October 2017

“The moment I forced my paedophile father to confess that he’d abused me”

The daughter of a convicted paedophile has claimed that her father also sexually abused her – as a four-year-old girl.

Former sales rep Robert Gaskell, 60, was jailed for ten years in June after three women, who cannot be named for legal reasons, revealed he had sexually assaulted them between 1973 and 1984.

Two of his victims were young girls when they were attacked, with one just nine years old.

Gaskell’s ex wife Mary Clare, 60, and their daughter Wendy Wilks, now 38, watched his sentencing from the public gallery at Manchester Crown Court.

The pair have now come forward to claim that Gaskell subjected Mary to violent domestic abuse and that Wendy was allegedly sexually abused at just four years old.

Both mother and daughter are convinced that there are many more victims of Robert Gaskell out there and now are urging for them to come forward.

This belief has prompted the women, who are from Burnage, south Manchester, to tell of their alleged abuse.

For Gaskell’s daughter Wendy, a manager at an energy company, the moment the verdicts came back she says was fraught with emotion.

By the time of Gaskell’s conviction, mother-of-one Wendy had not seen her biological father for 15 years, and her own mum, Mary, who has three children, had been divorced from him for more than three decades.

For a long time Wendy didn’t know why she wasn’t allowed to see him, but says she suffered from disturbing dreams.

It was only when she was 13 that Wendy says she understood what the dreams were about and she asked her mother why it was that she was never allowed to see her biological father.

The question forced Mary to unearth that when Wendy was four, she had confided in a relative that Gaskell had allegedly sexually abused her, using child-like but starkly obvious language.

The alleged revelation – back in 1984 – had come the day after Wendy was baptised.

For Mary, the awful revelation was a bolt from the blue – although she says she knew that Gaskell had a dark side.

Mary was just 14 when she met Robert Gaskell in 1972. He ‘seemed like a nice lad’, though she recalls that people who had been to Parrs Wood High School with him said he was ‘horrible’.

In time she understood exactly what it was they meant.

Mary said: If we played a game of darts he would always end up hitting me with a dart ‘accidentally’.

“If he was playing football anywhere near me he always ‘accidentally’ kicked the ball straight at me, usually straight into my face.

“On one occasion I ended up with a broken collarbone and a dislocated shoulder after a play fight. I put all these incidents down to immaturity, but I think, on reflection, he meant to hurt me and enjoyed it.”

By the time she was 17, Mary had married him.

Mary alleges his abuse of her took on all forms, including violence when she was pregnant, and in public.

Mary says that she endured the abuse for a long time – she was proud and as a young woman of Irish Catholic heritage, divorce was a matter of shame. “You put up and shut up” back then, Mary said.

Mary finally left him in 1982. The tipping point, she says, came when he came at her violently in the street, forcing her to run and to hide in a bin ‘like Top Cat’.

Still, despite the experiences Mary had endured, she ‘never thought that he would harm our baby’.

Looking back Mary claims that Wendy, their daughter, began to complain of soreness, and exhibited worrying behaviours like painting nursery pictures completely black.

Mary hadn’t reported the experiences of domestic abuse she alleges to police.

Mary recalls going to the council offices when she first tried to leave Gaskell, and being told to ‘go home and make a go of it’ by a clerk, who noted ‘you’re very well dressed and your children are beautifully clothed.’

When Wendy said she was being abused, Mary rang police straightaway – and to her relief Gaskell was arrested and charged with indecency offences.

On the day of that trial, back in 1984, Mary was due to give evidence and so wasn’t allowed inside the courtroom as the preliminaries were dealt with. She was told to go for lunch, but when she returned there were two burly police officers outside the courtroom.

‘It’s all over now – it’s done’, Mary alleges they said and that he had got off on a ‘technicality.’

Court notes from the time reveal how Gaskell’s trial had collapsed because interview procedures had not been properly followed, and so disclosures he made under questioning were inadmissible in court.

Mary was absolutely ‘mortified’, but in time remarried and found happiness with her second husband, Ralph. Wendy struggled through adolescence however.

Wendy was in her twenties when Gaskell got back in touch. And she decided to start seeing him again, leaving her mother Mary bereft at the idea that they were developing a father-daughter relationship.

The worry prompted Mary to write to her local newspaper in 2000, urging them to ‘name and shame’ paedophile