How daughter’s sexual abuse at hands of ‘trusted friend’ led mum to help others

Lucy Daldy now helps other abused children

Lucy Daldy now helps other abused children - Credit: Archant

When seven-year-old Lucy Daldy returned home after a trip to the Science Museum with a family friend, clutching a gift bag, all appeared right in the world to her parents.

Step Up founder Shelley Daldy

Step Up founder Shelley Daldy - Credit: Archant

But that was far from the truth.

Lucy's mum founded Step Up

Lucy's mum founded Step Up - Credit: Archant

After investing their trust in their friend of 20 years, Anthony King, to care for their daughter, Shelley Daldy and Lucy’s dad soon discovered that the trip had never happened.

It was just one of a number of broken promises, covering up King’s sexual abuse of the young girl. Fourteen years after he was jailed for offences, including indecent assault and gross indecency with a child, Shelley is celebrating a decade of running charity Step Up.

It helps parents in Redbridge and neighbouring boroughs who have gone through the same ordeal.

And one of the charity’s ambassadors is Lucy, now 23, who is able to use her own painful experience to talk openly and compassionately to children who have also been abused.

Rather than shy away from painful memories, Shelley, 50, of Hainault, wants to raise awareness of “the grooming process” that means men such as King can hide abuse from parents.

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She said: “If we challenge it, if we get people talking about it, it stops the secrecy.

“If you look at Jimmy Savile, he groomed the whole nation. It’s about understanding the grooming process and not making it a dirty secret.

“My daughter is not a dirty secret. There was only one person that did anything wrong. It’s making sure the parents know they haven’t done anything wrong, they got caught up in the grooming.”

King was the husband of Shelley’s best friend, Ruth, who died of cancer, and in the months after her death, he became a regular visitor to their house for dinners and other occasions.

Shelley said: “Me, my husband and this man would sit and talk about Ruth. He was our friend, someone we’d known for 20 years. He was the only person we trusted to take our daughter out anywhere.”

With Shelley pregnant with twins, his help in looking after Lucy was appreciated, but on the twins’ first birthday, a phone call from the police blew Shelley’s world apart.

She said: “He’d taken photos of Lucy and he took them into a print shop. They weren’t pornographic but they were suggestive enough for the manager to be concerned.”

“When Lucy was interviewed by police, she lied. She was so scared from when he had groomed her.

“She thought he’d take the twins away, or kill her mummy and daddy. Me and my husband spoke to her, it still took her two days and a lot of it came out later.”

Lucy, who lives in Chigwell, said: “I remember pieces and I remember... it’s a difficult one, because, no, I don’t remember a lot of what happened now, but there are incidents that I remember, quite specific things that are clear in my mind.”

King had been abusing Lucy at his then home in Barking and the Daldy family’s former home in Goodmayes.

The young girl went into counselling for two years and looking back, she said there is no way she could have coped without professional help.

Now 63, King was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court in 1998 for three counts of indecent assault, two counts of gross indecency with a child and one count of taking an indecent photograph of a child.

He pleaded guilty to the latter charge, was found guilty at trial of the other offences and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Shelley and Lucy’s dad – her then husband who doesn’t want to be named – were left “devastated” and she said further disclosures that came out as Lucy went through counselling “were like another nail in the coffin”.

She said: “We couldn’t believe it and there’s nothing worse than hearing your eight-year-old daughter having to describe sex acts.

“We couldn’t believe he could do that.”

Lucy was counselled at Loxford Hall, Loxford Lane, Ilford, through the NHS and a staff member soon encouraged Shelley and a friend to set up a group to help other parents.

Though their first attempt didn’t work, they tried again and got a £1,600 grant from Redbridge Council, which has supported Step Up ever since.

Shelley said: “In the beginning, I had a telephone in my dining room. As we grew and it got bigger and bigger we needed our own premises. If people are having meetings with social workers, they couldn’t come round to my front room.”

At one stage there was a drop-in centre at the Parkside Community Centre, in Goodmayes Lane, Goodmayes, which is now based in Dagenham.

Shelley has trained as a counsellor and she and her team run a telephone helpline, provide one-to-one counselling for parents and support them when they meet with social workers or the police.

Around 60 families a year are helped. She added: “Usually we go and do a home visit and introduce what we do and tell them how we got here.

“When they find out we’ve got direct experience, they’re more able to open up

“If the parents have support to hear what the children are saying, they’re better able to support them.

“It’s the brothers, the sisters, the grandparents [too].

“If they have somewhere to take their pain, they’re better prepared to support the child.”

Step Up also organises excursions and play therapy for the children in the family and Lucy meets with children who have been abused to talk through what has happened.

She said she just “wants to take them under my wing”.

To her, Shelley’s achievements are “incredible” and she described her mum as her “rock”.

Lucy added: “I can honestly say if she hadn’t been around, I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now. It’s not difficult at all now. I don’t mind any questions they [the children] might ask me.”

Step Up recently had funding approved for the next two years by the council with Children In Need and City livery company Leathersellers also providing backing. “We are exceedingly grateful to all that fund us,” said Shelley.

The charity already goes into schools to raise awareness of sexual abuse and she dreams of Step Up being able to go into every school in Redbridge and also a move into a bigger centre.

Lucy added: “People really appreciate what mum’s doing. She doesn’t realise how amazing she is.”

“Even though it’s the most horrific thing, you have to see the positive, that’s what we try and do.

“But I don’t know how she did it.”