His Life

Stephen's tragic life

My Life - Stephen's own words

“Every day since I knew what ***** ***** was doing to me was wrong it seems to be getting tougher to live.

“***** ***** sexually abused me continuously for almost ten years, (ages 6 to 15) scaring me into not telling anyone by threatening to hurt my family. I sometimes wonder to myself has the abuse somehow affected my own sexuality?  I can't remember a great deal about my childhood but what I do remember is that while I was attending Eden Hall Junior School I felt as though I was different as all the other boys in the same year as me were starting to look at girls in a different way to how they saw girls a year or two previously.  But for some reason which I had yet to understand I had the same feelings for a boy called Adam as they had for girls. I wanted to be close to him all the time. Whenever we were told to work in pairs or groups I would try my very best to be working with him.

“After starting Dene House Comprehensive School I lost all contact with Adam.

“Four to five months after settling in at the new school I started to have trouble with other children and eventually became a target for bullies to bully me. I guess I was bullied because of my size. I was probably the smallest kid in the school or near enough, and I seemed to act in a different way to other boys, i.e. I seemed to have a touch of the feminine side in me. That gave the bullies another reason to bully me, which was to call me names such as 'Gayboy', 'Faggot', 'Boylover', 'Fudge Packer' etc. The list is endless. I was being called these names not knowing what they actually meant.

“Halfway through Year 8 I started to learn within myself about sexualities, realising what the names meant which really hurt me emotionally as I was still being sexually abused at this time, and I still seemed to be attracted to boys.

“A few days before I turned 13 I felt a lot worse then I had ever felt before this time, at the same time I wanted ***** *****  to stop doing stuff to me but was scared to actually do anything about it in fear of the safety of my family. Another reason I didn't want to tell anyone was because I ws starting to enjoy what he was doing to me even though I knew at this stage what he was doing was wrong. (To this day I regret not telling anyone especially when I found out he was also abusing my younger sister.) What made me feel worse was that I was locked in the school library when two other boys who were my age raped me.

“With all of this happening I felt I couldn't take anymore which is when I left the school premises and made my way to Horden Viaduct which is where I came across a railway bridge which crosses high above a valley. I walked up to the top of the bridge and walked to the centre of it and climbed onto the wall which is I where I stayed for about an hour and was thinking whether to jump off or not. I finally decided not to jump in the end and headed back to school.

“After leaving Dene House Comprehensive School I attended Peterlee Northing Training Trust only to leave about three months later to start at SADATT (Seaham and District Adult Training Trust Ltd.) which is where I met my third sex attacker, named John Leslie Duncan. After meeting a few times within the training trust John Leslie Duncan, also known as Les Duncan, recruited me from training as Administration and Business Studies to Management as my role changed from 'trainee' to 'Special projects Assistant Trainee Manager'.

“After about a week or two, Les Duncan began to ask me if I would like to meet with him after work and/or if I would like a lift home. As I was only 16 years of age at the time I accepted the offer of a lift with him on a few occasions before accepting to meet up with him after work so that I could drink alcohol in his home. (Les Duncan told me that if I fancied drink he would take me to his home in Sunderland and have any drink from his bar in his home.) So with myself being 16 years of age and feeling depressed and lonely, and also with myself accepting the fact that I was gay, I thought to myself I needed strong drink to help me through the evening and night so I asked for a strong spirit drink and he gave me whisky. After a few drinks we both sat on the same couch which is where he started to massage me moving his hands further down my body. By this time I was drunk and not in full frame of my mind. Eventually I fell asleep fully clothed and the last place I remember his hand being was inside my trousers and down my undies/underpants/tight whites also known as boys' briefs/slips, touching the base of my penis. That was before I fell asleep but when I woke up I found that I was complexly naked, not even wearing underpants or socks, and what else shocked me was that my penis was in his mouth and I couldn't do anything about it because I couldn’t move, the only thing I could do was mumble. After being awake for approximately five or ten minutes I fell back to sleep.  I woke up a second time (not knowing it was a second awakening that night) with my underpants and T-shirt on and I was lying on the couch with bed covers over me. This whole thing happened within about three hours and this also happened approximately four or five times before I started to realise that he was drugging me with some sort of drug whilst feeding me with strong spirits, normally whisky.

