'There are ways out' - Message from mother who had bleach poured on her by abusive husband who she feared would kill her
PUBLISHED: 08:00 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:17 21 February 2019
A Norwich woman had bleach poured on her genitals and feared her husband would kill her as he threatened to "take her jaw off" with a sledgehammer as part of a tirade of domestic abuse.
Kelly Watkins, 25, was one of two Norfolk women who featured in The Abused, on Channel 5, a documentary looking at the devastating impact of domestic abuse.
In the documentary, which aired on Wednesday, Kelly is heard to make a panicked call to police as her husband Keiron, 30, told her he wanted to “take her jaw off” with a sledgehammer.
Call handlers heard Kelly shouting at the father of her son “I told you to stay away from me” as they tried to reach her as quickly as possible, before she can be heard screaming.
Kelly met Keiron when she was just 19 and said she was “head over heels” in love with him at first.
But he began to control what she wore and who she spoke to.
She said: “He was very controlling. I wasn’t allowed to talk to my friends. I wasn’t allowed to wear certain thing.
“He kept accusing me of cheating on him and he thought I was sleeping with everyone.
“He destroyed me for a long time. I didn’t have any confidence, he literally knocked it out of me.”
An anonymous tip off had been made 11 weeks earlier but Kelly had been too scared to tell police her husband had been abusing her for months.
Instead she told them she had bumped her head, when in fact Keiron had punched her, strangled her to the point where she blacked out, and told her he was going to kill her - all in front of their two-year-old son Reggie.
“He just kept punching me in the face,” she said. “I had Reggie in my arms and I put him down and then he strangled me and I kept looking at my little boy.
“Then he let go. He called his brother to come and get Reggie so I could dig myself a grave. And he was actually going to do it.
“But I still lied to the police and took him back. I didn’t have the courage to speak up and say what he’d done.
“I thought they would take my little boy away.”
Eventually Kelly found the courage to tell the police, and in the documentary she is seen telling police at Earlham Police Investigation Centre what happened as she shakes and cries.
She told officers he tried to make her drink bleach and poured it on her genitals because she “needed to be cleaned”.
“I’m petrified of him,” she said. “He’d kill me, he’s already told me he would.”
At one point, Kelly took an overdose but instead of calling an ambulance Keiron attacked her again.
“I called the ambulance because he wouldn’t call one,” she said. “Later I found a message on his phone from one of his mates which read ‘You’d better give her one before she dies.’”
She said: “He’d laugh. That was the worst thing. He laughed about how scared he made me. They break you until you’re nothing.”
After Kelly told the police, she was given panic buttons and alarms to try and keep her safe at home.
But Keiron was not tracked down for three days, and in the meantime he called her 230 times in six hours, sent her threatening text messages, and messaging her from a fake Facebook account.
When he was arrested, he pleaded guilty to harassment and was sentenced to seven weeks in prison, but was released in three and continued to torment Kelly and went on the run when police tried to arrest him.
Appeals to track him down were published in this newspaper but while he was on the run for a month, he continued to threaten Kelly, but she refused to move house, saying she did not want to be driven out of her own home.
In one harrowing phone call, Kelly called police after getting off the bus from visiting her mother when Keiron confronted her.
As she desperately pressed her panic button she is heard screaming at him to stay away from her.
“I just didn’t want him near me or my little boy,” she said.
Keiron was eventually tracked down and footage showed a dramatic police chase as Watkins, driving a white van, speeds along Millennium Way in Lowestoft and tried to escape across a field towards the A47, before he tipped the van, and hid in a pond in a wooded area.
He was caught by police and pleaded guilty to control and coercion and two assaults and is currently serving 18 months in jail.
Speaking before he was convicted Kelly said she was worried in case he was found not guilty, and said she might as well kill herself if that happened or he would do it.
Police said they had been dealing with Watkins for a number of years. One officers said: “He is jealous, possessive, controlling.”
Kelly said: “It’s not just fear of the beatings it’s fear of what if they don’t believe you?”
Kelly said that by telling her story, she hoped to help others find the strength to leave.
