WARNING: UPSETTING CONTENT. Maureen Wood kept her horrific childhood abuse secret for three decades, before finally feeling able to police that she had been sexually assaulted by her mother, step-father and brother
By Ann Cusack & Zoe Forsey Features Editor
- 16:45, 17 MAR 2021
- Updated16:49, 17 MAR 2021
Maureen Wood was first raped by her older brother on her ninth birthday. A year later, their step-father walked in on the abuse she felt relieved as she believed he would protect her and the nightmare would end. But he did nothing, and a few months later began abusing her too. She now had two abusers to cope with. “I hoped against hope that my mum might step in and help me. But she walked into my bedroom and called me a ‘little wh*re'”, Maureen says.
Soon after her tenth birthday, Maureen’s mother became involved with the abuse. Maureen says: “They used to make me sleep in their bed, between them, and they took it in turns to abuse me. My mum helped to get me ready for when my step-dad would rape me. It felt like the end of the world. With them all against me, I had nowhere to turn.”
Maureen kept her horrific childhood abuse a secret for three decades before telling police the horrifying things she had been through as a child. She had given birth to a son as a result of a rape by her brother but he tragically suffered a cot death. And it was the exhumation of his body, more than two decades after his death, which brought justice for his mother from beyond the grave. Maureen’s childhood torment had remained secret for most of her life, until she bravely called in police. Her abusers were jailed and Maureen launched a legal action against the social services who were supposed to have protected her. The brave mum of five was later awarded £200,000 in an out of court settlement from Staffordshire County Council. She has now written a book, entitled: ‘A Family Secret’ which will be released this week. Mum of five Maureen, 50, says: “The minute I went to the police, all my fear was lifted. It wasn’t my shame and guilt to deal with any more. By going to court, I handed the fear and shame back to my family. My baby son, Christopher, was vital to the prosecution’s case. The police had warned me that they would be unlikely to get a viable DNA sample from his body – but when he was exhumed, his body was intact and the sample was perfect. It feels as though he was looking down on me from heaven, helping me. He is a true angel my guardian angel.”
In 2015 Maureen received a settlement from social services, following a lengthy legal case in which she claimed they had failed to protect her from her brother as a child. Maureen says: “It was a kick in the teeth, I felt like I had been let down twice; by my family and then by the social workers. I took my children on a month long holiday to Disney with the money. But it doesn’t change what happened to me. I brought the case, not for the money, but to ensure that they don’t let this happen to another child.”
At Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in October 2011, her stepfather, John Wood, then 68, was convicted of seven counts of rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Her 46-year-old brother John Donnelly, received two years in jail after admitting rape, incest and indecent assault. In a re-trial, her mother, Maureen Wood (senior), then 65, was found guilty of four counts of aiding and abetting the rape of a girl under 16. She was jailed in October 2011 for nine years. She says: “The abuse by my mother was, and still is, the hardest thing to process. As a mother, you nurture and protect your child but she destroyed me.”
Maureen had been placed in care at the age of three, after her parents separated. Four years later, her mother, Maureen senior, took her and her older brother, John, back out of care and they were introduced to their new step-father John Wood. When Maureen was eight, the sexual abuse began. She says: “I remember every detail of that day. We had been outside, having a water fight, and as I dried off in the bathroom, my brother, John, who we called Jock, came in and started touching me. I didn’t understand what he was doing but I knew it felt wrong and it was horrible.”
On her ninth birthday, Maureen was raped for the first time. A year later, their step-father walked in as she was being raped. Maureen says: “I felt relieved – because I thought he would stop it. I thought he would look after me.”
Instead, her step-father said nothing. And weeks later, he began abusing Maureen too. he says: “I hoped against hope that my mum might step in and help me. But she walked into my bedroom and called me a ‘little wh**e.'”
Soon after her tenth birthday, Maureen’s mother became involved with the abuse.
Despite her horrific family life, Maureen enjoyed school and did well academically. She had friends but confided in nobody. She says: “My family threatened that if I told anyone, I’d end up in care again. I was terrified of that. They said nobody would believe me and that I’d get into trouble with the police. It was difficult because, to the outside world, my parents were respectable people. They worked at a local social club and they were managers at the Masonic hall too. They were well-known and well-liked. I tried running away and once stayed away for two days. But the police found me and took me home.”
When she was 13, Maureen fell pregnant. By the time she realised, it was too late for a termination. Maureen says: “My mother was mortified; all she worried about was what the neighbours would think of her, with a 13-year-old pregnant daughter. Yet of course she knew that either her own husband or her son was the father. But she just blanked that out. The abuse stopped while I was pregnant. For the first time in my life I could remember, I wasn’t being abused and it was like a little piece of heaven. I was ordered to tell people that I was raped by a stranger but I knew, for certain, that my baby’s father was my brother.”
In October 1984, Maureen gave birth to a son, Christopher. He was born on her brother’s 19th birthday. She says: “Christopher had blond hair, blue eyes. It didn’t matter why he came about, or where he came from. He was mine. That maternal instinct kicked in immediately. I adored him with all of my heart and for the first time in my life, I felt what love was.”
But just under a month later, he suffered a cot death. Maureen discovered his body. She says: “When he died, I felt like my life had ended, my world had finished. He was the only person I truly loved. It was raining the day we buried him. I felt like the heavens were crying with me. I just wanted to die.”
After Christopher’s death, Maureen’s mother and brother stopped abusing her. But her stepfather began assaulting her again only a couple of weeks afterwards. The abuse continued until, at 16, Maureen left home. She had suffered eight years of horrific abuse. She says: “My teens were very difficult. I was grieving for Christopher and I felt very angry and confused. I drank too much and I went off the rails a bit.”
But despite finally finding happiness, Maureen was haunted by nightmares of the abuse. She realised she had to seek justice and eventually she contacted police. Maureen says: “It was 29 years since the abuse began and so the CPS insisted that the only way they would take the case to court was if the Home Office would approve an exhumation of Christopher. His DNA would prove that my brother was his father, and that I had been telling the truth. I was warned that the DNA sample was unlikely to be viable. Yet when his body was exhumed it was almost intact. The sample was perfect and it proved I had been telling the truth. It was almost as if Christopher was watching over me, helping my court case. He was and still is my guardian angel.”
