'Mum married my peeping Tom'
Monday 24 August 2009
Sara-Jae Gumbley hit the headlines last year when she had her mum’s boyfriend prosecuted for spying on her while she showered.
Alan Mitton admitted two charges of voyeurism after Sara-Jae, now 22, filmed him with a hidden camera – and caught him peeping through the bathroom keyhole. She hoped she’d never have to see Mitton – who was placed on the sex offenders’ register and given community service – ever again.
But, incredibly, he is now her stepfather, after her mum Karen forgave the peeping Tom and married him.
“I was horrified when Mum told me they were getting married,” says Sara-Jae, who is eight months pregnant. “They even had the cheek to ask me to be a bridesmaid. I can’t believe mum picked a peeping Tom over me.”
When Karen first introduced Sara-Jae to Alan in 2002 – three years after her parents split – she was wary of him.
Unemployed Sara-Jae, who was then 15, says: “He was creepy – he talked about himself all the time and tried to show off.”
A year later, when Alan visited their home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, to celebrate Sara-Jae’s 16th birthday, she felt his hand brush against her breast as he hugged her.
Sara-Jae says: “I was hoping Mum had noticed, but she was looking the other way. I told her about it the next day, but she just said it must have been an accident.”
Worse was to follow when the three of them moved in together in January 2007, when Sara-Jae was 20. Sara-Jae, whose dad, Adrian Gumbley, 45, lives in New Zealand, sensed she was being watched in the shower.
She reveals: “Once, when I was standing in front of the mirror towel-drying my hair, I looked through the keyhole and saw Alan staring right back at me. I was terrified, and stifled a scream. I felt sick and worried how long he’d been there. I looked away, then he shouted: ‘Are you nearly done in there?’ But I wasn’t stupid – I knew he was spying on me.”
Thinking her mum wouldn’t believe her, Sara-Jae hid a camera in a room opposite the bathroom and switched it on to record before heading into the shower.
She says: “I felt disgusted as I showered, knowing that he was probably watching.”
The video showed Mitton crouching by the keyhole for 20 minutes. When Sara-Jae showed Karen, she was distraught.
“She was as disgusted as I was,” says Sara-Jae. “She told me it was unacceptable.”
Karen dumped her lover and the police were called. Mitton, a shop assistant, 49, admitted voyeurism at Eastbourne Magistrates Court and was given 140 hours community service and placed on the sex-offenders’ register for five years.
Sara-Jae says: “I thought we’d never see him again.”
But nearly a year later, Karen, 46, a nurse at Eastbourne Hospital, took him back.
Sara-Jae says: “Mum was lonely, but I didn’t think she’d go back to him. But on Christmas Eve, 2007, she said she loved him and they were back together. I was devastated. Alan was at the house too, but we didn’t speak.”
Sara-Jae then moved into her boyfriend Kieron Ingram’s home to avoid Mitton. A week later, she called her mum to wish her a happy 2008 – and Karen broke the news that they were getting married.
Sara-Jae says: “I remember screaming: ‘How can you do this, Mum?’ She said she was sorry but that she loved him and he’d served his time. She told me Alan had lost his job because of what had happened, like I was supposed to feel sorry for him. I was frustrated that Alan had come between us.”
Two weeks later, Karen invited her round for dinner. Sara-Jae says: “I hoped we could clear the air, but instead she had the nerve to ask me to be her bridesmaid. I looked at Alan, who was smiling smugly, and I felt sick.”
Sara-Jae rejected her mum’s offer and they didn’t speak for another five weeks. Shockingly, it was Sara-Jae who made the first move to reconcile.
“I couldn’t switch off my feelings for my mum,” she says. “I told her I wanted to see her, but that I’d have nothing to do with him.”
They continued to see each other once a week, but Mitton kept out of the way.
Sara-Jae says: “I begged Mum not to go through with the wedding, but she wouldn’t listen. Rather than try to meet a new man, she chose to marry a creep.”
On 23 May 2009, Karen and Mitton got married at Chalk Farm Hotel in Sussex in front of over 100 guests, consisting of both family members and friends.
Sara-Jae recalls: “I just stayed at home, resisting the urge to cry. Mum had chosen him over me. I think she hoped I’d accept him once they married, but there’s no chance of that. It made me feel so betrayed.”
“I still see Mum once a week – my dad and my brother Paul, 24, live in New Zealand, so she’s my only close relative here and, although she’s let me down, I do want her to be happy.”
But when Sara-Jae gives birth to her baby son in six weeks’ time, she won’t allow Mitton to see him.
Sara-Jae says: “Mum would love for us to be a big happy family, but Kieron and I don’t want Alan anywhere near our baby. When he grows up, I won’t do what my mum did – I’ll never put a good-for- nothing bloke before my child.”
By Dennis Rice and Natalie Corp