For ever

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had moved into the bun­ga­low in Dar­ling­ton where Au­ton had lived with his late wife. Angela, from Ashby-de-la­zouch, Le­ics, said: “When­ever I asked my mum about Geoffrey, all she would talk about was the bun­ga­low and how big and beau­ti­ful it was. She had only ever lived in rented or coun­cil houses so she was in com­plete awe of Geoffrey’s house.”

Five months af­ter the ro­mance be­gan, Angela re­ceived a cryptic mes­sage with a phone num­ber from one of his rel­a­tives.

“I was stunned when I was con­nected to Durham Po­lice and put through to an of­fi­cer, af­ter giv­ing Geoffrey’s full name,” she said. “Ini­tially the of­fi­cer told me he couldn’t tell me any­thing as I had no chil­dren un­der the age of 18.

“I was taken aback. As well as hav­ing two grown-up daugh­ters at the time, my youngest was just 13 and I also had a nineyear-old grand­son.

“Af­ter I told him that, the of­fi­cer ex­plained Geoffrey had been charged with sex­ual of­fences against a mi­nor. I was ab­so­lutely stunned.

“Then the of­fi­cer ex­plained my mum was fully aware of the charges as she had been by his side when he was ar­rested and ‘hadn’t blinked an eye­lid’. My shock turned to anger.

“She al­ways claimed her grand­chil­dren and great-grand­child were her life and meant the world to her but she was stand­ing by a known pae­dophile. I felt sick to the stom­ach. When I con­fronted Mum she said the al­le­ga­tions were false.

“She said Geoffrey’s adop­tive daugh­ter – who I now know to be Rachel – had made up the abuse story just to get hold of his house when he died. In that mo­ment I dis­owned my mum, ap­palled by how she could stand by such an evil man.”

In Au­gust last year, the day af­ter what would have been Rachel’s par­ents’ 50th wed­ding anniversary, Au­ton mar­ried Margaret at Dar­ling­ton regis­ter of­fice.

This June, Au­ton, 72, ap­peared at Teesside crown court and pleaded guilty to three charges of gross in­de­cency against Rachel. He was jailed for two years, six months and given a re­strain­ing or­der. Angela said: “When I heard, I couldn’t stop think­ing about Rachel. I knew she would be strug­gling and I was still try­ing to com­pre­hend how Margaret could stand by this evil and sick man. In my eyes they were as bad as each other.” Last month Angela texted Rachel to of­fer her sup­port. Rachel said: “I’d been ac­cused of ly­ing more times than I could re­mem­ber so it was such a com­fort to re­ceive sup­port, es­pe­cially from the daugh­ter of my dad’s new wife. “As we ex­changed mes­sages, it was ob­vi­ous we were both suf­fer­ing. It was a real help to be able to talk to some­one who knew ex­actly how I felt. “It’s won­der­ful that this friend­ship – some­thing so lovely – can come from some­thing so ter­ri­ble. “We will al­ways re­main friends.” When asked whether she had put her hus­band be­fore her fam­ily, Margaret said: “What a load of rub­bish. I’ve had noth­ing but trou­ble from Angela.” She added: “I don’t be­lieve Geoffrey abused his daugh­ter. He’s my hus­band and I love him.”

FAM­ILY: Angela with her mother af­ter hav­ing her own daugh­ter and, right, as a baby with her mum CLOSE: Rachel, left, with Angela

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