Christopher’s body was exhumed in July 2009 and reburied a month later. Maureen has no pictures of him but she has the small plaque from Christopher’s original coffin. She says: “I didn’t want my baby to be exhumed. But it was the only way. The night before, I went to his grave and came away with a sense of peace. I felt I had his support.”
Maureen’s step-father, brother and mother were all convicted of the abuse. Her mother died in prison and Maureen found it in her heart to attend the funeral. She says: “My mum and step-dad never apologised. But my brother pleaded guilty and told me he was sorry. I still grieve for the childhood I didn’t have and for the mother I didn’t have. I think of Christopher every day. Writing a book is my way of making sure that my voice and the voices of so many others who suffer is heard.”
Maureen’s book is available on Amazon.
Mystery of boy, 15, found dead upside down in snow with family desperate for answers
EXCLUSIVE: Alfie Lawton’s family have called for people who may have been with him when he died in South London to come forward, after the 15-year-old’s death on the coldest day of the year
By Milo Boyd
- 14:58, 25 FEB 2021
The family of a 15-year-old found dead upside down on a snowy hill believe witnesses might be able to help unlock the mystery of how he died. Alfie Lawton was discovered near railway lines in New Malden, South London just before 7pm on Monday, February 8. After a long search the teenager had been found by members of the public, lying with his head at the bottom of a steep bank, his family have said. He was unresponsive at the Green Lane Recreation Ground and – despite the best efforts of police, paramedics and members of the public – could not be revived. A post-mortem exam found no drugs or visible signs of injury on his body, although the Met says it is waiting for full toxicology results. Alfie had told his mum Sarah that he was going to meet friends several hours earlier the first time he’d gone out in months, because the great-grandma he’d been shielding was in hospital with Covid. From speaking to witnesses in the park, the family believe at least one of the people he’d met was with him when or just before he died. “We know who he was with when he died, we have established that with various witnesses,” Sacha, his cousin, told The Mirror.
She said she thought if Alfie’s friend had seen what happened and called for help Alfie would probably be at home and back to normal now. Alfie had religiously stuck to the lockdown rules since November in order to protect his great-grandma. When the 84-year-old fell ill with the disease and was hospitalised, his mum Sarah thought “you know what, nan has covid, you’ve been in the house watching me cry for a week, off you go and get some fresh air Alfie”.
At 3.30pm, two hours after he went out, Sarah started to get worried because Alfie wasn’t responding to her or his sister, which was out of character for the Southborough High School student. According to Sacha “all indications” are that he died around 5pm, when the family would usually be having tea. In the two weeks since the family have been able to rule out death by drugs and suicide thanks to information from the post-mortem. “He was upside down in the snow on a bank,” Sacha said.
“It was steeper than a staircase, you need to virtually crawl to get up it. We were working on the basis that he had somehow fallen down the bank. We have heard now there is no clear sign of death, so he hasn’t fallen out of a tree.”
Members of the public helping to search for Alfie came across him at around 6.45pm and the emergency services responded at 6.59pm. “It was the coldest day of the year,” Sacha said.
“When he was found a paramedic was overheard saying he was 22C. There was a massive effort to revive him. It was bitter. It was still snowing. The place in the park where he was found was secluded and tucked away.”
Alfie’s family have been completely rocked by the death of the teenager, who was “very ambitious and clever.” “He was just funny,” Sacha said.
“A really funny kid. He used to sing the Only Fools and Horses theme tune and he was always pulling pranks. A friend told us he dressed up in all the girl’s stuff when they went out shopping to make them laugh. He was the one that was going to turn the family into millionaires. When we got his phone back we found out he had a real estate folder on it. His eye was firmly on the future and it was going to be bright. Everybody liked Alfie. He was beautiful inside and out. Everyone we have come across loved him.”
The pain of Sarah, Alfie’s dad Josh, sister Jordan and brother Freddie and their large extended families has been intensified by the mystery of his death. Sacha said: “He has gone to the park one day and he hasn’t come back, and there are no visible signs of him being attacked. Alfie didn’t kill himself. We think something medical has happened. We just want answers.”
She said if any of Alfie’s friends knows anything she would encourage them to come forward with anything they know. There have not been any arrests in relation to this case. Detective Inspector Andy Griffin said: “Alfie’s family, and their community of neighbours and friends are struggling with the grief of losing such a wonderful and vibrant young man. Police are actively investigating the circumstances that led to Alfie’s tragic death, which currently remains unexplained. We need as much information as possible to assist our enquiries, and answer the questions the family has about what happened to Alfie on that day.”
The police said all efforts are being made to trace any witnesses, people with information or people who were in or near Green Lane Recreation Ground between 2pm and 7pm February 8. Anyone with information that could help with police enquiries is asked to call 101 or tweet @MetCC quoting ref CAD5562/08FEB21.
Family finally discovers truth of five-year-old boy’s death in NHS surgery blunder 43 YEARS after the tragedy
Family finally discovers truth of five-year-old boy’s death in NHS surgery blunder 43 YEARS after the tragedy
- Carl Marrows lost his life because of errors by NHS hospital staff, inquest hears
- He suffered ‘massive blood loss’ due to a known complication of the procedure
- An inquest in 1986 put the five year old boy’s death down to natural causes
- Driven by a sense of injustice, his family challenged the decision years later
Published: 23:19, 14 February 2021 | Updated: 23:19, 14 February 2021
A family has won a 43-year fight to discover the truth about a five-year-old boy’s needless death following a hospital operation. Carl Marrows was originally said to have died from natural causes but in reality he lost his life because of errors by hospital staff, an inquest heard. A coroner, who reinvestigated the boy’s death after a legal battle by his family, concluded Carl had been the victim of neglect and ‘gross failure of care’. The ruling at a new inquest in Hull last week was welcomed by the boy’s father who said there had been a cover-up by hospital staff. The youngster, who had spina bifida, died following an operation in 1978 at Scunthorpe General Hospital to correct his gait. He suffered ‘massive blood loss’ due to a known complication of the procedure. An inquest in 1986 put the death down to natural causes but, driven by a sense of injustice, his family challenged the decision years later. Carl’s father John approached coroner Professor Paul Marks who uncovered records of the case, agreed the verdict was ‘not sustainable’ and backed his bid to have the inquest finding overturned at the High Court. The youngster, who had spina bifida, died following an operation in 1978 at Scunthorpe General Hospital to correct his gait. The hospital is seen above in later years . They succeeded and a fresh inquest was ordered. It heard how precautionary measures should have been taken in case Carl suffered bleeding after surgery. Instead of having a tube fitted to allow for the emergency treatment, he was simply sent to a ward. When a nurse realised something was wrong, there was a delay before a doctor arrived and staff were unable to save his life. Professor Marks said had the proper procedures been carried out Carl would not have gone into cardiac arrest and died. He also noted some medical records were incomplete. The coroner recorded a narrative conclusion including that neglect had led to the child’s death. Describing the death as sad and tragic, he added: ‘If Carl had survived this operation he would have been 49 this July. His family have conducted themselves with the deepest integrity and dignity throughout these proceedings.’
