Woman describes how ‘monster’ mum forced her to eat raw potatoes, smashed her fingers with hammer and sexually abused her
Erica Gimson also had her face burnt with light bulbs as she suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of her mum, Marie Clarke
A woman has described how her ‘monster’ mum smashed her fingers with a hammer, forced her to eat raw potatoes and sexually abused her as a child.
Erica Gimson, from Liverpool, was just five years old when her banker mother, Marie Clarke, started abusing her.
The 43-year-old has now bravely waived her right to anonymity to reveal the horrifying ordeal she was put through
Clarke was jailed for six years and eight months for her sickening crimes in March 2014, but has since been released.
“What she did has damaged me forever. I still have nightmares,” said Erica, who has previously battled breast cancer.
Erica recalled how she was only five when she came in from school, ran into the kitchen and told her mum she was hungry.
But when she was offered some raw potato, she said she took a bite and winced- making her mum even more angry.
Within minutes, she said her mother had grabbed her wrist, pulled her into the dining room and sat her on a chair.
In front of her was a pile of raw potatoes.
Holding one to Erica’s mouth, Clarke apparently yelled: “You told me you were hungry. Now eat those.”
Erica was physically and sexually abused by her mum between May 1978 and May 1985. Decades on, some memories stand out to her.
She said: “As I grew older I got to know what would happen if I disobeyed her.
“A week before I’d annoyed mum. I didn’t know what I’d done but she’d calmly taken me into the kitchen.
“My fingers were stretched out onto the worktops and then she would find a hammer from a drawer.
“As she hit my fingers with it, I imagined I was in a beautiful garden. The sun was shining, there was an old oak tree and lots of flowers.
“But later that night – lying in bed with just raw potatoes in my tummy – I silently cried in pain in my bedroom.
“I couldn’t let her see me upset just in case I annoyed her more.
“The next day mum woke me. It was the morning but it was so dark I could hardly see.
“‘You need to do the cleaning’ she said. handing me a duster.”
“Three hours later it was time to get ready to go to school, but first mum needed to inspect my work,” Erica said.
“I watched in terror as my mother surveyed a glass coffee table, running a finger across it, she held it up and looked at me.
“‘See that?’ she shouted showing me a clean finger, ‘you haven’t cleaned it properly have you, it’s still dirty’.
“I bit my lip. It would only make her angrier if I cried.”
She added: “She began walking slowly towards me. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said quietly, ‘I promise I’ll clean it better next time’.
“Only I still had to be punished. Beaten until I screamed in agony with a bath brush.”
A week later, a schoolteacher handed Erica her report, telling her: “Well done, “you’ve made really good progress this year.”
But as she walked home, Erica said she started worrying the document wouldn’t be good enough for her mum.
She ended up dumping it in a bin.
“That evening as I stood holding the TV aerial in one spot so mum could get a better reception, the doorbell rang,” Erica said.
“’Don’t you move!’ she warned. From the sitting room I could make out the voice of another mum whose child was in my class at school.
“’Have you got Erica’s report?’ she was saying, ‘I thought it would be useful to compare notes…’.
“Mum said something about not seeing it yet. The door slammed shut and I heard her stomp into the sitting room.”
Erica said her mum asked her where her report was – to which she replied: “I lost it”.
“The next thing I knew I was standing in the bathroom,” she said.
“Cold water was running from the bath, she [Clarke] said: ‘Take your clothes off and get in’.
“Shivering I lowered myself into the water, she towered over me and demanded ‘Where’s your report.’
“With that she gripped my neck and forced my head under the water.
“I could feel bubbles of air rising escaping through my nose. Then everything went black.
“The next thing I knew I was lying in a towel in my bedroom.
“I was stone cold and I prayed she wouldn’t come in.”
Erica said she lived in fear of her mum for years and gave her the nickname ‘monster’.
“I never had friends over to play,” she said.
“I was beaten regularly, with the hammer, with a cast iron frying pan, with the bath brush. Or my mouth was washed out with soap.
“Other times I would be forced to drink salt water until I was sick.
“Sometimes she’d come upstairs to kiss me goodnight. Then she’d hold a pillow against my face until I thought I was going to die.
“Or she’d sit on my legs so I couldn’t move while she beat me.
“If I had bruises mum kept me off school. Not that I would dare tell anyone such as a teacher what was happening.”
She added that she thought no-one would believe her if she spoke out, as she was always sent to school in a clean and tidy uniform.
But when she was eight, she said she was woken in the middle of the night with her mum breathing heavily.
Erica described how she was scared as her mum allegedly lifted her own top and demanded she “suck her nipples”.
“She picked me out of bed and sat me on her lap. Then she put my legs in between her legs,” she recalled.
