'My mum's marrying my rapist'
Friday 18 September 2009
Brave Sarah Jeffery showed incredible courage when she brought her twisted stepdad to justice, after he subjected her to years of abuse.
'I felt sick when I found the letter'
Dean Ashill, 38, had raped and sexually assaulted her as a teenager and when he was jailed for 12 years in 2004, she thought her nightmare was over. Disgusted by her husband’s betrayal, Sarah’s mother Lorraine, 48, divorced him.
But now Sarah, 21, has been shockingly let down. She discovered her mum has been writing to Ashill in jail – the pair have rekindled their relationship and are planning to marry when he is released.
“I felt sick when I saw a letter from him saying he was looking forward to the future with his wife. I can’t believe she’s planning to marry the man who raped me,” says Sarah.
Ashill, who worked as a shop assistant, met Lorraine nine years ago. “Mum’s eyes were sparkling when she told me she’d met a lovely man,” recalls Sarah. He moved in with Lorraine, Sarah and her two brothers in Barry, South Wales, and Sarah thought of him as her dad.
“I rarely spoke to my own father, so I called Dean ‘Dad,’” she says.
The first attack
In September 2001, Lorraine gave birth to a daughter with Dean. But what should have been a happy time turned into a nightmare for Sarah. Just months after her mother gave birth, Dean launched his first horrendous attack on her. She says: “I’d fallen asleep on the couch, but I was woken by him putting his hands in my knickers. Mum was sleeping upstairs and I was too shocked to cry out. I just pushed him away and ran upstairs.”
The next day, Ashill acted normally and Sarah prayed it was a one-off. But with Lorraine out caring for his sick mother two nights a week, Ashill was soon raping his terrified stepdaughter on a weekly basis.
She says: “I’d wake up to see him in my bedroom. I was only 15, I couldn’t fight him off. I hadn’t even kissed a man before – it was horrendous. I was frightened of what Dean would do to me if I told anyone or cried out. It was a nightmare.”
Sarah kept the attacks a secret to protect her mum’s feelings. Lorraine married Dean in 2002 and Sarah was bridesmaid. She says: “I didn’t want to wreck Mum’s new life. She never seemed happy with Dad and we were so close – I didn’t want to ruin that.”
Desperately wanting to tell somebody, Sarah started writing to a friend, who advised her to tell the police, but Sarah couldn’t bring herself to. One day, later that year, Lorraine discovered a letter discussing the attacks.
She says: “Mum said if Dean assaulted me again, I was to tell her straight away, so I’d have DNA evidence and we could go to the police. But I actually felt like it was Mum who wanted the proof – I could tell that she didn’t believe me.”
When Sarah told Lorraine that Ashill had raped her again, just after her 16th birthday in January 2003, Lorraine confronted him. She says: “He denied it, but Mum agreed to call the police. They came and collected my bedding and clothes for DNA.”
Police questioned Ashill and he admitted having sex with Sarah, but said it was consensual. “Mum looked at me with hatred and said: ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to him,’” recalls Sarah.
Facing the prospect of a court case without her mum’s support, Sarah withdrew the charges. Lorraine moved Ashill back in – and he started assaulting Sarah all over again. She says: “He said the police would never take me seriously because I’d withdrawn my allegations. I told Mum, but she didn’t believe me.”
In September 2003, Sarah couldn’t stand it any longer and texted her dad’s wife, Lyn, begging her to collect her from college, where she was studying beauty, and take her to the police station. Officers re-arrested Dean and Sarah went to live with her dad, Tim, 50, and stepmum Lyn, who worked as publicans.
Sentenced to 12 years
The case was heard at Cardiff Crown Court in September 2004. The trial lasted two weeks and Sarah gave evidence. “It was humiliating describing what my stepdad did to me,” she says. “But I had to.”
Ashill was convicted of indecent assault and rape, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. “I burst into tears,” recalls Sarah. “I hoped my mum would believe me now.”
Two weeks after the verdict, Lorraine and Sarah met up. Sarah says: “Mum put her arms around me and apologised. She told me she was disgusted by Dean.” Sarah waited for Lorraine to divorce Dean in February 2005 before moving back home. But she says: “Things had changed between us. “I’d learnt that I couldn’t always rely on her to stand by me and that hurt.”
Sarah tried to get on with her life and she started seeing Gareth Jeffery, 21, who’s in the armed forces, in 2006. They married last November. She says: “After what happened I felt dirty, but Gareth was so supportive. Mum made a speech at the wedding and I finally felt clean.”
'I noticed a ring on mum's finger'
But when Sarah and Gareth spent last Christmas at Lorraine’s house, Sarah saw a letter with familiar handwriting.
“I caught sight of a prisoner number and felt sick,” she says. “I thought: Why is Dean writing to Mum? I decided to read it.”
Sarah could barely breathe as she read how her mum and Ashill were a couple again and were planning to remarry. She says: “I’d noticed she had a ring on her finger – I realised then it was from him.” Sarah confronted her mum the next day. “It was the most heated argument we’ve ever had,” says Sarah, who is unemployed.
Sarah now refuses to see her mum, despite being 11 weeks pregnant. “I received a congratulatory text from her, but it meant nothing. She’ll never see my baby,” she says.
Lorraine says: “I’ve been visiting Dean in prison and there have been discussions about marriage. He loves me and wants to put everything right. He’s the father of my little girl and he’s given me a ring."
“Sarah would stroke Dean’s head when he was asleep. When I found out about the sex, it looked like more of a two-way thing to me.”
The jury, however, didn’t accept Dean’s claim in court when he said it was a mutually consensual relationship.
Words by Michelle Cobert