Carl’s father John approached coroner Professor Paul Marks who uncovered records of the case, agreed the verdict was ‘not sustainable’ and backed his bid to have the inquest finding overturned at the High Court. After the hearing Mr Marrows, 74, a retired HGV driver from Howsham, Lincolnshire, described Carl as ‘a very bright little lad’. He said: ‘The whole thing has been a cover up. They just did not want the hospital or the NHS to look bad. I am glad the truth has finally come out but it grieves me that my poor lad could still have been with us now.’
He said his ex-wife Jennifer, who died several years ago, was ‘hit hard’ by the tragedy and they split up. Dr Peter Reading, of Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust, said: ‘We hope that this new inquest verdict brings the family some closure.’
TV detective joins hunt for man missing for 28 years after walking into public toilet
EXCLUSIVE: Charles and Doris Clark are being investigated over the death of son Steven who vanished in 1992 and are helping Mark Williams-Thomas with a new ITV documentary
- 22:54, 14 DEC 2020
- Updated08:48, 15 DEC 2020
The elderly couple arrested on suspicion of murdering their son are working with a former detective on a TV documentary about the case. Charles and Doris Clark are helping Mark Williams-Thomas while under investigation in connection with the death of their son Steven. The 23-year-old mysteriously vanished on December 28, 1992, after going into a public toilet in Saltburn, North Yorks, while his mum was in the ladies. Doris, 82, was spotted filming last month close to the spot where Steven went missing. Both she and husband Charles, 78, were due to answer bail on Sunday but were released under investigation by Cleveland Police after their arrest in September. They deny any wrongdoing and are trying to solve the mystery of their son’s disappearance. Mr Clark, like his wife a former police officer, confirmed they agreed to do an ITV documentary. He told the Mirror: “We have no evidence at all of Steven being dead. I think he is alive so let’s look for him. He went for a walk on the beach and was then seen two or three days later by a lot of people. He was alive in Redcar days later, from the police statements (at the time).”
Asked if he thought it was unusual to film a TV documentary while under investigation for murder, he laughed, adding: “We did not seek legal advice at all. We are looking for Steven. He is missing. They are putting a TV documentary together to find him, and I don’t know any more than that.”
ITV and Mr Williams-Thomas were approached for comment. The Clarks still live in the home in Marske-by-the-Sea three miles from Saltburn which they shared with their son. A mystery letter writer who named Steven’s “killer’” in a 1999 message to police came forward after the Mirror published extracts for the first time last month. One witness has come forward to say that she saw him close to his family home, two hours after he was reported missing. Steven was described as having a “distinctive” gait after a car accident had left him with a limp.
‘My little boy died on Christmas in his festive pyjamas just three years after his brother’
Stephanie and Adam Curry’s first son lived for just 40 minutes, and the couple faced a second tragedy when their little boy, Teddy, died on Christmas Day last year.
By Ann Cusack & Zoe Forsey Lifestyle Editor
- 13:43, 1 DEC 2020
Stephanie and Adam Curry’s world fell apart when their gorgeous little boy, Louis, died in December 2016.
Then just three years later, on Christmas Day last year, they had to say goodbye to their two-year-old son, Teddy, as he lost his battle with a rare genetic condition.
The brave little boy was wearing his new Christmas pyjamas when he died in his heartbroken mum’s arms. Stephanie, a 34-year-old nurse, says: “Teddy was born one year after Louis, both boys were born just before Christmas and Teddy died at Christmas. “It gives me great comfort to know that my boys are together now. Before his death, Teddy completed a bucket list, which included a visit to Santa, a paddle in the sea, trick a treating, pumpkin picking, and visiting Blackpool lights.”
Adam and Stephanie met 14 years ago and were delighted when she fell pregnant in 2016 with their first child. The pregnancy went well but at 20 weeks the scan showed their baby had excess fluid around his brain. Tests showed he had the most severe form of spina bifida and they were advised to end the pregnancy. After much agonising, they opted for a compassionate miscarriage at 21 weeks, on December 4 2016. Stephanie, from Liverpool, says: “I had to take a tablet and I went into labour. We were heartbroken. We didn’t want our boy to suffer any longer and it seemed like the kindest choice. It took three days for the baby to be born and it was horrendous.”
Baby Louis lived for 40 minutes. The couple had the chance to baptise him and say goodbye. Stephanie says: “The coroner insisted on a full inquest for Louis which was very harrowing.”
The couple were anxious to try for another baby but were warned the chances of another baby with spina bifida were dramatically increased. Stephanie fell pregnant in March 2017. Scans showed no problems at all and the couple were hugely relieved. Baby Teddy was born on December 7, 2017 almost exactly a year after his big brother, Louis. Stephanie says: “I had a water birth and it was lovely, so peaceful. We couldn’t wait to meet our baby.”
Baby Teddy at first appeared perfectly healthy but medics quickly realised he was struggling to maintain his temperature and he was rushed to special care. Though he was allowed home, five days on, his problems continued. Stephanie says: “Teddy’s development was slower than other babies and we were worried about him. But the doctors told us not to worry, that it might not be anything serious. We were in denial too; we didn’t want to see the problems. We had lost one baby and we wanted everything to be OK this time. He was a lovely little boy, we adored him, and we just wanted to be parents.”
