June 2008

Parents caged for 20 years of torture

AT 5.45pm every day, Jacqueline Titterton and Michael Adams locked their three children in their rooms with the windows nailed shut.

Urine-soaked mattresses infested with maggots lay on the floor. There was no carpet or curtains.

The children were forced to use a bucket as a toilet and then dispose of the excrement in the morning. They had to use wallpaper and clothing as toilet paper.

At school, the children were teased because they stank of urine, were dressed in rags and were malnourished.

They were beaten by the parents with implements ranging from mops to sewing needles.

But Adams and Titterton still managed to conceal the abuse.

They would keep children who had been hit off school, avoid contact with social workers and refuse to let doctors examine their children.

The litany of abuse took place for 20 years between 1971 and 1991 but it took 17 years for it to come to light.

This is how long it took the children to build up the courage to tell their story to the police.

Finally, when they faced their parents in court, the truth came out.

The daughter told Derby Crown Court her mother was “horrible, she was nasty, she was vindictive and she was evil.”

She said her mother had beaten her every day.

“I was absolutely terrified of my parents – both of them,” she added. “She was volatile and unpredictable. There was no build-up – there was just violence. She dragged me by my hair, punched me in the face and kicked me from the age of three.

“She was a monster, she is a nasty manipulative person. It was daily – from a very early age I could spot the sort of mood she was in by the look on her face.”

But it wasn’t just Titterton who had a fondness for violence and abuse. Adams would also cruelly thrash his children.

And he would save his most horrific beatings for the boys when their mother was out.

Their daughter, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told how one of her brothers “would scream and howl and we would all be sobbing downstairs”.

But their mother “would come back and do nothing”, she said.

The children told how Titterton and Adams eventually split up, with the children continuing to live with Adams. He kept on beating them and Titterton, who continued to visit him and the children, did nothing to try to stop the beatings.

The daughter told the court: “We lived in squalor throughout my childhood. It was disgusting. Our mattress was sodden with urine, the bedding was never changed.

“She’d come in and punch you round the face if you were making noise. She once threw the bucket over me. I was covered and she walked off and left me there – I was eight.”

Constantly teased at school, the children would be dressed in dirty clothes and were so malnourished they were forced to steal food.

“We were unkempt, we were dirty and we were called names. I would smell of urine, I would rarely have pants on – the school would give me underwear.

“She’d shred any clothing that was bought for me by our grandparents at jumble sales and use it as a sanitary product or something to wipe her backside on,” she said.

Aware that a doctor, teacher or social worker might find out about the abuse, Adams and Titterton went to extreme lengths to conceal it.

“She knew if we had a PE lesson and would keep us off until the bruises had healed. One of the social workers would hammer on the door – they’d swear at her and never let her in.

“The moment the doctor suggested I take off my clothing she would begin screaming and call him a kiddy fiddler and a paedophile.

“My parents were very clever about where they hit you and when they hit you – I remember having chunks of my hair missing,” she said.

She told how she would regularly be left to dress her younger brothers and sisters in the mornings and be left to babysit before she had reached 10 years old. She left home at the age of 16 weighing just five stone.

She continued: “She was either at bingo or in the pub. She would throw up and then punch you in the face if you hadn’t cleaned it up fast enough.

“We sat there and we were not allowed to interact – you sat there and you kept your mouth shut.”

Her 33-year-old brother was the second of three children to tell Derby Crown Court about the abuse.

His sister had given her evidence behind a screen but he chose not to. At one stage, asked by a defence barrister if he was “sure” about his mother’s drinking habits, he stormed out of the court.

And after completing his evidence, he glared at his mother and snarled: “Rot in hell.”

He said: “There were locks on the doors, the windows were nailed shut – there was no escape.

“She was always drunk. I was dressed like a tramp and she used to beat me – I remember blows to the head.

“He would hit me with a belt, a stick or his hands. A lot of what we suffered I blank. I have never felt normal as an adult.”

As he was approaching his teenage years, his mother left Adams but would be a regular visitor to the home. She did nothing when her children told her about the horrific beatings they were receiving from Adams.

He continued: “She knew what was happening but didn’t care. I didn’t want to live with her and I didn’t want to live with him.

“When I told her what he’d done, she said I was lying.”

The abuse took place in homes across Derby which Titterton lived in with her children in Chaddesden, Allenton, Alvaston and Sunny Hill.

He said: “They were all the same – every address we went to. I was dressed like a tramp. She was always drunk. I don’t know how to describe what he did to me.”

He added that he was even persecuted into adulthood.

He said: “My dad had an affair with my girlfriend while our baby was four months old.”

The second brother said he was given vicious beatings by Adams.

He also gave evidence behind a screen, saying: “I had bruises all over my body – on my head, my legs and my arms.

“My mother told the school I had been fighting with my brothers. She beat me with a mop handle, broom handle, whatever she could get her hands on.

“We were hungry to the point where people would give us food or we would steal it from school or other people’s houses. She spent the money that should have been feeding us down the pub.

“We were untidy, messy, unclean – the house was in a constant state of disorder.”

Despite the evidence of her three children, Jackie Titterton refused to accept she had beaten them, forcing them to relive the ordeal in court.

“I used to slap my children and shout at them but if God could strike me dead I have never treated them like that.

“I never touched my children – my job before this court case was working with children.

“Michael Adams did that and the children resented me for it. They think I’m partly to blame but I knew nothing about it.”

Titterton claimed to have been regularly beaten by Adams.

“To this day, I’m still scared of that man – I didn’t tell social services what happened to me – I went through 11 years of beatings. I thought they would take my children away from me.”

Titterton also flatly denied the children were kept in squalor, locked in their rooms.

“My children were clean,” she said. “They had food in their stomachs – I never ill-treated my children.”

And she said, after splitting from Adams, she demanded her children back.

“I used to go round every day and say, ‘Can I have my kids back?’ If I knew these things were going on, I would have taken my children and phoned the police.”

Lavine Adams, 27, Titterton’s youngest daughter, gave evidence in her mother’s defence.

She said she could not remember beatings by either Titterton or Adams.

“The doors were not locked, the windows were not nailed shut. She’s told me off but that’s not physical abuse,” she said.

“I was always clean. I went to a special school and issues like that would have been brought up.

“He used to swear at me and hit my hands. He used to be abusive towards her – my mum was frightened of him.”

Summing up the case, prosecutor Andy Easteal said: “The fact she was their mother was more than just biology. She had a real and continuing responsibility for their care and welfare and she failed hugely and grotesquely and with devastating consequences.

“Even all those years ago, these atrocities might have been uncovered. But Jacqueline Titterton concealed what was going on in every way she could and she did not hesitate to use her temper when she did so – on teachers, social workers and doctors.”

Mr Easteal called the evidence in the case “disturbing and “unsavoury” and praised the courage of the three children for coming forward and speaking in court.

Titterton, 52, was found guilty of three counts of cruelty.

Adams, 55, had admitted the same charges, as well as assaulting the two boys.

Judge David Pugsley said: “I found this case amongst the most distressing I have ever heard. The thought of children being treated in that way – these were not isolated attacks.”

Between 1971 and 1991, Adams and Titterton were guilty of a catalogue of abuse against the children.

The pair, who also regularly hit each other, split up around 1984 but still regularly saw each other as the children were moved between their houses in Derby.

Titterton now lives in Pear Tree Street, Normanton, and Adams at Austrey Avenue, Beeston.