Distraught teen Bethany Buckle: ‘Mum chose my Peeping Tom stepdad over me’
Tuesday 09 October 2012
Teen Bethany Buckle had always thought of her stepdad, Michael Connor, as a loving father – until he betrayed her in the most sickening way. Twisted Connor, 39, had put two tiny cameras in his stepdaughter’s room – and filmed her naked.
Fifteen at the time, Bethany was horrified when she found the images on her computer. She turned to her mum, but shockingly, Tracy, 40, chose to stand by her husband.
“I felt sick when I found the films. In some of them, I was in my bra and pants – in others, I was naked. It was so humiliating."
And despite Connor pleading guilty to two charges of voyeurism and being placed on the sex offenders’ register, Tracy is still in contact with Connor, while Bethany, from Leeds, has moved out.
Bethany, now 18 – who’s just finished her A-levels and plans to study nursing – tells Closer: “I felt sick when I found the films. In some of them, I was in my bra and pants – in others, I was naked. It was so humiliating.
“I didn’t think things could get any worse, but then Mum decided to support him. I felt utterly betrayed.”
Bethany’s parents split when she was four, but shortly after, admin worker Tracy met Connor, an unemployed bus driver, through friends. He quickly became a father figure to Bethany and her brothers Jake, now 13, and Nathan, 21.
Bethany says: “He was like a dad, though I called him Mike. He’d help with my homework and we’d go on bike rides just the two of us, or walk the dog.”
"He hated me getting male attention and didn’t want me wearing girlie clothes."
Bethany – who has recently started spending time with her biological dad – adds: “I was close to Mum, too. I felt like I could tell her anything.”
But as Bethany reached her teens, she noticed Connor’s behaviour changed. She says: “By the time I was 15, he hated me getting male attention and didn’t want me wearing girlie clothes. He used to call me a ‘beautiful girl’ and said boys would be lucky to date me.
Bethany with Michael Connor in 2009
"I found a file called ‘home movie.’ I clicked on it and was horrified by what I saw."
“He’d even say to people: ‘I’d try to get with her if I was younger,’ which I found creepy. But Mum never seemed that bothered by it.”
In October 2009, Connor and Tracy married. But, shortly afterwards, Bethany’s life was torn apart when she discovered Connor’s seedy footage.
She explains: “Mike used the computer in my room a lot, which I always thought was strange. One day, I was searching through the history when I found a file called ‘home movie.’ I clicked on it and was horrified by what I saw.
There were five different sets of films of me in my underwear or naked.
“The film showed him coming into my room in the morning, testing the cameras, waking me up, then he leaves and I’m getting changed for school. There were other videos of me drying off after a shower. I realised they were filmed the week before as I recognised the pink pyjamas I was wearing. I was just 15.
“I scoured the room for cameras, but couldn’t find any. I felt violated. The man I trusted as my dad was a sick pervert.
“When I thought of him tucking me into bed at night, I felt sick. Had he been grooming me the whole time? I felt like my childhood had been a lie.”
Bethany wanted to tell her mum, but worried she wouldn’t believe her. She recalls: “Mum worshipped Mike. She cooked all his meals and did everything for him. She kept saying if Mike left, she’d never find anyone else. I wasn’t sure how she’d react.
“It sounds naive, but I hoped it was a one-off. If I didn’t bring anything up, I could pretend it never happened.”
Bethany tried to forget about it. She avoided being alone with Connor and always got changed in the bathroom. Six months later, she noticed he was using her computer less. So, hoping it was all in the past, she began changing in her room again.
But earlier this year she became suspicious about his computer use again and, in March this year, she finally confided in her boyfriend of five months, Ryan Price, 16.
She says: “Ryan was horrified and told me to call the police. But I wanted to talk to Mum first.
“Mum was deluded. She was saying Mike was worried about me and just ‘checking up.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
“Mike was out for the day, so I showed her the videos. She was mortified and started sobbing. But she didn’t want to tell the police, saying we should work it out as a family.”
Bethany's mum has decided to stick by Michael
Nathan called them anyway and Connor was arrested. Bethany says: “The police told me he’d used a spy pen on my desk to make the first films and fitted two pinhead cameras in the walls to make the second. It made my flesh crawl.”
Connor was charged with two counts of voyeurism and forbidden to have any contact with Bethany. He was bailed and moved to a hostel.
But, shockingly, Tracy stood by her man. Bethany says: “Mum was deluded. She was saying Mike was worried about me and just ‘checking up.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
After weeks of rows, Bethany decided to move out and stay with a friend. She later found out Tracy had met up with Connor to talk about bills.
In August, Connor pleaded guilty to the charges. He was given a three-year community service order, three years’ probation and put on the sex offenders’ register for five years.
A month on, Bethany discovered Tracy was still in contact with Connor and he’d stayed over a few times. Now, she says she’s still struggling to cope. Bethany adds: “I feel so betrayed by Mum. I hope we can eventually repair our relationship, but I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive her.”
Tracy tells Closer: “Bethany is my daughter, but she left home for other reasons, which I don’t want to go into. I’ve given her everything and can’t believe she treats her family like this.”
By Alison Smith-Squire