In July 2018, Teddy was diagnosed with peroxisomal disorder, a rare genetic, metabolic condition. His devastated parents were told he was deaf and was also losing his sight. Stephanie says: “We were heartbroken. We didn’t know how long Teddy would live but we knew he wouldn’t make it to adulthood.”
Determined to make the most of their time, Adam and Stephanie embarked on a bucket list of adventures for their little boy, which included paddling in the sea, riding a donkey, having his face painted, seeing Father Christmas, watching a Liverpool FC game, visiting the Blackpool lights, trick a treating, and bouncing on a bouncy castle. Teddy attended Liverpool v Newcastle on Boxing Day 2018 with his family where he met Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold. Stephanie says: “Teddy was a lovely, smiley little boy. He loved all the attention and he really cheered people up, wherever he went. He was full of mischief and brought such light and happiness for us. He loved listening to classical music and also to whistling! I downloaded the world whistling championships onto my phone so we could play it for him wherever we went.”
But during 2019, Teddy began suffering seizures and his health deteriorated. In December he was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties but was allowed home again on Christmas Eve. Stephanie says: “Teddy loved Christmas because of the lights and the fuss; he liked anything sensory because he could sense the lights despite his blindness. We had put up a tree and we bought him lots of presents. We also booked a holiday for him, but we knew the end was coming. We had been to see Santa and had bought Christmas pyjamas for Teddy to match with his cousins. On Christmas Eve, Teddy slept with us and Adam and I took it in turns to watch over him.”
On Christmas Day, at lunchtime, Teddy died in his mother’s arms wearing his Christmas pyjamas. Stephanie says: “Teddy opened his eyes and looked at us both for the last time. And then, very peacefully, he passed away. It was totally heart-breaking but also we knew that his struggle was at an end.”
Teddy’s funeral was held on January 3 this year, where his parents chose ‘How Long Will I Love You,’ and ‘Lullaby’, and Stephanie also wrote a poem.
Horror blaze that killed four children was caused by fumes from discarded cigarette
Riley Holt, 8, Keegan Unitt, 6, Tilly Rose Unitt, 4, and Olly Unitt 4, all died in the fire in Stafford last February, and an inquest was told their parents had been smoking in bed despite a warning from social services
By Kathie McInnes
- 16:03, 12 NOV 2020
- Updated16:06, 12 NOV 2020
A fire which killed four young children was caused by fumes from a discarded cigarette, an inquest into their deaths heard. Siblings Riley Holt, 8, Keegan Unitt, 6, Tilly Rose Unitt, 4, and Olly Unitt, 3, were all killed in the horrific blaze in Stafford, on February 5 last year, Stoke on Trent Live reports. Their mum and dad Natalie Unitt and Christopher Moulton were initially arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence. But police later confirmed no further action was being taken against them after a file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. The blaze was likely to have started in the main bedroom, an investigation by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service found. The couple disputed the experts’ conclusions at the coroner’s court hearing on Thursday. But they admitted they had both been smoking in bed, despite a previous warning from social care services. This then caused a ‘flashover’, with everything in the master bedroom becoming alight before spreading to the landing. The parents said they had woken up to discover the fire, with Ms Unitt describing the first thing she was aware of was a ‘heaviness’ in her chest. “I still have nightmares about it now,” she said.
But she told the inquest she could not recall exactly what had happened as she had been suffering post-traumatic stress since then. Mr Moulton said he was unable to reach the four children sleeping in other bedrooms, and suffered serious burns to his hands during the fire. Their youngest child, aged two at the time, survived the fire as he had been sleeping near his parents. The couple told the inquest they had escaped via their bedroom window. Police and fire investigators noted there were discrepancies in the parents’ accounts, in relation to each other and to the evidence found at the scene. West Midlands Fire Service’s Leigh Richards said he believed the fire started with a discarded cigarette on the bed. Mr Richards suggested Ms Unitt had gone downstairs to get water to throw on the fire, but was unable to get back up to the bedrooms. He said she appeared to have escaped via a downstairs door. South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh recorded a narrative conclusion, saying it was due to fumes from the fire caused by unextinguished cigarettes. Describing the deaths as a “tragedy”, he added: “My hope is the children died quite peacefully in their beds.”
Georgia Tann Abducted Children And Sold Them To Celebrities And Pedophiles, Making Millions
People | November 8, 2019
Have you ever wondered why someone would get it into their head to steal babies and flip them like so many houses?
Well, you’re in luck, friend. Buckle up, and hold onto your babies, because it’s time to learn about Georgia Tann: pianist, social worker, and baby-napping enthusiast. You might call her a triple threat.
Cue Georgia’s Birth
Beulah George “Georgia” Tann was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and by all accounts, was not baby-napped. Wouldn’t that be a great origin story?
In flat reality, however, Tann was raised by her father, Judge George Tann, and her mother, Beulah Yates. Judge Tann was hellbent on Georgia playing the piano, and play she did, right through college, despite her apparent loathing of the forced musical rigor. Allegedly, she had aspirations toward law, but her father discouraged her on the sound basis that chicks can’t argue well. Apparently a bit of a masochist as well as a sadist, Tann nonetheless majored in music and graduated with a degree from Martha Washington College in 1913. Though she took and passed the bar exam, she ultimately studied social work at Columbia University for two summers. Once Tann had finished her education, she finally unleashed all the fury that only years of mandatory piano lessons can give a person. By 1924, she got into human trafficking. What, were you expecting a scene phase?
The Worse-Than-A-Scene Phase
In 1922, Tann began working at the Mississippi Children’s Home Society, but she got fired for “dubious child-placing practices” that official documents alarmingly don’t elaborate. Following this termination, she and her “gal pal,” Ann Atwood, packed up and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Tann became Executive Secretary at the Shelby branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, who apparently didn’t believe in background checks. At the time, adoption was not popular or chic, and even worse for someone like Tann, it was not lucrative. You could adopt yourself a brand new baby to the tune of just $7 dollars, or a little over $100 in 2019 money. For perspective, you could buy one new iPhone, or you could buy eight babies. They were, shall we say, undervalued in the market. Tann saw that market, and she had a solution: arrange expensive out-of-state adoptions, skim off the top, and then literally shred the evidence. Foolproof! The only problem, at that point, was procuring enough marketable babies. It seems that Memphis simply didn’t produce enough orphans for Tann’s liking, and there were only so many she could coerce from poor families, so she started straight-up stealing them. Think your child is safe in the hospital?
