By Heather Jadhav, Blackburn
This is a fictionalised account of a real event. The fiction lies in the fact I was stopped by three men in one evening, I merged the second two into one encounter. Who would believe it could happen three times in one.
There was a secret – I kept hidden during my teenage years. I thought, I’d be grounded, so I told no-one, no-one at all.
I had an encounter, which I can best describe as odd, unsettling, particularly due to the time and the place where it occurred.
“I never remember feeling like I fitted in, which is why I was marching home alone in the dark”
I think the year was 1978, but it may have been 1977. I was mid-teens at the time. A sad, willful, girl, with waist length brown hair, wearing mostly flared jeans and vest tops.
It was warm, I remember that much, it must have been late spring or early summer. I never wore a coat. I suspect I didn’t own anything fashionable enough to wear, out of the shame of looking uncool I probably bore the cold, but this night was warm.
I never remember feeling like I fitted in, which is why I was marching home alone in the dark along the A657, Leeds Road, towards Shipley. I’d been to an Idle Parish church youth group meeting, and straggled along behind the others for a drink afterwards at The George, a pub on Leeds Road, at the top of what was Apperley Road, trying desperately to be part of the gang. I never really was, I never had money and was a couple of years younger than anyone else. Probably, if I had been able to see myself, I would have avoided being around me, I must have been a nightmare of sulks and moods. However they would always buy me a Britvic orange and I would sit and nurse it all evening.
This night I was feeling particularly low and decided to walk the three miles home alone. I was crying, I remember that. Cars passed me as I stomped along.
Then a car caught my eye. It was travelling, from Shipley, heading towards Leeds. Moments later, I see the car again, now in the opposite direction, facing towards Shipley. The car stopped ahead of me and reversed into the entrance of Simpson Grove, I walked past, ignoring the driver. The car turned back towards Leeds, but then stopped, just ahead of me, I
assumed for directions. I wiped my free falling tears on my bare arm.
It was a white T reg Austin Princess, I have always remembered that. A man got out, he was tall, wiry and very slim. He had a wild head of dark wavy hair and an unkempt beard and possibly moustache. He got out of the car and stood in the pavement so I couldn’t pass easily.
‘Can I give you a lift?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I said sullenly, ‘I’m okay.’
‘Love,’ he began,’ I can see you’re not okay, I’ll take you home.’
‘No,’ I repeated,’ I’m okay.’
‘Look I’m safe, I have children, I’m married,’ he said.
He held both his hands up to show his wedding ring. He wore several rings on his skinny hands, I remember them shining in the glare of the sodium street lamp.
‘No,’ I said again.
‘Look love, I don’t like the idea of a young girl like you walking alone, you don’t know who’s out there.’
I shrugged, ‘I’m fine. I can look after myself.’ I walked on and the man got in his car and drove off.
The encounter shook me. I realised how stupid it had been to walk home alone. Part of me wanted to walk back to The George. After all, I could still see it, but I was head strong and
decided to strike on home.
Then I saw him again, the T reg, Austin Princess, driving back towards Shipley. He stopped his car next to where I walked, I continued to walk, he kerb-crawled keeping pace with me.
‘Are you sure?’ he called.
He was starting to get on my nerves, ‘Yes!’ I snapped.
I quickened my pace. My heart thumping in my chest, my bravado was starting to fail me. I clenched my fists and powered on. He continued to crawl his car at my walking pace.
‘Come on love, I don’t bite!’
‘No, I’m fine. It’s okay,’ I prepared myself to run, as I passed the dark entrance to Ella Carr Road. Eventually he got bored, shrugged his shoulders and drove off. I let my pace slow, relief flooding through me. I started to shake with cold and fear.
It was over. Lost in my thoughts I walked on, then I saw him again. He was driving back towards Leeds. He pulled up just ahead of me, I had no choice but to walk past him. My legs turned traitor and began to shake violently, when would this end?
He wound down his window and smiled at me. ‘Last chance love?’
By now I was prepared to defend myself, like a cornered mouse. ‘No thank-you,’ I said curtly and again quickened my pace. From the corner of my eye I saw him shrug.
