Attack triggered bitter memories buried for years

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The Independent Online
RACHEL was five when her father killed her mother with a hammer. She lay asleep in her parents' bed - vacated by her father after a row - when her mother came charging in, pursued by her husband in a jealous rage, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

Her mother felt sure that in front of the by now wide- awake Rachel he would come to his senses. But despite her desperate pleas, he bludgeoned her to death. Then he called the police.

Rachel's father was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison. He was released after two. He had pleaded provocation - believing his wife, who was a nurse, to be having an affair with a patient.

While he was in jail, Rachel and her nine-year-old brother, Ben, went to live with their father's sister in north London. Her oldest brother, aged 12, was so distraught by the manner of her death he was put into care. He now lives abroad.

So Rachel had lost her mother, brother and, temporarily, the father she adored. The memory of the night of the killing was apparently buried so deep she did not recover it until 11 years later.

For two years she visited a child psychiatrist, Dr Dora Black, but even she could not release from Rachel the story of what she had seen.

When their father was released Rachel and Ben were at first content to live with him. But he became increasingly violent. He terrorised his children and beat them. When he was released from jail he had stopped his daughter seeing Dr Black. Rachel then became introverted and depressed.

When she was 12, her father remarried and he seemed happier for a while. But after a row with his wife his temper erupted, he began hitting Rachel and when his wife tried to intervene, he turned on her. During this Rachel exeperienced a flashback and remembered the fight on the night he killed her mother. Two days later she left home.

Rachel was just 16, when she moved into a children's home. While at home she had occasionally refused to eat as a way of annoying her father. Now she stopped altogether. Instead she took drugs - cannabis, acid and speed.

At this point she turned up at Dr Black's clinic at the Royal Free Hospital. After a three-week stay in hospital, because she had become dangerously thin, Rachel began seeing her every week because 'she gave me an opportunity to ask a lot of questions about what had happened and things that I wanted to know to get the facts straight about how my mother died, and how I felt then and since. Now I've worked things through'.

Rachel has just taken her A-levels in English and History of Art and she hopes to go to art school in September. She still has recurring nightmares, but has made peace with her father and visits him occasionally. However, she doesn't talk much about her mother.

(Photograph omitted)