Nope: Nurses and doctors were in on it. What about at the park?
Wrong again they could be taken right off the playground. Have you just given birth and aren’t fully aware of your surroundings due to, you know, giving birth?
Tough luck; you’ve just been baby-napped. It’s estimated that Tann was responsible for trafficking more than 5,000 children throughout 48 states. Most of these children were placed with affluent families in New York and California, and some of these rich parents were even celebrities, including Joan Crawford, Mary Pickford, Ric Flair, and Herbert Lehman. (Don’t worry: There’s no reason to think Tann’s clients knew the children they adopted were kidnapped, so you’re free to continue enjoying the Golden Age of Hollywood.) If you were lucky, you were placed with a wealthy family that was stable, sane, and even loving. If you were unlucky, your experience ran the gamut from being returned to the orphanage to plain, old death. Yes, seriously.
Speaking of Death
Tann didn’t immediately place all these babies into the semi-capable arms of the semi-affluent. Between the stealing and the selling, she had to put them somewhere. That place was Tennessee Children’s Home Society, where they were subjected to neglect that included the denial of medication and food your basic kids-definitely-need-it stuff. Many of the children were also straight-up abused, sometimes sexually, sometimes by Tann herself, having apparently looked in the mirror and thought “Nope needs to be more cartoon-villainy.”
According to one report, the children were “dropping like flies” about 500 flies, to be exact. More of a swarm, really. You might think that surely, these many children weren’t disappearing without consequence, but alas, gentle reader, they were. Thanks to her lucrative scheme, Tann was friends with quite a few of the well-to-do around Memphis, including Judge Camille Kelley and Mayor E. H. “Boss” Crump, and it’s not like the kind of person who’s willing to sell children is above a little bribery. Ever the ambitious sort, Tann even used her “success” to befriend Eleanor Roosevelt, though it’s doubtful that the first lady knew of Tann’s affinity for infanticide.
Okay, But How Much Did She Make?
As mentioned, adoptions in Tennessee at the time went for about $7 a (mom and) pop, and Tann decided to up that a bit. She charged for background checks that she didn’t do, documents that she didn’t file, inflated travel expenses, and for some older prospective parents, essentially for the privilege of getting to adopt anyone at all. She padded the bill so heavily that she made over $1 million peddling children. It’s really an appropriate word: She put ads in the paper captioned like Kewpie dolls, which no doubt appealed to the pedophiles she sometimes worked with when she couldn’t land a celebrity. The most marketable children?
Blue-eyed blondes. Despite making all this paper, she did very little of the actual paperwork. On top of that, she practiced exclusively closed adoptions. That means no information about the birth parents to anyone, and no information about the children to anyone, either. It’s a license to keep people in the dark, and if Tann’s enthusiasm for shredding is any indication, keeping people in the dark was the name of the game. In fact, at the time, Tann was viewed as a sort of champion of orphaned children. She made adoption more commonplace, and her insistence on placing children with well-to-do families meant that adoption became associated with the upper class. In other words, she put adoption in vogue. That’s how she managed to make the acquaintance of the first lady: She had become a small-time celebrity humanitarian, at least until people found out about all of the kidnappings and killings. That put a bit of a damper on her new friendships.
Did they get away with it, Scoob?
Pretty much, in the sense that no one went to jail. Tann died of uterine cancer three days before the state filed charges against the society. It’s rather poetic for a woman who was responsible for the deaths of so many children to die from her womb, but it can’t beat the regular ol’ justice system. Speaking of the justice system, that judge never did time, either. A handful of children have managed to get in touch with their birth parents, but thanks to Tennessee’s closed adoption laws and Tann’s shredding habit, many of the trails have long since gone cold. In 2015, a memorial to Tann’s hundreds of victims was placed in Memphis’s Elmwood Cemetery, where 19 of the unnamed children are buried. If you’re hoping that number is so low because the rest of the victims were identified and returned to their families to be laid to rest, we’re sorry to disappoint you one final time: Their bodies were simply never recovered. Sleep tight!
Celebrities open up about their harrowing miscarriages and devastation at losing a baby
Lacey Turner, Jane Danson, Izzy Judd and Natasha Kaplinsky have all suffered heartbreaking miscarriages – here, they bravely tell their stories
By Amanda Evans
- 17:02, 14 OCT 2020
- Updated17:10, 14 OCT 2020
Dealing with the heartbreak and trauma of losing a pregnancy is a grief that never leaves you. And it’s more common than many think with around one in four pregnancies in the UK ending in miscarriage. A new Channel 5 documentary Miscarriage: Our Story, on tomorrow looks at several raw and personal accounts of men and women who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy. The show also tells the stories of celebrities who open up about their own heartbreaking experiences of miscarriage.
Lacey Turner, EastEnders actress
Eastenders star Lacey was 29 and seven weeks pregnant when she suffered her first miscarriage. She had started bleeding heavily and suffered stomach cramps. Lacey, who plays Stacey Slater in the BBC soap explained: “In my gut I knew it wasn’t right.”
Adding: “I went back to work the next day, carried on like nothing had happened, which actually makes me really sad now looking back. I was probably walking around feeling so heartbroken yet nobody would have had a clue. There’s this whole taboo about not speaking about pregnancy and keeping it a secret until your 12 weeks and we sort of said it’s so early so don’t tell anybody.”
Having a baby was important for her and her husband Matt, who she married in 2017 and the pain of losing a much wanted child was heartbreaking. “I just felt so empty. I’ve gone from being so excited and we waited so long for this baby to feeling numb I guess.”
Lacey fell pregnant again. She said: “We got to seven weeks again and the same thing happened and it was so much worse than the last time. It was so much more blood. “I was so stressed out because we found out that there was still a tiny bit of the foetus left stuck in the lining of the cervix so therefore you can’t try again but I mean we’re talking about something that is the size of a grain of rice and I think for us that was really horrible because I felt like there’s still a bit of this baby stuck inside me and you know you just want it out.”
