn the corner, I ran inside and filed a report.
The police were involved right away.
Ella was brought to the police station to make a video statement.
I kissed her forehead as she held her teddy tight.
She was taken into a room alone, just her and the lady asking questions.
She was so scared, so small. After that, there was to be a test to find evidence.
But at the hospital, when they gave us a male doctor, Ella screamed.
She must have been traumatised because of what Tony had done.
Worse still, there wouldn’t be a female doctor available for weeks, by which time any evidence would have gone.
It was infuriating but I held Ella’s hand and stroked her hair as she was examined.
‘I promise Santa will bring lovely presents,’ I kept telling her. ‘You’re such a good girl.’
I prayed that police would arrest Tony fast. But arriving at our house, they found it deserted.
I’d no idea how he knew that Ella had told me, but Tony had fled.
We lived in limbo at my mum’s house. Unsure where Tony was, convinced he’d come for me, for Ella...
When poor Luke found out, he blamed himself.
‘I was the man of the house,’ he sobbed. ‘I should have protected her.’
And my darling Ella still kept saying one thing, no matter how often I told her otherwise.
‘Santa won’t come now.’ She’d never love Christmas in the same way.
Finally, after 10 days, Tony was arrested.
Waiting for his trial,
I bought everything on Ella’s Christmas list, including the roller boots that evil man had threatened to take away.
Me and Mum did our best to give the kids a happy time, but the spectre of what Tony had done hung over all of us.
The legal proceedings rumbled on and on.
Meanwhile, Ella suffered from night terrors.
Holding her close in the dark each night, I wished over and over that I could go back in time and stop myself from inviting that paedophile into our happy home.
Eventually, Tony pleaded guilty to the child sex charges brought against him.
He was jailed and ordered to sign the sex offenders register indefinitely.
Ella still had the mental scars from what Tony made her do. She’d always been my happy girl, but now she was shaken, angry.
Seeing her transformed like that riddled me with guilt. I was the one who brought Tony into our lives.
But I’ve had to learn, as much as Ella, that none of this is our fault.
Tony was the monster and he forced my daughter to keep his sick secret.
Now he’s in a prison cell and we’re slowly getting back to normal.
We’re rebuilding the magic of Christmas.
I always make sure Ella gets everything on her list and make sure that she feels safe and loved.
I couldn’t protect her from that monster. But this I can do, and I always will.