Alloma Gilbert, who suffered at the hands of evil Eunice Spry.
My torment at the hands of evil foster mother
ONE year ago this month, evil foster mum Eunice Spry was sentenced to 14 years in prison for her unspeakable cruelty to the children in her care in a case that sent shockwaves through the communities of Eckington and Tewkesbury, where she had lived.
Now, for the first time, one of those children has broken her silence. Alloma Gilbert has waived her right to anonymity to reveal in detail in a book how she and the other children suffered at her hands.
Deliver Me From Evil is not an easy read. It poses disturbing questions for all of those who have responsibility for children, and even more for those who knew Spry during her 10-year reign of terror.
Alloma was first delivered into the hands of her tormentor as a toddler. Following an operation on a cleft palate, which took around a month to recover from, her own mother fell ill.
"The authorities believed my dad and elderly nan would not be able to cope with my particular needs, especially with mum recovering from her own surgery," she writes.
"Gloucestershire social services decided, therefore, that foster care was needed for me. They had a carer on their books who seemed perfect for the job: Eunice Spry.
"When I think of my mum and dad at this time it's as a kind of Hansel and Gretel, lost in the dark and bewildering woods of parenthood, unable to find their way.
"Along comes Eunice, then about 42 years old, no doubt looking kindly and respectable in sensible clothes, a mother-of-two and seemingly full of common sense. Maybe her strait-laced religious nature - she was a devout Jehovah's Witness at the time - made her seem particularly reassuring."
That time, Alloma stayed with Spry for about a month in her home in George Dowty Drive, Tewkesbury.
By the time she was six, Gilbert's parents' life had become ever more chaotic and a chance meeting between her grandmother and Spry's daughter Judith brought the two of them back into contact. Spry had already adopted two children, Charlotte and Sarah.
Visits to Spry's home loosened her remaining ties with her parents and weekends were spent with Spry and the other children in Tewkesbury, far enough removed from her Cheltenham home for Spry to feel comfortable that she would not be interrupted.
Two baby boys - Thomas and Robert - were added as Spry worked to separate Alloma from her parents.
She writes: "One day we were in the kitchen clearing up the dishes after a meal when Eunice sudenly blurted out, Of course, your parents are big drug addicts. They're hopeless people. You do know that, don't you?'
"The age of eight became a milestone for me because it was at this age that Eunice actually succeeded in cutting me off from my parents."
The beatings and other bizarre punishments inflicted on Alloma and other children are described in detail but in a matter-of-fact style that makes them even more chilling.
She reveals how she and the others had their "mouths washed out" as Spry squirted washing-up liquid or shampoo down their throats. On occasion, this led to vomiting, which the unfortunate child was then forced to eat.
Beatings were usually to the soles of the feet where any bruising was likely to be hidden from view.
Alloma believes that there were times when outside agencies did express concern.
"It was just that no one did enough to ensure it was investigated," she said.
Alloma now lives in Bristol with her own baby daughter and has a steady boyfriend.
She has survived, but who knows how long it will take for the scars to heal.
l Deliver Me From Evil, by Alloma Gilbert, is published by Pan Books, price £6.99.
2:28pm Thursday 6th March 2008