Finally after four months, she had an operation to remove the fetal tissue.
Lacey then fell pregnant again but as before, she started to bleed again seven months into her pregnancy. She explained: “I was sitting at home on Sunday and I started bleeding so I was like oh here we go again.”
Her doctor carried out a scan and told her the baby was still there but that he was prescribing her progesterone as her levels were low. Lacey said: “Right up until the end I thought until I have the baby in my hands and she’s breathing and alive and kicking then I can’t relax.”
Their baby girl, Dusty, was born in July 2019. Lacey and Matt are also expecting another child due in February. She said: “I feel so lucky to have her really. She’s changed our lives in so many ways. I feel a bit emotional. She’s incredible she really is.”
Lacey, 32, feels strongly that miscarriage should be talked about openly. She said: “Had I opened my mouth and asked someone a simple question of have you ever experienced anything like that I would have known that actually I would have had a handful of people to speak to and I wouldn’t have been lonely at all.”
Jane Danson, Coronation Street actress
Jane married actor Robert Beck in 2005 and they have two sons, Harry and Sam, but when she fell pregnant for a third time there was heartbreak for the couple. Jane explained: “I was actually folding clothes up for a friend who was pregnant at the time and it just said kind of a bit sad to put these away and my husband just said ‘well, you know if we get pregnant again we’ll just buy some more’ and I thought OK, so that obviously promoted a conversation and then quite soon afterwards we found out that we were pregnant for the third time so we were obviously really happy.”
The couple weren’t prepared for what they would be told at the 12 week scan. Jane said: “I remember lying down and she said, I won’t turn the screen around but don’t be worried, and then the room went really quiet. I just had a feeling, I knew something wasn’t right. And I remember she said you are pregnant, and that’s when my heart just sank because I knew that it had probably gone wrong, or the baby had died. Then they confirmed that that was it. but she didn’t turn the screen around, and I always remember this. She didn’t and I just wanted to see it, whatever stage it was at. i just wanted to see”
It took Jane three years to fully open up about how she was feeling. She said: “I don’t know why it just festered and lingered for a long time and I couldn’t find the words. I suppose for somebody who never stops talking it’s quite unusual for me.”
Well meaning people would tell her not to worry as she already had two children. Jane said: “Of course they’re my worlds and of course it goes without saying but at the same time I just felt I know but I wanted that baby. I wanted that baby as much as my other children.”
Natasha Kaplinsky, journalist and broadcaster
Natasha met her husband Justin at an awards ceremony and they married in 2005. After focusing for so long on her career, starting a family was a priority for the couple. After falling pregnant, Natasha was having her scan when she saw the crestfallen look on the sonographer’s face. She said: “He just said ‘I’m so sorry would you like some time to yourself’. It just took me ages to understand that he meant that the pregnancy wasn’t going to work and then he left me in the room with Justin and it just kind of sunk in that actually that excitement was just for nothing.”
The devastating news floored Natasha, who had longed so much for a baby. She said: “Just that sense of being a barren woman.That’s what haunted me, that I was never going to be able to make him a father. It just broke my heart.”
Natasha was referred to the recurrent miscarriage clinic at Saint Mary’s Hospital in London. The 48-year-old went on to have two children, Arlo and Angelica. She said: “After all the sadness and the fear I just couldn’t believe that there had been this miracle. Any baby is a miracle anyway but for me it just felt like this was the most monumental miracle that these two babies were in our lives.”
Izzy Judd, musician and writer
Izzy and husband Harry, a drummer with McFly, started trying for a family three or four months after they got married. Izzy suffered with polycystic ovaries which make it difficult to conceive naturally, the couple decided to try IVF. After falling pregnant, their dreams were soon shattered. She explained: “It was Christmas Day night and I woke up it must have been about three-o’clock in the morning and there was just a really little bit of light coming through the curtains and I went to the loo and it was just like a horror scene just this bright red and the physical sensation of having a miscarriage of actually passing a baby even at seven weeks and three days it was. I’ll never forget that that physical feeling. It just fell and I just knew and I couldn’t look I just didn’t I just remember shouting to Harry it’s gone we’ve lost the baby.”
Izzy was devastated and the pain deepened when she saw families out with buggies or saw pictures of babies in magazines. She said: “You can’t help but feel responsibility you can’t help but think what if I can’t give Harry a family. What if I can’t give his mum and dad grandchildren. My parents randchildren.”
On her second IVF attempt in 2015 is he became pregnant again and gave birth to daughter Lola in January 2016. Izzy explained: “She was in my arms and it was just so ,surreal and magical and terrifying all at once.”
The couple went on to have a son kit in 2017.
- Miscarriage: Our Story will be broadcast on Channel 5 at 10pm on Thursday 15th October, and coincides with International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
- Miscarriage Association offers support and information to anyone affected by the loss of a baby in pregnancy. Call 0192 4200 799
On the 21st September was Chloe’s, my great niece, first birthday is heaven. Her life with my family was very short yet she is still very much alive which some people may think is a strange thing to write. We know we can’t physically have her with us but we don’t want to let the memory of Chloe to fade. Her brothers and cousins understand this, one of my nieces has told me that her middle daughter sometimes sings Twinkle, Twinle Little Star to Chloe which I think is amazing for such a young child.
‘Nanna’ (my sister) has a little ‘Chloe garden’ and the children like putting different things there. Katie and Mark, Chloe’s parents have a ‘Chloe shelf’ for stuff that family have bought which is perfect. We bought a bracelet for Katie and an angel with a yellow flower in it – they don’t expect it but it’s our way of showing love and that we also want to keep Chloe’s memory alive.
I know I can’t begin to understand what Katie is going through so I draw from my experience of forced adoption. It doesn’t even get anywhere near to her lose but I do understand losing my baby. I found him so at least I know he is alive,
It’s that time of year that is sad for our family. On my husband’s side it’s just been the 7th anniversary of a niece and nephew in law’s middle son being stillborn and later this month it will be the 1st anniversary of a niece and nephew in law’s second child’s, a daughter, death. Toby died by the 36 week of pregnancy but they chose to go full term so she could still pick up their eldest son. Chloe had Edward’s Syndrome / Trisomy 18 where only 5% of babies reach early adulthood. She survived a day but of course it doesn’t make it any easier for the family. Both are remembered with love and as a Christian I know they are both in heaven, both are healthy and both are happy.
