Walking hand-in-hand through town with my boyfriend Mathew, 20, a tap on my shoulder made me jump. ‘Alright guys,’ a voice called. It was James Canning, a friend of ours.
Turning to face him, I playfully jabbed him on the arm. ‘Don’t sneak up on people like that,’ I scolded. ‘Ah, sorry,’ he laughed. ‘I didn’t mean to scare you.’ I’d known James, 20, for just over a year and he was one of Mathew’s best mates.
He’d seemed like an okay guy but just lately, he’d been acting strange. ‘You know I could have you whenever I wanted,’ he said one day, when Mathew was out of earshot. ‘Whatever Mr ego,’ I laughed, brushing it off. ‘Mathew’s the boy for me.’ I told myself it was just banter.
Now, after chatting in town, Mathew and I headed over to his mum’s house for a takeaway. Afterwards, I dozed off on the sofa.Waking up a few hours later, I realised I’d missed the last bus home.
‘Damn it,’ I cursed, looking at the time. It was after 11pm, too late to call my parents. ‘Just text James,’ Mathew suggested. ‘He’ll let you crash at his.’ He only lived round the corner and I’d stayed there before. ‘As long as you don’t mind,’ I said.
Within minutes, James replied saying he was at his friend Jay’s flat. Heading over there, James let me in. Only once I was inside, I felt uneasy when I spotted a familiar face. It was Amy, a friend of Jay’s. She was known for her fiery temper and she didn’t seem happy to see me.
Perched on the end of the settee, I stayed quiet. As we sat in an awkward silence, James, Jay and Amy all pulled out their phones. They sniggered menacingly and it was clear they were texting each other.
‘Do you know Mathew’s been cheating on you?’ Amy smirked. ‘Whatever Amy,’ I snapped, instantly regretting it. ‘Are you calling me a liar?’ Amy fumed, edging closer towards me.
‘I know Matthew wouldn’t cheat on me,’ I said, calmly. I didn’t want to get into a fight. Amy’s face flushed crimson and her body began to shake. ‘You’ve got to the count of three to get out of this house or I’ll blow,’ she hissed.
Without saying a word, I got up and walked towards the door. All of a sudden, Amy was behind me. ‘I don’t want any trouble Amy,’ I said. ‘I just want to go home.’
‘I’m a mum,’ she said, her voice softening. ‘I can’t let you walk around the streets at this time. It’s not safe.’
‘A mum wouldn’t hold someone against their will,’ I stammered. With that, Amy flipped. Grabbing me by the shoulders, she slammed me against the wall and slapped me around the face.
‘Get back into that room,’ she raged. When I refused to move, she smashed her fist into my face. As I slumped to the floor, Amy climbed on top of me like a crazed animal.
I felt my nose crack and the taste of blood filled my mouth. ‘Stop Amy,’ I pleaded through tears. She ignored my cries and carried on. Grabbing me by the hair she dragged me back into the living room. She threw me down on the floor and spat in my face.
‘I’ll teach you to question my ability to be a mother,’ she snarled. I looked over to James and Jay for help, but they watched from the sofa and said nothing. Grabbing my phone out of my pocket, I tried to call Mathew, but Amy snatched it from my hand.
Ripping the back off, she pulled out the sim card and tore it in half. ‘You’re going nowhere,’ she spat. The venom in her voice made me shake with terror. My nightmare was only just beginning.
Over the next eight hours Amy, James and Jay put me through hell. After they’d beat me with an ashtray, they threw me against furniture before lashing me with a metal bike chain.
‘Get on the floor,’ James ordered. ‘Bark like the dog you are,’ he sneered. As I lay on the floor crying and wounded, James was standing over me. Unzipping his trousers, I cowered as warm urine dribbled down the back of my neck.
Then an excruciating pain burned my eyes as sticky lemon juice trickled into my eyes. In between beatings, I was made to scrub my blood off the floor and the walls. ‘Please stop,’ I begged exhausted. What had I done to deserve this?
Minutes felt like hours until I heard sirens in the distance. ‘If you scream I’ll kill you right here,’ Jay warned, peering outside. I thought about jumping from the window but we were 50ft up. Dying on the way down would be better than this…
Then I heard the three of them hatching a murderous plan. ‘We could get a van and abandon it in the middle of nowhere with her body in it,’ James said. ‘Or we could drive it into the river?’ Jay suggested.
They were talking about murder… my murder. Then, at around 9am, Amy called to her friend Rebecca. I listened as she described what they’d done to me.’We’ve got loads of videos and pictures,’ Amy bragged. ‘Do you fancy coming over to finish her off?’
‘I’ll be over shortly,’ I heard Rebecca say. Waiting for her to arrive, I tried to prepare myself for death. ‘I can’t be bothered to wait for Rebecca, let’s do it now,’ James said. ‘No,’ Amy said. ‘Let Rebecca have some fun.’
When Rebecca walked through the door she looked horrified. Her face flushed with fury when she saw me. ‘You’ve gone too far, Amy,’ Rebecca scolded . ‘Look at the state of her.’ Grabbing her phone, she punched in a number. ‘I need an ambulance,’ I heard her say.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and Amy, Jay and James didn’t argue. I wanted to cry out with relief, but I stayed silent, terrified Rebecca would change her mind. ‘You’d better tell the doctors you were attacked in the street,’ Amy warned me. ‘Let’s all go with her, so she doesn’t blab,’ James said.
At the hospital, I felt Jay’s eyes bore into me when the nurse asked what had happened. I clammed up, and stuck to their pack of lies. Then she asked them to leave the room and I broke down. ‘They did this to me,’ I cried.Finally, the truth was out.
My body was covered in cuts and bruises and I had a fracture in my elbow. I had eyes the size of golf balls. Amy, James and Jay were monsters. When my parents and Mathew saw me for the first time, they broke down. ‘What have those monsters done to you?’ my mum Dawn sobbed.
In September, Amy Gaines, 21, James Canning, 20, and Jay Blades, 20, got their comeuppance at Sheffield Crown Court. They pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and wounding. Amy and James were sentenced to five years in a Young Offender’s Institution and Jay was given four and a half years.
The court heard how they were overheard talking at the hospital, planning to delete the photos and videos from the night. Thankfully, they didn’t get the chance. The court was also told how James asked Amy to practice her martial arts on me as a ‘birthday treat.’
Now, I’m slowly beginning to rebuild my life. I spent the first eight weeks after the attack too terrified to leave the house. I suffer flashbacks and when I close my eyes at night, I see their faces. Mathew feels guilty for not being there when I needed him but it isn’t his fault. I fell into the hands of monsters.
I’ve been left with scars on my legs and a cyst in my eye. There’s a risk I could lose my sight. Now, all I can do is try and move forward with my life, and put this nightmare behind me. With Mathew by my side, and the support of my family, I won’t let them win.
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