A woman who claims she suffered a catalogue of abuse at the hands of a couple in the 1970s reported it to police after watching a storyline on Home and Away, a court has heard.
The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police ‘something just clicked’ when she watched a character in the Australian daytime soap opera go through something similar to her.
Elsie Wheddon, 71, is accused of 13 counts of cruelty against three children, including the now grown-up woman, in Oxfordshire almost five decades ago.
She is accused of having participated in the physical violence against two girls and a boy by her then-husband Stephen Wheddon, who has since died.
Prosecutors say she also knew about, and failed to stop, her husband sexually assaulting the girls.
Elsie Wheddon, 71, is accused of 13 counts of cruelty against three children, including the now grown-up woman, in Oxfordshire almost five decades ago
Prosecutor Matthew Walsh told jurors at Oxford Crown Court that the three children were subjected to a catalogue of abuse while living with the Wheddons
Prosecutor Matthew Walsh told jurors at Oxford Crown Court that the three children were subjected to a catalogue of abuse while living with the Wheddons.
The children were said to have been locked in cupboards, had ‘rat-like creatures’ run over their bodies, threatened with guns, and beaten with a belt or punched.
Elsie Wheddon allegedly used one of the girl’s head ‘as a mop’ after the youngster urinated on the floor.
On another occasion, when both Elsie and Stephen were present, the same girl was ‘thrown in the bath in her nightie and dressing gown, pushed under so she could not breathe’, Mr Walsh told the jury.
The boy claimed to have been burnt with a cigarette lighter, leaving him with a mark on his back, then locked in the loft after he failed to heed an instruction not to cry, it was said.
Speaking in a video recorded interview, played to the jury earlier this week, one of the women told police: ‘It was like we was their personal punchbags. That’s what it feels like. I was their punchbag.’
Wheddon (pictured outside Oxford Crown Court), of Northend, Warwickshire, denies 13 counts of cruelty to a child under-16 years. The offences all date back to the 1970s
The second woman described being repeatedly molested by Stephen, telling a detective of hearing ‘the lock go’ on her bedroom door and the man entering the room.
She claimed he raped her twice. He was said to have called for his wife after injuring the girl and she bathed the child.
The woman said Mrs Wheddon told her husband after the second time: ‘You can’t do that no more.’
The prosecutor said that Mrs Wheddon, when interviewed by the police, said she thought she had treated the children well and denied the specific cruelty allegations.
She had not seen her ex-husband for ‘many years’ prior to his death.
Both female complainants suggested that Elsie was a ‘different person’ when around her husband.
In a written account of her ordeal, read back to her as she was on the witness stand today, one of the alleged victims, said: ‘It was just like living in a horror movie.
‘I did not know what was going on. I quite often used to wet myself on purpose.
‘I was always locked in the bedroom. I was very nervous, the hitting became more regular. I got hit every day.
‘The door was bolted – I would just curl up in a ball and hope I would be rescued.’
The woman said she was made to strip and run up and down the hallway while being hit.
‘It became just fun to them,’ she added.
‘They used to get their children to hit me as well.’
In one incident she had written about, she added: ‘I had just had a bath and was shouting, crying and shaking. I knew I was about to get a beating.
‘(The defendant) grabbed my hair and started to mop the floor with it where I had wet myself.
‘She wiped my face with it and threw me into a bath, put me under water.
‘I was fighting back but it was no use. I had no energy and totally relaxed my body. She was ducking me under the water and holding me there. My whole body went limp.’
The woman also recalled one incident where she alleges the defendant’s husband came to apologise for hitting her, before sexually abusing her.
The court heard she had written her life story but changed names and places as she had wanted her children to see it and understand after she had died.
She added: ‘I wanted my kids to realise they could break the circle, not be like any of them and can still be good.’
She also wrote a poem which finished with the line ‘I always knew one day I’d care.’
She told the court she meant this as ‘one day I’d be strong enough to tell someone what they did to me.’
Wheddon, of Northend, Warwickshire, denies 13 counts of cruelty to a child under-16 years. The offences all date back to the 1970s.
The trial continues.