As a Christian I can ‘say’ all the right things yet it still hurts and I understand why people don’t understand how a good, kind, loving God allows babies to die. My sister and I have talked about this – she isn’t a Christian – and I have been honest that I struggle trying to understand why God allows this. What I do know is He gives me the strength to do the best I can to be supportive even though I don’t understand what it’s like to lose a baby. The nearest I can to understanding is losing the battle to keep my son due to illegal adoption. My son is still alive but I didn’t ‘get’ my baby back, I found an adult.
Nobody can understand the profound loss of a baby unless they have been through it. Adoption is a limbo as the mother ‘loses’ her baby, it’s not common to get her baby back and at best she will know her child is alive. Anything more than that is a bonus.
What happens if your unborn baby dies – Stillbirth
Your baby’s wellbeing will be monitored during your antenatal appointments, so any problems will usually be picked up before labour starts.
Confirming the baby has died
If it’s suspected your baby may have died, a midwife or doctor might initially listen for the baby’s heartbeat with a handheld Doppler device. You’ll also be offered an ultrasound scan to check your baby’s heartbeat.
Sometimes a mother may still feel her baby moving after the death has been confirmed. This can happen when the mother changes position. In this case, the mother may be offered another ultrasound scan.
Finding out your baby has died is devastating. You should be offered support and have your options explained to you. If you’re alone in hospital, ask the staff to contact someone close to you to come in and be with you.
Before the birth, a person with skills and experience with parents who have lost a baby should be available to talk with you about whether you would like to see a photograph of your baby, have a memento such as a lock of hair, or see or hold your baby.
Giving birth if your baby has died
If a woman’s baby dies before labour starts, she will usually be offered medicine to help induce labour. This is safer for the mother than having a caesarean section.
If there’s no medical reason for the baby to be born straightaway, it may be possible to wait for labour to begin naturally. This decision doesn’t usually need to be made immediately, and it may be possible to go home for a day or two first.
In some cases, medicine that prepares a woman’s body for the induction process may be recommended. This medication can take up to 48 hours to work.
While waiting for labour to begin naturally, regular blood tests are needed after 48 hours.
Waiting for natural labour increases the chance of the baby deteriorating in the womb. This can affect how the baby looks when she or he is born and can make it more difficult to find out what caused the death.
If the health of the mother is at risk, labour is nearly always induced using medicine. This may be done immediately if:
- the mother has severe pre-eclampsia
- the mother has a serious infection
- the bag of water around the baby (the amniotic sac) has broken
Labour can be induced by inserting a pessary tablet or gel into the vagina, or by swallowing a tablet. Sometimes, medicine is given through a drip into a vein in the arm.
After the baby is stillborn
After a stillbirth, many parents want to see and hold their baby. It’s entirely up to you whether you wish to do so. You’ll be given some quiet time with your baby if this is what you want.
You can also take photographs of your baby and collect mementos, such as a lock of hair, foot prints or hand prints, or the blanket your baby was wrapped in at birth.
If you’re not sure whether you want to take any mementos of your baby home, it’s usually possible for them to be stored with your hospital records. If your hospital doesn’t keep paper records, you may be given these mementos in a sealed envelope to store at home. This means you’ll be able to look at them if you ever decide you want to.
You may also want to name your baby, but not everyone does this and it’s entirely your choice.
Decisions about what to do after a stillbirth are very personal, and there’s no right or wrong way to respond.
After a stillbirth, your body may start producing breast milk, which can cause discomfort and distress. Medicines (dopamine agonists) can stop your breasts producing milk. They cause few side effects and may also help you feel better emotionally, but they aren’t suitable if you have pre-eclampsia.
Some mothers prefer to let their milk supply dry up without medication. Your doctor or midwife can discuss your options with you.
Finding the cause
You’ll be offered tests to find the cause of the stillbirth. You don’t need to have these, but the results may help to avoid problems in any future pregnancies.
The tests you’re offered may include:
- blood tests – these can show whether the mother has pre-eclampsia, obstetric cholestasis or, rarely, diabetes
- specialist examination of the umbilical cord, membranes and placenta – the tissues that attach you to your baby and support your baby in pregnancy
- testing for infection – a sample of urine, blood or cells from the vagina or cervix (neck of the womb) can be tested
- thyroid function test – to see whether the mother has a condition that affects her thyroid gland
- genetic tests – usually carried out on a small sample of umbilical cord, to determine whether your baby had problems such as Down’s syndrome
More in-depth tests can also be carried out on your baby to try to establish the cause of death or whether there are any conditions that might have contributed to it. This is called a post-mortem.
A post-mortem is an examination of your baby’s body. The examination can provide more information about why your baby died, which may be particularly important if you plan to become pregnant in the future.
A post-mortem can’t go ahead without your written permission (consent), and you’ll be asked if you want your baby to have one. The procedure can involve examining your baby’s organs in detail, looking at blood and tissue samples, and carrying out genetic testing to see whether your baby had a genetic disease.
The healthcare professional asking for your permission should explain the different options to help you decide whether you want your baby to have a post-mortem.
You’ll usually have a follow-up appointment a few weeks after you leave hospital to check your health, and discuss the post-mortem and test results (if carried out).
This appointment is also an opportunity to talk with your doctor about possible future pregnancies. Before attending your follow-up appointment, you may find it helpful to write down any questions you have for your doctor.
A stillbirth can be emotionally traumatic for both parents, as well as for other family members. Help and support is available.
You may be introduced to a bereavement support officer or a bereavement midwife. They usually work in hospitals or for the local council. They can help with any paperwork that needs to be completed and explain choices you can make about your baby’s funeral. They’ll also act as a point of contact for other healthcare professionals.
Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, provides support for anyone affected by the death of a baby. You can:
- call the Sands confidential helpline on 020 7436 5881 – 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, plus 6pm to 10pm Tuesday and Thursday
- email email@example.com
There are many other self-help groups in the UK for bereaved parents and their families. You can search for bereavement support services in your area.
These groups are usually run by healthcare professionals, such as baby-loss support workers or specialist midwives, and parents who have experienced stillbirth.
