When Nicola Yates refused to let her family meet her boyfriend, her mum Katrina wondered what she was hiding. But she never imagined her 27-year-old daughter’s mystery man was her long-lost dad.
Originally published 25 September 2009;
Nicola had secretly been reunited with Andrew Butler, 46 – who she hadn’t seen since she was four – on the family-tracing website Genes Reunited. They then struck up a four-year illicit sexual affair as 'boyfriend and girlfriend.'
'I love my daughter, but I’ll never condone what she has done. She’s sickened me and broken my heart'
In August last year, the couple appeared in court – after Nicola’s mum, Katrina, reported them to the police – and both admitted having sex with an adult relative.
Butler was jailed for 10 months, while Nicola received 26 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. Devastated Katrina, 46, says: 'When I discovered their affair, I thought I was going to be physically sick. I begged Nicola to end the relationship, but she refused. I had no choice but to go to the police. It’s disgusting and perverted. I couldn’t let it go.'
And Katrina – a PA – fears the couple have rekindled their relationship since Butler’s release in February. She says: 'I love my daughter, but I’ll never condone what she has done. She’s sickened me and broken my heart.'
Katrina, from Birmingham, met Butler at work in 1984, when she was 17 and, within a year, they married, then had Nicola and her brother Lee, now 25.
'We were happy at first, but we grew apart,' recalls Katrina, who left Butler in 1990, when Nicola was four.
Despite only living 10 miles apart, Butler didn’t have any contact with his ex-wife or kids and, when Katrina got together with electrician Carl Yates, now 41, a couple of months later, Nicola and Lee called him 'Dad.' Carl and Katrina went on to get married in 2003, then had four children – Natalie, 19, Joshua, 17, Thomas, 16, and Aimee, 13.
Katrina says: 'Nicola never asked about Andrew. We were close and Carl treated my kids as his own. When Nicola was 18, she changed her surname by deed poll to Yates.'
But, two years after changing her name, Nicola – who was now living in her own flat – admitted she wanted to find her dad. Katrina says: 'It was a shock, but I understood why she’d want to know about her past. I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea, as he hadn’t contacted her.'
But unbeknown to her family, in 2006, Nicola tracked her dad down through website Genes Reunited. In court, it was claimed they enjoyed a 'highly charged, emotional reunion.' Despite being in a relationship with another woman nearer his age, within months of meeting his daughter, Butler began a sexual relationship with her.
Meanwhile, Nicola told her family she’d met a new man, but fabricated a 35 year old called 'Andy Bicknell.'
Katrina says: 'Nicola said it was casual and didn’t want to introduce him to us too early. I wasn’t concerned at first – she told me when they broke up a few times, so it didn’t seem that serious. But when she announced she was moving in with him 10 months later, I did worry. It was out of character for her, as she’d always introduced us to her boyfriends in the past. I was worried that he was much older but, of course, it never crossed my mind the man was her father.'
To throw her mother off the scent, Nicola invited her sister Natalie over to meet her new boyfriend. Katrina says: 'If I said I was going to pop round, she’d always say she’d save me the trouble and come to my house.
'Natalie met ‘Andy’ a few times and, although she said he was much older than Nicola, she said her sister seemed happy – that was all I ever wanted for my children. I did keep on asking if I could pop round, but she’d fob me off and I didn’t want to push it.'
But, by 2010, Katrina couldn’t bury her concerns and asked Natalie to take a photo of the man – and was sickened when she showed her a picture on her phone, revealing Butler was her daughter’s 'boyfriend.'
Katrina says: 'I gasped when I saw his face – I hadn’t seen him for more than 20 years – but I knew it was him immediately. I screamed: "No! That’s Nicola’s dad!" I thought I was going to vomit or collapse – I kept trying to think perhaps her boyfriend just looked like Andrew but, deep down, I knew it was him.'
Before confronting them, Katrina asked Natalie to find further proof and suggested she look for a letter addressed to Butler at their flat. She did – confirming her worst nightmare. Katrina says: 'I was shaking as I read his name.
I stormed over to Nicola’s flat with Carl and confronted her. She tried to deny they were having a sexual relationship, but I didn’t believe her and it was clear something was going on – I sobbed with horror.
'I told Nicola I had to go to the police but she spat: "He can do what he wants and so can I – I’m a big girl." I couldn’t believe she was defending their behaviour. I shouted, saying it was perverted, but she wouldn’t listen.'
Horrified, Katrina reported the couple to the police. She says: 'I was wracked with guilt for getting her into trouble – I loved her to bits. But I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I’ve always done the right thing and their relationship was illegal.
'He was there when she was born and used to cuddle and feed her as a baby – it’s repulsive'
I hoped I’d got it wrong, but an officer contacted me to say they’d found them semi-undressed together when they visited and they’d also discovered love letters and birthday cards. They’d also found naked pictures on their phones, which they’d exchanged. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was disgusted by them both – but he was worse.
She couldn’t remember having a relationship with her father, but he was there when she was born and used to cuddle and feed her as a baby – it’s repulsive.'
Nicola and Butler were charged with having sex with an adult relative and, initially they denied the charge but, on the day of the trial, the couple admitted the offence. Katrina says: 'Nicola was crying in the dock – I felt sorry for her and blamed myself for putting her there. Andrew showed no emotion – he didn’t look me in the eye.'
Consumed by guilt, Katrina wrote to the judge, begging him not to give her daughter a jail sentence and her pleas were answered when the judge suspended her 26-week jail sentence for two years. Butler was locked up for 10 months.
'After the case, Nicola told me: "It’s for the best – I don’t blame you." She vowed she’d never see Andrew again and said it was a huge mistake. I was so relieved. It was hard to forget what she’d done, but she was my daughter.'
Nicola moved in with Natalie, and the family tried to start afresh. But in January this year – a month before Butler’s release – Nicola moved out of Natalie’s flat – and Katrina hasn’t seen her since. Katrina says: 'I think they may be back together and I can’t cope with that. But there’s nothing more I can do – I’ll never understand it and find it completely repulsive.'