A Brief History
On May 2, 2020, we look back to 2008, when a British man was convicted of the horrendous crime of incest with his 2 daughters, sexual unions (rapes actually) that resulted in the birth of 7 children! This domestic rapist kept up his sexual predation for a whopping 25 years before it was finally stopped, earning his sordid affair the nickname of “Sheffield incest case.”
The identity of this candidate for Bad Father of the Year has been concealed by the British courts in order to protect the privacy of both of his daughters and of their 7 children produced by the incest. Although sentenced to an imposing sounding 25 concurrent life in prison sentences, this sleaze will be eligible for release from prison in only 14 ½ years. Adding insult to injury to his victims, the convict’s original sentence would have kept him behind bars for a minimum of 19 ½ years, but that sentence was overturned on appeal. Why, you ask? Because it was ruled excessive!
The perpetrator of this family crime began his sexual predation when his daughters were only 8 and 10 years old, respectively. Their mother had already left the marriage, fleeing from the violent abuse she had endured. Using threats and beatings to terrorize his girls, the father used the flame of their stove to threaten the girls with burning. Of course, death threats against his daughters and their children were also used to coerce submission. In order to keep his activities secret, this miserable man moved his “family” often, keeping them in remote locations away from other people as much as possible. The rapes continued more or less every day to every other day and kept up while the girls were pregnant. One daughter would watch the children while the other was raped.
The incestuous rapes produced 7 living children, though there had been a total of 19 pregnancies. Two of the babies had died, 5 pregnancies were “terminated” and there were 5 miscarriages. The monstrous father forbade his daughters from using contraceptives or taking contraceptive pills.
Somehow, despite the bizarre circumstances the daughters had found themselves in, they developed relationships with men and from those partners built up the nerve to contact the authorities and accuse their father of his crimes. DNA testing proved the man had fathered his own children/grandchildren and led to his conviction in Sheffield Crown Court. The convicted rapist was 54 years old when convicted. Incredibly, the monster offered no apology and expressed no remorse for his actions!
As the extent of the ongoing crimes became clear to authorities, much hand wringing and wondering about how such activity could remain sub rosa for so long could happen. Schools, hospitals, and social services had all missed blatant clues that some sort of domestic abuse had been going on. Pregnancies, injuries including bruised faces, and even more troubling, a complaint by the girls’ mother that the man had been raping his daughters all failed to elicit an appropriate reaction and investigation by the authorities. Other family members had also expressed their concern for the daughters, but authorities did not seem to take the concerns seriously. A police report filed by the brother of the victim girls was blown off by the police as “hearsay,” with the girls themselves being unwilling complainants due to the intimidation of their monstrous father. As is typical when something terrible comes to light, finger pointing and blame were rampant between various parties that could have/should have raised the alarm. Many warning signs were present and out in the open that should have been the catalyst for some sort of protective action for the girls and their children and criminal action against the father. A mind boggling 150 incidents were identified by investigators that various authorities could have or should have taken action about but were either missed or ignored.
A sad effort by the daughters to get their father to stop raping them was the girls paying him £100 per month and supplying him with whisky, to no avail. Another attempt to help themselves was made by the daughters, by calling a help line called “ChildLine,” but the distraught daughters ended the call when the person on the other end could not promise that their children would not be taken from the mothers.
The family doctor was suspended from practicing medicine due to his failure to report the abuse, and the case was referred to “Serious Case Review” a British legal term concerning cases of child abuse or neglect that result in death or serious harm. Of course, all the negative publicity did raise awareness of family sex crimes within Britain and more stringent requirements of reporting suspicious incidents to authorities were implemented. Outrage about the abuse and the lack of appropriate governmental and authority response went all the way to the top of government.
As if raping his daughters was not depraved enough, the perpetrator/father was said to have fathered the children incestuously in order to keep for himself the considerable amount of child support payments paid by the government for the welfare of the children!
As is often the case in such a notorious and infamous case, the perpetrator was labeled with a nickname in the tradition of “Jack the Ripper,” “The Hillside Strangler,” “the Boston Strangler,” or “The Zodiac Killer.” In this case, the perpetrator was called “The British Fritzl,” after another notorious case of incest involving an Austrian named Josef Fritzl that had exploded across European news shortly before the Sheffield incest case became infamous. Another name given to the incestuous rapist was “Mr. X,” because of the court ordered anonymity of the perpetrator to protect the privacy of the victims. The rapist even gave himself a nickname, “The Gaffer.”
Although it would be difficult to find a silver lining in the cloud created by this terrible father, at least British awareness of domestic sexual abuse and reporting procedures having been addressed may lead to more prompt attention in the future.
Question for students (and subscribers): If you know of or suspect domestic sexual abuse to be happening, do not tell us, but instead call your local police, social services authority, or help line. (The link is to a national hotline.) Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Glatt, John. Secrets in the Cellar: A True Story of the Austrian Incest Case that Shocked the World. St. Martin’s True Crime, 2009.
Herman, Judith Lewis. Father-Daughter Incest: With a New Afterword. Harvard University Press, 2012.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Bencherlite of Sheffield Crown Court, where the verdict was announced, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.