“After I guessed what he was doing I told him I wanted him to stop or I was going to the police. He agreed to stop and we still met up but not as often as we used to.

“Four to five years had passed and I was studying Performing Arts & BTEC Pop when I saw an old friend who used to train at SADATT the same as myself. The friend (whose name I shall not use as requested) informed me that John Leslie Duncan was in the local newspaper and also had and was still appearing on the local news. Both the newspapers and television news headlines were 'Care Worker sexually abuses young boys in a care home for boys'.

“I later found out that Les Duncan was working at SADATT when police went into his office and seized the company's computer that Les Duncan used as allegations were made against him by a trainee. He was also arrested and bailed to court. After a few times of him being bailed to a later date or to be re-interviewed, and after a few court appearances he was found guilty and sentenced which brought his name into a small article in the local papers which is when allegations of him molesting/sexually abusing boys under his care came to light. He was finally charged with sexually abusing boys between the ages of 9 and 12 years old and there were nineteen boys in total over a space of ten or eleven years. I found out much later that Les Duncan date-raped me because although I was 16 I apparently looked about 10 – 11 years old. He's apparently quoted as saying, "He's 16 years old, looks around 10 to 11 year old but with pubic hair and no other hair, i.e. body, back, legs, arse, arms or facial."

“Anyway, moving on quite a few years, I was arrested for indecently assaulting a child under 14 years. When this so-called assault happened the mother of the boy whom I was supposed to have carried out the sexual assault on called for me so I went to find out what the boy's mother Carol wanted, only to find out that she wanted sex. I explained to her that I was gay and there was a very big argument which I quickly got arrested for but as I was being released I ws then rearrested on 'Suspicion of Indecent Assault on a minor under 14 years of age'.”

Stephen’s own words end there.

Stephen was cautioned for the alleged assault which he said was revenge by the mother after the argument.

Stephen had a range of emotional problems which can be traced back in large part to his abuse by ***** *****. He suppressed emotion and found both giving and accepting love hard.  He felt that everybody he has got close to and trusted in his life ended up by using and abusing him.  He yearned for love, and yet at one level, rejected it when it was offered.  He was frightened to commit emotionally.

Stephen’s father died in 2003 of cancer. Stephen then wouldn’t hear a word said against his father but comments Stephen made to me over the years built a picture of a problematic relationship between him and his father, also between his father and his mother.  I never knew his father so can’t comment further.

His problems were further compounded when in 2006, he invited a man round to his home for a drink. This man wanted sex with Stephen which he refused but they looked on-line at pictures of teenage boys in erotic poses. When Stephen still refused to have sex, the man left and reported Stephen. The police seized his computer and found eleven low level images in the browser cache.  Stephen was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to six months suspended for two years, a two year probation order and to attend a treatment course. The press publicity affected Stephen in that he dared not leave his house unaccompanied. So I took him everywhere. He was  threatened with violence. He became a virtual recluse. The probation order didn’t work because of conflict with his probation officer. This stemmed in large part from the fact that she didn’t believe him when he told her about ***** *****, so basic trust was not there. Stephen found the course hard and was told he would have to repeat it, but then his probation officer said she would work alone with Stephen.  He could not face this and his problems mounted so much that he tried to take his own life.

In October 2008 we were in Newcastle after a lovely day out to York. We went to a gay bar, but later I found him in tears in the bar, talking about his childhood abuser to anyone who would listen. He was angry with me and said I could not stop him. He left the bar and collapsed in the street, literally howling. He was heading for the Tyne Bridge and I was struggling to restrain him  in the street. A man came up and identified himself as a police officer. All I could do was tell him what Stephen intended. I had to stop him.  I went with him to the police station and then hospital. He was later discharged into my care, and I took him home as dawn broke. He realised then, he told me, how much I love him.  He had thought nobody would ever love him again.

