My long lost mum attacked me with a knife
Tuesday 31 July 2012
Growing up, Sam Granger knew she was adopted and longed to meet her real mum. She began searching at 16 and finally, after 11 years, met Denise Gregory, 48, face to face.
Sam as a little girl
Their reunion was everything she’d dreamt of – Denise was desperate to be a mum to her and assured her she wanted to make up for the time they’d lost.
But, disturbingly, cracks gradually began to show in her seemingly caring nature as she became resentful of any time Sam spent with her adoptive family.
And, horrifyingly, angered by Sam’s repeated refusals to move closer to her, she revealed a side Sam never expected – when she grabbed a knife and flew at her daughter in a violent rage Sam, 28 – a single mum to Jodie, 10, Brooke, seven, and Lucy, two – says: “At first Denise seemed perfect, but she appeared to want me all to herself. I had such high expectations of her – I’d built up a picture of what my mum would be like. I never dreamt she could turn on me like that.”
Denise had struggled with motherhood and, after splitting with Sam’s dad, she put Sam into care in 1983 when she was six months old. She was fostered, then adopted by Helen*, now 52, and David*, now 54, who didn’t have children of their own.
Denise struggled with motherhood
Sam says: “I had no memory of Denise and thought of Helen and David as Mum and Dad – though they told me I was adopted.”
But as she got older, she became curious about her real mum. She says: “I’d look at women in the street and wonder, ‘What if that’s her?’ When I was 16, I decided to look for her. My parents were supportive – they gave me her name, date of birth and a photo of her. They warned me meeting her might not be easy, though I was convinced it’d be fine.”
Sam left her details on websites for people looking for children they’d given up for adoption, but it wasn’t until 11 years later that she heard from Denise. Having decided to look for Sam herself, Denise had found Sam’s details on a website and sent her a card.
Sam recalls: “It said: ‘I never forgot you. Please contact me.’ I was so happy. It took me a few hours to pluck up the courage to call and I was shaking as I dialled. I said: ‘It’s Sam’ and broke down. She cried too. She said she’d never wanted to give me up. I’d waited my whole life to hear that. We chatted for four hours.”
Two weeks later, Sam and her girls went to meet Denise at her home in Slough. The sales representative recalls: “I was nervous, but she threw her arms around me. She said: ‘Please call me Mum’ and asked the girls to call her ‘Nan.’ It felt strange – but I thought it was nice.
“She showed me a wall in her lounge covered in my baby photos. It meant so much. Meeting her was everything I’d hoped for. I didn’t feel an immediate connection, but I thought that would develop.”But, later that day, Denise became emotional when she heard Sam call Helen “Mum” on the phone. Sam says: “I explained Helen was my mum and she seemed to accept it.”
Sam began to realise that mum Denise was possessive
Sam and her girls stayed the night and, after that, Sam and Denise texted every day. Two weeks later, Sam and her daughters went to stay with Denise again – but Denise started to show signs of possessiveness.
Sam recalls: “She didn’t want me to phone Helen – she said: ‘I’m your mum now.’ Then she said she wanted us to move nearer to her. She said she felt Helen had taken me from her – I think she had thought that, after I went into care, she’d get me back. It was silly, but I didn’t argue because, otherwise, she was lovely. I wanted it to work. Helen would ask how it was going, but I didn’t want to admit it wasn’t how I’d hoped. I was confused – I’d had such high expectations.”
Denise’s jealousy escalated when Sam visited for a third time last September. Sam says: “She’d booked an appointment for me to go to the council to discuss a housing transfer, to move nearer to her. I was stunned. I said I didn’t want to give up my life in Essex and she got agitated.”
As the evening went on, Denise began to drink heavily. Sam says: “I asked her to slow down but, by 11pm, she was drunk. I told her I was going, but she said: ‘This is where you belong.’ Me and the girls went to leave, but she got pills from the cupboard and threatened to kill herself. The girls were scared – so was I.
“I turned away for a second and she grabbed a large knife from the kitchen. It was terrifying. Her eyes looked cold and evil. Before I could say anything, she flew at me – I couldn’t believe my mum was coming at me with a knife. Then she held it to my chest. I was terrified and screaming ‘Help.’ Denise didn’t speak, even though the girls were screaming: ‘Nanny, stop.’ I pulled away, but she trapped me in the door – my stomach was throbbing and I could hardly breathe. Thankfully, I managed to free myself, so I grabbed the girls and we ran.”
Meanwhile, neighbours who’d heard Sam screaming had called the police. Denise was arrested and, in January, she admitted affray. Last month, she was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
Sam, who suffered bruising on her stomach and muscular damage to her back, says: “I was petrified she’d come to find us – I was devastated. I haven’t heard from her since, but me and the girls still have nightmares. Brooke has even wet the bed and sometimes wakes up, shouting: ‘Please don’t hurt my mummy.’ She had four months of therapy.
“I started counselling last month, too. I feel I’ve lost my mum all over again. I hate the thought of being related to her.”
Sam, who’s moved home and changed her number and the girls’ schools, adds: “I assumed I could trust Denise because she’s my biological mum. I shouldn’t have let her in so quickly. I never want to see her again. I now realise all I ever needed was my adoptive parents.”
By Jocelyn Cook & Heather Findlay