“Leave, in any way you can,” she said. “If you can’t then message someone, let them know what’s going on. There are ways out.
“I don’t think I would be alive if I hadn’t got out. He would have killed me.
“If I can do it anyone can.”
The documentary also focused on a woman known only as Hazel, in Great Yarmouth, who had serious injuries at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Jason Charles.
Police track down Jason, who becomes aggressive, and Hazel told paramedics: “He said he wanted to do as much damage as he could.”
And a member of the ambulance crew who rushed to the scene said it was one of the worst cases of domestic abuse he had seen in recent years.
Hazel, 45, suffered bruising, two black eyes and well as a broken nose after Jason punched her and stamped on her head.
Driving around Great Yarmouth, a Norfolk police officers said he deals with a domestic violence call every day.
“When the police came in the look on their face said it all really, they were horrified,” Hazel said.
“They said it was a pure miracle I was not dead.”
Jason is seen being interviews at Great Yarmouth Police Investigation Centre, where he continues to answer “no comment” to every question, and he went on to plead not guilty to attacking Hazel but an attempted murder charge was dropped.
He was jailed for 27 months in November last year, but it emerged he also had served time for abusing an ex-girlfriend, which Hazel said if she had known she would have left him.
She said: “I really feel so passionate that every police officer in this country should be telling everyone about Claire’s Law.”
Clare’s Law gives any member of the public the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them, and was introduced after Claire Wood, 36, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009.
Hazel said the abuse had started slowly and said: “It’s a tragic thing, when you’re in love with someone you can’t always see the truth, you just hide it.
“When Jase does get released, whenever he does, I’m going to be terrified.”
Before Jason appears in court Hazel is seen discussing the case and telling police she does not want a screen in court, which would shield her from Jason’s view.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” she said. “Sometimes it takes someone to stand up so he doesn’t do it again.”
But she later decided she did want the screen because she feared she would be too intimidated otherwise, and she had been told to expect the jury to find Jason not guilty.
She said: “The longer he’s inside the better because he’s just going to do it again, I know he is.”
The 90-minute documentary, part of Channel 5’s Modern Britain series, has been praised by the government’s safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins for helping to “shine a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows”.
She said: “The stories shown are deeply harrowing and demonstrates the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on victims and their families. I commend the overwhelming bravery shown by those affected to reach out for help and the professionalism of the police.
“The programme displays the complex nature of domestic abuse and how we can all play a role to tackle this destructive crime. Through the landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill, published last month, the Government has set out a range of measures aimed at supporting victims and their families and pursuing offenders.
“We are absolutely committed to shining a light on domestic abuse to ensure this hidden crime does not remain in the shadows.”
Guy Davies, Channel 5 commissioning editor for factual programming, said: “As a public service broadcaster, it is important to raise awareness of important national issues.
“The domestic abuse and violence statistics are shocking, and we hope that The Abused highlights and informs audiences and government of the complexities surrounding domestic abuse, especially in light of the new proposed bill.”
T/Assistant Chief Constable Nick Davison from Norfolk Constabulary said: “Domestic abuse affects victims and families from all walks of life, it is not confined to particular social groups or communities and its impact can be devastating.
“The courage shown by Hazel and Kelly in allowing their story to be told is inspirational and should act as a lightning rod to all. Domestic abuse is sadly endemic in society.
“From the latest available information, ending in March 2018 the Office of National Statistics concluded that an estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16 to 59 experienced domestic abuse. Throughout the same year nationally the police recorded 1.1 million domestic abuse-related incidents. In Norfolk alone the police respond to 16,000 calls each year. That’s 43 domestic abuse calls every day.”
He added: “In recent years policing has worked hard to improve its response to domestic abuse and it is a priority for every chief constable and police and crime commissioner.
“That priority can be seen on the front line and the documentary shows Norfolk’s officers and staff working tirelessly to support Hazel and Kelly. “Policing alone, however will not solve domestic abuse. An integrated whole system and public health approach is required that focuses on effective interventions and prevention. Such an approach would call for a new style of public campaign which ensures clarity for all agencies in identifying, reporting and responding to abuse.”
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