The years of abuse had a deep and lasting effect on Stephen  - it blighted his life. I am not a psychiatrist but I did study psychology at degree level, a long time ago!  Stephen was plagued by guilt over his abuse, also because he felt that had he said something, his younger sister might also have been spared sexual abuse by ***** *****. Stephen was literally robbed of his childhood and is locked there, trying to go back and relive the boyhood he missed.  This is at the root of his affinity with boys and which led to his foolish internet offences.  Of course he should not have looked at those few images, but it all stems from ***** *****.

 Eventually Stephen was taken to court for breach of his probation order and went to prison for three months.  There was a brutal headline in the Sunderland Echo and when Stephen was released in November 2009, he fled to London, only to have return the next day under police orders. The house was subject to attack with windows broken, paint thrown and graffiti on the walls. 

In April 2009 he told me for the first time that he wanted his childhood abuser charged with the abuse.  I always felt that this would help Stephen come to terms with his past. He asked if I would support him through this, and of course I said I would. Events delayed this process but it was helped when his sister also decided to report it and his sister made a statement to the police about ***** *****. At the end of November, Stephen spent hours with the police making a 31 page statement about ***** *****. That night he again tried to take his own life at 5 am in the morning. Luckily again I found him before he jumped and the police talked him back onto the bridge.

Having been in prison Stephen was not now on probation but was subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order and was on the register for seven years.

I tried to help Stephen rebuild his life, taking him out and showing him places and things he might otherwise have thought of.  He was still frightened to go out and only leaves the house with me in my car.

***** ***** pleaded not guilty and this meant that Stephen had to give evidence in Crown Court. The trial was in November 2010 and Stephen was increasingly anxious about this.  For some unfathomable reason the prosecution withdrew all other evidence against ***** ***** except for Stephen’s evidence.  The jury acquitted – Stephen was devastated.

I tried to help Stephen by taking him away and showing him other aspects of life, to lift his mood and give him hope. We have been to places he might not otherwise have thought of, such as National Trust properties like Souter lighthouse, Durham Cathedral (where we took Holy Communion together), York, The Sage, the Discovery Museum, the Baltic. As well as talking over a cuppa, walks on the beach, visits to the cinema. He always chose the film. And constant talk, always talk, the outlet he needs with someone whom he trusts absolutely. I was the only one he will talk to.  He loved it and according to his mother, he always got back home happy after our days out. Later we went on Mediterranean cruises together, Barcelona and we saw Sagrada Familia (and Barcelona FC), Pisa, Florence, and walked the streets of Pompeii. Opening his mind and I hoped his ambitions.

Tuesday’s child is full of grace. the saying goes. I managed to get behind that prickly, defensive shell, especially when we were away together, filming or on a cruise. He was often self-centred, but never selfish. Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, the shell and the anger  would fall away and there was the Stephen I knew. Clever, witty, funny – a loving, caring and gentle man, and yes, gracious. He loved to help people, to be needed and wanted. The Stephen that might have been.

I mentioned filming. He wanted to be an actor, and was starting to get work in film and TV. And he could act. I remember one occasion when he was doing role play, improvisation for ATOS who were training those people who had to do benefits interviews. So there was no script, it relied on sheer talent. He was Stuart, a hopeless drug addict up for his benefits interview.  We went out for lunch and of course he was Stephen. As we went back into the building, one of the organisers came up to him, “Stuart, this way please”. It was as though a switch had been turned. The sullen attitude, the body language just changed. Without a word, suddenly, Stephen was gone and it was Stuart. Very subtle but very real.  Where might that talent have got him?

