Watching my daughter Amy twirling around on her tip toes, I felt a rush of love. We were out buying new shoes and Amy, 6, had her eye on a pair of sparkly pink pumps.
‘Please can I have these mummy?’ she pleaded, putting on her sweetest voice. ‘Oh, go on then,’ I said, ruffling her long brown hair. The youngest of my four children, Amy had me wrapped around her little finger. She was a real girly girl, and loved sparkle and glitter.Her bedroom drawers were stuffed full with princess outfits, and she played for hours with her dolls.
Three years older, Amy adored her protective big brother Tom. They went to the same school and they were as thick as thieves. Picking them up one day a few week’s on, Amy was her usual chirpy self. ‘What do you both fancy for tea tonight?’ I asked on the bus home. ‘Pizza and chips!’ they replied. Amy’s favourite. ‘Can we play out on our bikes tonight?’ she asked, as I unlocked the front door. It was March, and because the nights were lighter I liked them out in the fresh air. As long as Tom went out too. Amy dashed upstairs to change and minutes later she appeared wearing her new pink pumps. ‘Wouldn’t trainers be better?’ I smiled, as she and Tom jumped on their bikes.
Before I had time to argue, they’d pedalled away. ‘Make sure you stay in the street, and keep on the pavements,’ I called after them. ‘I’ll shout you when tea’s ready.’ We’d moved into the street four years earlier, and I knew most of the neighbours. In the kitchen, I grabbed a pizza from the freezer. But just as I was putting it in the oven, I heard Tom’s voice. ‘Can we have some sweets mum?’ he asked.’No love, tea is almost ready,’ I tutted, expecting to see Amy behind him. When I saw she wasn’t with him, I was puzzled.
‘Where’s your sister?’ I asked. ‘Go and tell her it’s time to come in.’ A few minutes later he was back but his face was drip white. ‘She’s not there mum,’ he spluttered, panic in his voice. ‘I can’t find her.’ Quickly grabbing my coat I ran into the street, yelling Amy’s name as the top of my voice. She knew never to go too far so where was she? Turning the corner, something laying on the path stopped me in my tracks. ‘Oh my god it’s Amy’s bike!’ I screamed, frantic. Hearing the commotion, neighbours came out of their houses. Soon, Amy’s name echoed round the street.
‘It’s all my fault mum, I shouldn’t have left her,’ Tom sobbed, as I hugged him tightly.
Then I ran back home, hoping I’d find Amy there playing with her Baby Annabell, wondering what all the fuss was about. ‘Amy! Amy!’ I yelled, but the house was silent. Suddenly, horrific images of Amy laying injured and alone somewhere flashed through my mind. Had someone taken my little girl? What if she was…dead. The seconds felt like hours, then came a knock at the door.
My heart pounded when I saw two police officers. ‘Somebody took your daughter,’ one explained. ‘But we’ve found her and she’s safe.’ ‘Thank god!’ I gasped. ‘I need to see her. Please take me to her,’ I begged, grabbing my bag. Amy had been missing for 30 minutes and I knew she’d be asking for me.
My heart sank when they said they needed to talk to Amy first. ‘They can’t think I had something to do with it, can they?’ I asked my boyfriend John. I paced the room as I waited for the police to call. Three hours later, I was finally allowed to see Amy at our local station. She ran straight into my arms. ‘It’s OK mummy, I’m safe now,’ she whispered, as I held her tightly. My eyes widened in horror as I listened to Amy talk about what happened. ‘A man took me mummy,’ she sobbed. ‘He put me in his car and then he threw me in a dustbin.’
I couldn’t take it in. Incredibly, Amy had managed to escape and had been found wandering the streets alone.
I felt sick, and when the police said Amy would need to be examined by a female doctor I knew what it meant.
Her ordeal was far from over. Later that night, she clung to me in bed. ‘What if that man comes back to take me?’ she sobbed. ‘What if he takes you too?’ ‘It’s ok,’ I soothed, stroking her face. ‘Mummy won’t let anybody hurt you.’ Amy drifted off to sleep while I lay awake, too frightened to take my eyes off her. I wouldn’t rest, until the police found whoever had done this.
Over the next few days, Amy refused to leave my side. She wasn’t interested in her toys, and my bright and happy little girl was quiet and sad. It was heartbreaking seeing her like that. Then the police called to say Amy’s abductor had been found. Her face lit up when I told her the news. ‘He’ll be going to prison for a very long time,’ I promised.
Last month (October) Imran Khan, 34, appeared at Burnley Crown Court. I felt anger as the court was told what he did to my little girl. Khan was prowling the streets in his black Vauxhall Astra, when he saw Amy riding her bike. He told Amy a ball was stuck beneath his car, and asked her to help him free it. As she crouched down to look, Khan bundled her into the boot of his car.
Chillingly, he drove four miles with Amy locked inside. Then, he pulled down the back seats and made her watch from the boot as he exposed himself.
Afterwards, he dumped Amy in a wheelie bin but somehow, she’d managed to free herself. I gasped when I heard how glitter from Amy’s pumps was found in the boot of Khan’s car.
Crucial evidence, along with fibres from her clothes. My mind flashed back to the day Amy was taken. Thank goodness I hadn’t made her change into her trainers,’ I told John.
When I heard that Amy wasn’t Khan’s first victim, I started shaking. In 2009, Khan had raped a 12-year-old girl.
Another innocent child like mine, who he’d taken from a street. He made my skin crawl. Just days before Amy’s kidnap, Khan had completed a year-long sexual offenders’ rehabilitation programme.
More proof that he was evil to the core. Khan admitted kidnap and committing an offence with the intent to commit a sexual offence.
He also pleaded guilty to breaching a sexual offences court order. Jailing Khan for life, the judge said how his crime was every parent’s worst nightmare. He also said how children should be free to play in the streets.I agree with every single word. Although Khan is behind bars, Amy still has nightmares.
She drew a picture recently of Khan’s car, with her and Tom sitting in the back. I’m on the outside, and there’s a man sitting in the front seat. Imagining the terror Amy must have felt breaks my heart. If only I’d have been there to protect her. Now, she’s scared of the dark and comes into my room in the early hours.
And if Tom asks her to play out, she won’t go further than the front yard. I’m too anxious to let her out of my sight. Khan has robbed my daughter of her freedom and I hope he’s rots in jail.
It’s where monsters like him belong.
* Names have been changed in this story except Imran Khan
We placed Jodie’s story in That’s Life magazine. If you’ve been the victim of a horrific crime and want to share your story contact us today through our homepage at www.sell-my-story.com