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In April 2007, 62-year-old Eunice Spry was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the systematic wounding, cruelty and assault of the vulnerable children whose welfare had been entrusted to her. Her Gloucestershire home should have been a refuge. Instead it became a prison where, over the course of 20 years, her charges were routinely abused and tortured. To the outside world, Jehovah's Witness Spry presented herself as a pillar of the community. Behind closed doors she was a sadistic tyrant who beat the children with metal bars, forced wooden sticks down their throats and made them eat lard, bleach, vomit and faeces. The details of the trial horrified the nation, and attracted considerable press attention. Now, for the first time, one of the victims - known in the case as 'Child C' and now 19 years old - tells the full, shocking story of what went on in Eunice Spry's house of evil. Child C is a gripping, heartbreaking story of enforced isolation, psychological and physical abuse and a childhood denied. Despite all he has been through, Christopher Spry is a survivor with a zest for life.With his former foster mother in prison, he can finally tell the story of his suffering and what it is like to grow up brutalised and abandoned with no one to hear your plight.
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Christopher Spry is now 19 years old and still lives in Gloucester.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
'Do not withhold discipline from your children,' shouted Mother. 'If you beat them with a rod, they will not die.'
Facing the wall I screwed up my eyes, knowing what was to come and hearing the evil swish of the bamboo. Then screaming as it tore fresh agony into my back. Again the swish, again the blinding pain across my back as I stood in the gloom of the sitting room, receiving my punishment. At the window a sheet was up. Across the floor was strewn rubbish: plastic Safeway carrier bags spilling clothes onto the carpet, dog-eared boxes full of disused toys, old rugs, discarded kitchen appliances fit only for the bin...
'He who spares the rod hates his son,' she screamed. 'But he who loves him is careful to discipline him.'
The cane scalded my back. Once more I yelled in pain, screaming, 'No, please, no,' twisting away, feeling her pull me back, her hand steadying me at the wall. Then another stroke across the back, then another. My hands were against the wall, nails digging into the wallpaper. Swish. Swish.
'I'm sorry, Mother,' I screamed. 'I'm sorry.'
I was sorry because I'd left a dead hen in the yard. It was my job to move the dead hens, I knew that. If a hen died you had to move it quickly because the rats could get to it and we had enough rats without encouraging more of them. It was my fault. All my fault I was being whipped.
'Demon child,' she shouted, and still the blows came.
'I'm sorry!' I screamed in return.
Sometimes she would say nothing during beatings and would deliver them with a calm, almost serene air. Other times, like now, she would scream and shout, say that she had to drive the demons out of me ready for the apocalypse and quote passages from the Bible. Always quoting. The same quotes I would hear again and again.
'Do not withhold discipline from your children,' she reminded me. 'If you beat them with a rod, they will not die.'
I felt something warm and wet slide below the waistband of my jeans. Blood or sweat, I wasn't sure. And I sank to my knees, my shirt in tatters at my back, able to stand the pain no longer.
The whipping continued for some time, until at last she stopped, breathing heavily from the exertion, dropped the cane and left the room. In agony, tears of pain streaming down my face, I remained on my knees alone in the dark and filthy sitting room. I would remain on my knees for my entire childhood.
This is the story of how I got to my feet.
List of five advantages of being brought up by my evil foster mother Eunice Spry
1. I am well mannered and polite
2. I do not swear
3. I don't spit either
4. I know how to behave in restaurants
5. I can differentiate between brands of washing-up liquid just from their taste
List of five disadvantages of being brought up by my evil foster mother Eunice Spry
1. I can differentiate between brands of washing-up liquid just from their taste
2. I rarely sleep, and when I do I have nightmares
3. I am in constant pain from an injury in my knee, from where she disciplined me with a cricket bat
4. I do not make friends easily
5. I can never have children of my own
Eunice was my mother, and I called her Mother right up to the trial. I've only just stopped. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking of her that way. It's rare these days, though.
I hated the trial. I mean, of course I hated the trial, anyone would. But I hated it so much that I went to the bridge over Golden Valley - a dual carriageway connecting Gloucester and Cheltenham - and stood at the edge a couple of times, thinking about taking the one step that would send me plummeting to the road below.
I thought about throwing myself in front of a car, too, but that particular method of suicide is too much of a gamble. You might survive - which is not much use if you're trying to kill yourself - because the car needs to be doing almost exactly 73mph. Any faster and you run the risk of being bounced straight off the bonnet. Any slower and you might simply be dragged along the road. No way do you want that kind of pain.
On the other hand, I don't know - at the time anything felt preferable to the alternative: the guilt of giving evidence against Eunice - the horror of facing her across the court.