His relationship with his mother broke down completely to the point where Stephen and I came back from holiday to find he had no home.  Stephen felt he had nowhere to go and took a knife to his arm. I happened upon this, seized the knife which had reached his tendons and took him to hospital where the wound was stitched. This was 26 November 2013. I put him a B&B over Christmas and New Year and in January 2014 he moved with his beloved dog into a house in Chester-le-Street which we had managed to find. He seemed settled there away from hassle in Seaham but although I spent as much time with him as I could, he was lonely. He used his Xbox to play online games and once again was talking to a teenage boy from Cornwall. In April 2014 the boy alleged Stephen had made improper sexual suggestions over the camera link. He was arrested and remanded to HMP ********** on 10 May 2014. Stephen strenuously denied this allegation saying he had been set up by someone in the gaming group from Newcastle who knew of his past, but he admitted to the lack of judgement in talking to the boy at all, a kind of behaviour which I had counselled him against. He had not told me about his conversation with the boy. His legal team advised him the evidence was very heavy against him so to achieve a lesser sentence, he should plead guilty. Reluctantly he did so, thinking he might get time served on remand plus a further suspended sentence, or a few more months at most. But he got a very hard line judge who on 22 July 2014 went to the top of the scale giving Stephen an extended sentence.  Stephen was devastated, losing his home and his beloved dog. He maintained his innocence to me throughout. He once more became very depressed.

I received an anonymous phone call in May 2015 initially inviting me for a drink in Newcastle but then turned to Stephen, probing my relationship with him and gloating about how “we sorted him out” and referring to the boy in Cornwall as a “good lad who knew what to do”. I asked him to explain but he didn’t elaborate.  I received further calls from this person which I didn’t answer but they left abusive voicemails. I reported this to a police officer, but the advice I was given was to change my number. I reported it to my phone company, and while they wouldn’t take action, the calls stopped. But without a voicemail repeating what had been said in the initial conversation there was little to be done. Stephen’s mood sank lower.

I told the prison of his suicidal history and state of mind. They put him on ACCT but he hated the constant interruptions of sleep and told them he was OK,  He was a trained actor, remember, and they took this at face value. I knew better.

The months went by and he started to see light at the end of the tunnel. His parole application was put in for release in January 2017. But he was hit by another hammer blow in that he was told that one of his licence conditions was that he was not to associate with me. He said point blank that if we could not overturn this he would not live outside prison without my support. We vowed to fight it.

Stephen was a very intelligent man. Of course a combination of factors led him not to take advantage of his school years of education, so when I met him he was not educated. Over the years I started to correct that through discussion and travel, taking advantage of his sharp intellect. I recounted my experience of a suicide attempt by hanging when I was 17, saying it was the greatest pain I have ever experienced, in an attempt to deter him.

But on the question of suicide, he applied his sharp intelligence to devastating effect. When I pointed out to him the effect his suicide would have on those left behind, he pointed out accurately that he would not be there to witness this and feel the pain of it, he had enough pain already. Despite my efforts to persuade him of the effect this would have on the one person who loved him, he repeated the argument and pointed out I have a wife and family – I would get over it, while he would have no such support.

Stephen was already at a very low ebb and on Tuesday 4th October he refused to leave his cell either for a video link to the Magistrates Court or even to come to the Visits Hall where I was waiting for him. I was really concerned and told the officers of my concern for his safety. I did see him on subsequent visits, when he just sat, head down, very depressed. Other visitors noticed this and commented on it.

He was due for a Plea and Trial Management hearing at Crown Court on 4 November 2016.  He was adamant that he would not leave the prison and would never go back to HMP ******. If he were to be moved he would kill himself first. His solicitor said this would be done by video link and Stephen was relieved at that. The question of a later trial that would probably involve a move was put to one side.  We were living from day to day and I felt each day he survived was a bonus.

But at bang up time on the previous day he was suddenly and unexpectedly told to pack because he was moving to HMP ******. Too late for him to phone me. Had he been able to do so, I would have realised the extreme danger and phoned the safer custody line immediately.

Some time during that night, he wrote a long letter to me, then stood his bed on end, made a ligature out of bedding and hanged himself.

A number of factors may have acted as the trigger for the latest and final suicide, but of the twenty pages of the letters he left me, 80% are about the abuser ***** *****, what ***** ***** did, how Stephen felt and how nothing was ever going to go right for him, how he couldn’t shake it off and he wanted the nightmares to end. Alienated from his family, who had made no contact with him for the past thirty months, he felt he had no future, despite my promises of continued support. Other triggers were the icing on this cake, but the primary cause of his decision, the cake itself, was the lifelong trauma of his abuse by ***** ***** that stole his childhood and ultimately his life.