Some support groups are for women whose stillbirth has a specific cause. For example:
Edwards’ syndrome (trisomy 18)
Edwards’ syndrome, also known as trisomy 18, is a rare but serious condition.
Edwards’ syndrome affects how long a baby may survive. Sadly, most babies with Edwards’ syndrome will die before or shortly after being born.
A small number (about 13 in 100) babies born alive with Edwards’ syndrome will live past their 1st birthday.
Cause of Edwards’ syndrome
Each cell in your body usually contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry the genes you inherit from your parents.
A baby with Edwards’ syndrome has 3 copies of chromosome number 18 instead of 2. This affects the way the baby grows and develops. Having 3 copies of chromosome 18 usually happens by chance, because of a change in the sperm or egg before a baby is conceived.
Your chance of having a baby with Edwards’ syndrome increases as you get older, but anyone can have a baby with Edwards’ syndrome. The condition does not usually run in families and is not caused by anything the parents have or have not done.
Speak to a GP if you want to find out more. They may be able to refer you to a genetic counsellor.
Types of Edwards’ syndrome
The symptoms, and how seriously your baby is affected, usually depend on whether they have full, mosaic, or partial Edwards’ syndrome.
Full Edwards’ syndrome
Most babies with Edwards’ syndrome have an extra chromosome 18 present in all cells. This is called full Edwards’ syndrome.
The effects of full Edward’s syndrome are often more severe. Sadly, most babies with this form will die before they are born.
Mosaic Edwards’ syndrome
A small number of babies with Edwards’ syndrome (about 1 in 20) have an extra chromosome 18 in just some cells. This is called mosaic Edwards’ syndrome (or sometimes mosaic trisomy 18).
This can lead to milder effects of the condition, depending on the number and type of cells that have the extra chromosome. Most babies with this type of Edward’s syndrome who are born alive will live for at least a year, and they may live to adulthood.
Partial Edwards’ syndrome
A very small number of babies with Edwards’ syndrome (about 1 in 100) have only a section of the extra chromosome 18 in their cells, rather than a whole extra chromosome 18. This is called partial Edwards’ syndrome (or sometimes partial trisomy 18).
This type of Edwards’ syndrome is more likely if 1 parent has a small change in their chromosomes. Blood samples are often requested from both parents to check for this and to help them understand the chance of it happening in future pregnancies.
How partial Edwards’ syndrome affects a baby depends on which part of chromosome 18 is present in their cells.
What it’s like to have Edwards’ syndrome
Edwards’ syndrome affects everyone differently.
All babies born with Edwards’ syndrome will have some level of learning disability.
They may also have a wide range of physical symptoms, which can be very serious. They may have heart, respiratory, kidney or gastrointestinal conditions.
Babies with Edwards’ syndrome will have a low birthweight.
Despite their complex needs, children with Edwards’ syndrome can slowly start to do more things.
Like everyone, children with Edwards’ syndrome have:
- their own personalities
- things they like and dislike
- things that make them who they are
Older children with Edwards’ syndrome will probably need to attend a specialist school.
Screening for Edwards’ syndrome
Women who are pregnant with 1 or 2 babies are offered screening for Edwards’ syndrome between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. This looks at the chance of their baby or babies having the condition.
Read more about screening for Edwards’ syndrome at 10 to 14 weeks.
If it is not possible to measure the fluid at the back of your baby’s neck, or you are more than 14 weeks pregnant, you will be offered screening for Edwards’ syndrome as part of your 20-week scan. This is sometimes known as the mid-pregnancy scan. In is an ultrasound scan that looks at how your baby is growing.
Screening cannot identify which form of Edwards’ syndrome your baby may have, or how it will affect them.
Read more about the 20-week scan.
Diagnosing Edwards’ syndrome during pregnancy
If the combined test shows that you have a higher chance of having a baby with Edwards’ syndrome, you will be offered a test to find out for certain if your baby has the condition.
This diagnostic test involves analysing a sample of your baby’s cells to check if they have an extra copy of chromosome 18.
There are 2 different ways of getting this sample of cells:
- chorionic villus sampling, which collects a sample from the placenta
- amniocentesis, which collects a sample of the amniotic fluid from around your baby
These are invasive tests that increase your chance of having a miscarriage. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
Results from the diagnostic test
A specialist doctor (obstetrician) or midwife will explain what the screening results mean and talk to you about your options.
This is a very difficult situation and it is normal to feel a whole range of emotions. It may help to talk to your doctor, partner, family and friends about what you are thinking and how you are feeling.
If you are told your baby has Edwards’ syndrome, either before birth or afterwards, you’ll be offered support and information.
You can visit the SOFT UK website for support and more information on Edwards’ syndrome, and to contact other families affected by the condition.
You can also contact Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC), which has information about screening tests and how you might feel if you are told your baby does have, or might have, a problem.
ARC has a helpline that can be reached on 0845 077 2290, or 0207 713 7486 from a mobile, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm. The helpline is answered by trained staff, who can offer information and support.
Read more about what happens if antenatal screening tests find something.
Diagnosing Edwards’ syndrome after birth
If doctors believe your baby has Edwards’ syndrome after they are born, a blood sample will be taken to see if there are extra copies of chromosome 18.
Treating Edwards’ syndrome
There is no cure for Edwards’ syndrome and managing the symptoms can be challenging. You are likely to need help from a wide range of health professionals.
Treatment will focus on the symptoms of the condition, such as heart conditions, breathing difficulties and infections. Your baby may also need to be fed through a feeding tube, as they often have difficulty feeding.
Depending on your baby’s specific symptoms, they may need specialist care in hospital or a hospice, or you may be able to look after them at home with appropriate support.
Advice for carers
Caring for a baby or child with Edwards’ syndrome can be very challenging. There is lots of support available to help you.
Your guide to social care and support provides lots of advice on how you can take time to look after yourself, including:
- keeping fit and healthy
- getting a break from caring
- getting legal support and advocacy
- taking care of your wellbeing
Information about your baby
If your baby is found to have Edwards’ syndrome before or after their birth, their clinical team will pass the information about them to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).
This helps scientists look for better ways to treat the symptoms of the condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.