In the event I sat behind a curtain for my appearance, so we were screened off from one another. Still, though, our eyes met just as she was being led out, one tiny second as we both turned heads at the same time and clocked each other across the courtroom. There was nothing there, in her eyes. There never really was.
She'd pleaded not guilty; she told the court that the worst punishment she ever gave us was a smack on the bottom. In the end, the court believed us: Children A, B and C, as we were for the duration of the trial, then for the media coverage afterwards.
Child C, that's me.
Child A is my foster sister Karen, who was fostered by Eunice a year or so before I was.
Child B is Lulu, my other foster sister, who is older than me by four years, and was fostered by Eunice at the same time I was. Of the three of us, she always knew something was up, Lulu did. She's that bit older than me and Karen, so I suppose she'd seen a life outside of Eunice that we never had. Lulu was the one who tried to tell the neighbours, who tried to run away. We used to get quite angry with her; used to say pull yourself together, come on, just get on with it.
Lulu knew, though. Over the years we kept a tally of the times we cried. Cries from pain didn't count; we're talking about emotional cries. Lulu was on thirty-one of them. Karen was on twenty-something. I was on three. I'm the lowest, the best.
We weren't the only children Eunice had fostered, us three. There was another girl, Charlotte, who was the eldest and who had been fostered from birth; plus my younger brother Bradley - my real younger brother. Like Charlotte he came into Eunice's care from birth, and like Charlotte he was never touched. Well, they were touched in the sense that they were cuddled and hugged and kissed and Eunice loved them. But they were never beaten with bamboo. They were never starved, or forced to drink washing-up liquid for stealing food. Instead, what Eunice did to them was hold them back and stop them from growing, keeping them in a permanent state of very early childhood. When Charlotte died, her bedroom at the farmhouse was in the process of being transformed into a pink grotto fit for a princess, a paradise for a little girl. But Charlotte wasn't a little girl when she died. She was seventeen.
And Eunice had done the same with Bradley, keeping him back, treating him like a baby. The attic floor of the farmhouse was Bradley's playroom and you couldn't move for the toys she'd bought him. Couldn't move. He lived in that room like a spoilt little child-king, ruling over an empire of countless Thomas the Tank Engine toys and radio-controlled cars. Throwing tantrums, getting us into trouble for upsetting him.
Directly below his playroom was the room where Karen and I were locked for a starvation punishment. We spent a month in there; the spoilt little child-king in his playroom upstairs, the princess painting her grotto pink.
But that makes me sound bitter, and I'm not. Not to Charlotte, because you shouldn't speak ill of the dead and, anyway, she was a child, same as all of us. And not to Bradley, because he's Bradley - Bradley my little brother - and I taught him all he knows about cars (and I know a lot, so he knows a lot), and, yes, sometimes he's a little bastard, but...he's Bradley.
Eunice had two other daughters, natural daughters, who were the product of her second marriage. The daughters were older, grown-up. There was Judith, and again I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but she helped with the abuse - at times as the torturer's apprentice. And there was also Rebekah, who never helped, but who saw things that tripped warning buzzers in her head and considered telling social services, but never did, probably because Eunice was her mother. She gave evidence at the trial, though, Rebekah did. We all helped send our mother to jail.
Which is where she is now. She was sentenced to fourteen years for twenty-six charges including child cruelty, assault, unlawful wounding and perverting the course of justice. The judge said it was the worst case of child abuse he'd ever encountered. What made it worse, he said, was Eunice in court; her face was unmoving, set in stone for the entire trial. Like I say, there was nothing there. Nothing at all.
And then I'm on This Morning. If you saw it, I was the one sitting with my back to you. The moment I started talking my trouser leg began to vibrate as people tried calling me. Lucky I'd set the mobile to vibrate, come to think of it. And then I'm on Sky News. And I'm talking to newspaper reporters. And everybody wants to know what I think of her now. Do I hate her? No, I say, she was my mother. Did I ever try fighting back, they want to know. Of course not, she was my mother. Why did I stay? they ask. Why did I stay for over a decade of torture and abuse?
Because Eunice was my mother.
I was born in Cheltenham in 1988. December the 20th, to be precise, although I never celebrated my birthdays because Eunice was a Jehovah's Witness and her beliefs did not extend to birthdays and Christmases. I had a night out on my eighteenth, but that was less to do with being eighteen than being alive at that point. I celebrated my fourth, too, one of my very earliest memories - one of the few times I ever saw my natural parents when I was growing up.
I have a very vague memory of being with them, my natural parents. Well, not really a memory so much as an impression. I remember some stairs in their house, and climbing up them. I was about one and a half, I reckon, probably able to walk but still at that stage where it's quicker to cl...
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