‘Your loss,’ he shouted and drove off.
I was scared, if my parents found out, I would face a barrage of questions, the what’s and the why’s and then the “You’re not going out again at night”! I walked past Thackley corner
and the chippy in a daze. My heart sank at the thought of being grounded, that would be the end of my social life, such as it was. I briefly envisaged what the man might have done to me, had I got in his car, but this thought was fleeting, I had little notion of danger. The cheery glow from the Great Northern pub made me feel safer, there were people about.
I willed myself on, longing for the safety of my bedroom, my sanctuary where I would write my diary and read my Bible and pray for my ever-lasting soul. As I passed the Shoulder of Mutton, my father’s local, I became aware of movement behind me, I could hear the rapidly approaching footfall and before I could react there was beery wet breath in my ear and a hand clamped on my shoulder. I shrugged the arm off with a sharp jab of my elbow. I couldn’t believe my bad luck, for the second time that evening I was in the position of victim. I walked even faster, the man kept up with me. I could see very little of his appearance, but from the corner of my eye, I could make out he was about five foot eight, slim built and muscular. It was his smell that stood out, sweat, engine oil, alcohol and halitosis.
‘Come on love, let me have a hug?’ his voice was deeper than the previous man’s and more menacing, less educated.
I felt cold sweat prickle my neck, I wanted to run, but knew he’d outrun me. I didn’t want to show him how scared I was, that made me more a victim. Instead I walked on ignoring him, he matched my pace and walked with me down Cyprus Drive, bumping into me at every opportunity and trying to strike up a conversation.
‘Come on love, give us a kiss, I just want a little kiss. What’s your name?’ he leered.
I ignored him and concentrated on staying alive, and getting home undefiled. Home was now only minutes away.
We got onto Windhill Old Road. I knew we had to pass two dark snickets and if he dragged me into either I was done for. I marched on in silence, barely able to breathe.
Then he made a move, enveloping me with his arms, his greasy lips brushing my cheek, ‘Give us a kiss,’ he whined.
With both hands I grabbed his arms and pushed him away with all the strength I could muster. To this day, I don’t know how I managed to do that. He was obviously surprised, and
drunk. I managed to break free, still I refused to run.
‘Leave me alone!’ I barked.
Just coming into view a man walking towards us, this stopped him momentarily, but as we passed the first snicket which crossed the old railway, he pulled my arm and tried to drag me
onto the dark bridge. I pushed him away again, this time he fled over the bridge and away.
‘Childish!’ I shouted after him as he disappeared into the gloom.
I could now see clearly the figure coming towards me, it was my worst fear. Cigar in mouth, puffing like a steam engine, came my father, off for last orders at the pub, this put the time just after ten o’clock.
‘What’s up?’ he asked as we met.
‘Oh, nothing, it was just some stupid kid,’ I lied.
‘Get home,’ he said, ‘your mother’s wondering where you are.’
With this he continued puffing his way up Cyprus Drive, and I hurried home.
I have rarely been so relieved to open our back door and get inside.
‘Hello,’ Mum called. I popped my head round the front room door.
‘Had a good evening?’ she asked, not looking up from her tatting, a cigarette burning gently in the ash tray, balanced on the chair arm. The smoke gave the room a soft focus effect, I was glad to be there.
‘Yes,’ I said with a shrug, in my usual teenage, noncommittal way, ‘goodnight.’
With this I went to the sanctuary of my room, with its bright orange wall paper and purple carpet, not quite a child’s room, but neither an adult’s. I did not write any of the evening’s events in my diary, I did not tell my best friend. I squirreled the memory away, stamping it down with other thoughts until it was totally hidden. No harm done.
Around this time however, harm was being done, an evil man was stalking Leeds and Bradford, picking off victims, one by one. It was years later when he was caught, I began to wonder, maybe I should have told the police. Fear of my parents stopped me at the time. When I eventually thought about it properly it was decades later and there seemed no point. Could my evidence have helped? Who knows, it’s all history now.