“She lifted up her top and pressed my face to her bare breasts. ‘Suck my nipples’, she commanded.
“Terrified I did as she said.
“She began rubbing herself against me in a rhythmic fashion. After a few minutes she grunted and went stiff.
“From then on her night visits became more frequent. I dreaded going to sleep in case I was woken up by her.
“Sometimes she would make me stand naked in her bedroom. She’d lie in bed and rub me between my legs.
“I didn’t like it. It made me feel scared and when I said “No mummy don’t do it,” she flew into a rage.
“Turning on the light next to her bed, she pushed my face against it. I could almost smell the skin on my face burning on the hot bulb.
“When I was ten years old she noticed hairs growing between my legs, she held me down and plucked them out.
“From then on her violence held no bounds.
“Once for no reason she held my head and bounced it onto the wall. A searing pain shot though me before I lost consciousness.
“I woke up to find myself lying on the sofa, a doctor standing there. A blanket was over me up to my waist, covering the bruises from a beating a few days earlier.”
Her mother had allegedly lied to the doctor, saying she had bumped her own head.
“Momentarily I thought of showing him the bruises on my legs,” Erica sad.
“But as I began to move the blanket down I caught my mum’s eye. And she was furious. Quickly I thought better of it.”
At the age of 12, Erica finally plucked up the courage to speak out after her mum had asked her to run an errand to an elderly lady’s house.
Erica explained: “As I walked around the corner I decided to never go back.
“My heart thumping I banged on friend’s door. She was the a friend of my mother’s and I had no idea if she’d believe me. But as she answered it I fell into her arms sobbing.
“I told her about the beatings and she said ‘I believe you’.
“It turned out she’d once seen mum hit me and warned her if she saw anything like it again, she’d call the police.
“When mum came banging at the door the next day demanding to see me she wasn’t let in.
“A few days later social workers were called.
“And when a few days later I told my my mum’s friend about the sexual abuse, the police were called.
“Maybe it was because I was too upset to be examined or questioned. But Mum wasn’t arrested.”
Over the next few years Erica was in care. She spent time in children’s homes and living with foster families.
“Ironically mum would visit. She told everyone it was me who’d rebelled, and she hadn’t been able to cope,” she said.
“And when aged 16 I met someone and got pregnant, social workers suggested it was time to forgive my mum.
“She’d been depressed, a single mum, they said, and saw the error of her ways. Maybe I should do the same.
“I gave birth to a daughter and by the time she was six months old, we had nowhere to live. I was too old to stay in care. I had no choice but to go back to my mum’s.
“I thought things would be different. After all, I was an adult now, she couldn’t hurt me and she was married.
“Only when I saw the hammer still there all the memories came flooding back. And I still lived in fear – I could never leave my daughter with her.
“So when she was two and a half one day I upped and went. I found a flat on the other side of Liverpool and put my daughter into school.
“But mum the monster haunted me.”
By the time her daughter was ten, Erica qualified as a personal trainer, found a flat and thought she’d put the past behind her.
“Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “I went to hospital to have it removed, and when I woke up mum was standing there.
“Someone had rung and told her. Now she was acting the good mother coming to see me. I screamed in horror at her face.
“A nurse came running in.
“It all tumbled out. All the childhood beatings, the sexual abuse. I was referred for counselling. I wrote down everything I could remember.
“It was then someone suggested I contact Steps a charity that helps victims of abuse.
“And I decided to get my old social services reports.
“I’d never seen them and wondered if they’d help me understand why my mother had treated me as she did.
“I’d sometimes wondered if I’d imagined some of the horrors I’d suffered.
“But there it was in black and white. Reports from social workers and the police detailing all the nightmares I’d been through.
“I was angry. Counselling had made me realise it wasn’t my fault I’d been abused. I was a child and it was my mum who was in the wrong.
On July 7, 2013 she picked up the phone and dialled the police.
In March 2014 she sobbed with relief as at Liverpool Crown Court my mother Marie Clarke, 60, pleaded guilty to three sexual assault offences and 12 offences of child cruelty.
Sentencing Clarke to six years and eight months in prison Judge Robert Warnock said that Erica clearly felt ’worthless, unwanted and not believed’.
Finally justice was done.
“My mum was found to be of sound mind. To this day, I have no idea why my mum hated me so much or treated me so badly,” Erica said.
“I was so relieved when she finally went to prison.
“Only, due to good behaviour in July last year she was released. Today I live in fear that I might suddenly bump into her.
“That’s why I want her name out in the open.
“I want everyone to know Marie Clarke is not the respectable former bank worker and lovely smiling elderly woman neighbours think she is.”
She added: “At night I still wake in a cold sweat convinced she is there, standing over me.”