“I was living in fear”: Bravery award for mum Katie after abusive ex-partner is jailed
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T/DI David Box, DS Hayley Lambert, PC Roger Henderson, Katie Mills, High Sheriff of Essex Simon Brice and Ch Supt Tom Simons
Mum Katie Mills has been presented with a High Sheriff’s award for courage and bravery after her testimony led to her abusive ex-partner being handed a prison sentence and two-year restraining order.
During their 16-month relationship, Katie, 36, was regularly subjected to violence, prevented from contacting her friends, and forced to hand over money and her car.
Her ex even threatened to throw acid in her face.
Katie, who has a four-year-old son, said the abuse left her “broken” and “living in fear”.
She was preparing to retract a statement against her ex-partner when she met PC Roger Henderson from our Domestic Abuse Problem Solving Team (DAPST). Katie says he gave her the confidence and support to proceed with the prosecution.
For the way she stood up to her abuser and rebuilt her life, Roger said Katie is “the most courageous person I’ve ever met”.
Katie and her ex had been in a relationship for six months when the abuse began.
She said: “It started well. He was fantastic with my son and lovely to me. He would buy me gifts all the time and was really loving and supportive.
“The first time he beat me up it was totally out of the blue. He really did some damage. I woke up the next morning with a swollen eye and I could hardly walk.
“I didn’t go to work, I couldn’t. My body hurt, my brain hurt. I was torn up by what had happened to me. I never thought I’d be a victim of domestic violence. I told people I’d been caught in the crossfire in an incident in a bar and covered it up with concealer.
“I forgave him and he said he’d never do it again.”
Katie went to the police but her then-partner threatened her and she dropped the charges.
The violence became frequent and Katie was attacked on special occasions including her birthday, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
She said her biggest fear was that her son, who’s autistic, would see her being attacked.
Katie would send photos of her injuries to a friend but became increasingly isolated from her loved ones.
“He controlled my life. I couldn’t have friends, he’d go through my Facebook, I had to delete everything off my phone, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was completely isolated.
"I was being manipulated because he was so good with my son and my son adored him. He looked at him like a daddy.
"He was a narcissist. He’d take my money, he’d take my car. It’s the worst thing you could ever possibly go through. I was broken.
"I was just existing. It was scary - I was living in fear for a long time.”
Katie said she was embarrassed about what was happening and paranoid about her neighbours’ opinions after her landlord complained about police visiting her property.
Katie Mills and PC Roger Henderson
When Roger first visited Katie, he arrived in casual clothes and an unmarked car.
He said: “I wanted her to have complete confidence in me. I made it clear I wasn’t there to question her, I was just there to listen.
“It was a difficult first encounter as Katie was very upset, very emotional. She was confused, and really uncertain about her security for the future. She had a real fear about repercussions if she went through the judicial system, and a fear about being believed.
“She was numb - a shell of the person you see today. But speaking to Katie, it was clear she wanted justice, and wanted to escape the situation she was in. She just didn’t know how to go about it.
“We talked and I made her aware of the process, the security we could put in place and the help that’s available outside of policing.
“It was really important for me to understand the barriers and address them individually. I was completely honest about expectations and about what could happen, so she could make an informed decision about the prosecution.”
Katie went on to provide two more statements against her ex-partner to bolster the case against him. The case went to magistrates’ court but even there, he tried to intimidate her.
“The defendant waited to see if Katie was there,” Roger said. “He was still trying to have that control until he realised that Katie was ready to give evidence.
“The prosecution brought Katie her statements and she went away to read them to make sure she was ready. He (the defendant) was told Katie was about to give her evidence, and literally at the point we were walking up the stairs, he put the brakes on and changed his plea.
“This was the shock of his life as nobody before Katie had pursued a conviction against him. He had a significant history of domestic abuse both in Essex and in other force areas. Victims had not supported through fear.”
Katie’s ex-partner was sentenced to four months in prison and given a two-year restraining order.
Katie said: “It was a relief. If I hadn’t had Roger’s support, I’d have felt too frightened to go to court. It’s so important to not let these people get away with it.”
Roger said seeing the dramatic change in Katie has been the most rewarding aspect for him and the team.
“Katie’s the most courageous person I’ve met. It’s difficult to look at someone suffering so badly, but then you get to the end of the process and you see a totally different person. It’s remarkable to see her confidence return.
“I knew Katie wanted to do it and I knew she could do it, but I what I didn’t know was how strong she would turn out to be. Her whole outlook changed in the time we were working together. I’m very proud of what she’s achieved.”
Katie said the courage and bravery award from the High Sheriff of Essex Simon Brice has inspired her to be stronger, better herself and help other people. She now plans to work with women still trapped in abusive relationships.
She added: “I can’t tell you how this has changed my life – the strength and empowerment it has given me. I can be free to have friends and to have a life. My plan now is to carry on smiling and be happy.
“I want to help women to stand up and break the cycle of abuse. Don’t let anyone take away your sparkle.”