16 Days of Action: Mother of domestic abuse victim shares her daughter’s story

Trigger Warning: This article contains themes of domestic abuse, suicide and depression. If you are affected by anything in this story please follow the links for support.

Tracy Watts shares a story of abuse and loss after her daughter Lisa took her own life in April 2019.

Lisa was a super strong, confident woman who loved her children more than anything. She was the type of person who would brighten up the room the moment she entered. When she was younger she was a tomboy and grew into a beautiful young woman. She was an amazing mum, before she met her abusive partner she had three children from her previous relationship, and they were the love of her life. She always put her children first and worked hard to provide for them and give them a good home.

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She was a hardworking person and everything she had she worked for herself. She always wanted to learn to drive and buy her own car. She and her children had a full and happy life, going on holidays twice a year. She had a vibrant social life and a group of close friends.

Lisa was very much a family person and we would often spend weekends together.

But everything changed when she started seeing a new man. 

We don’t know where he came from but it was almost like he appeared from nowhere and moved into her place straight away. He didn’t work. The two years they were together were very difficult with many ups and downs.

In that time, she went from an outgoing, happy and beautiful woman to a shadow of herself. Her mental health began declining the moment they met.  He made Lisa vulnerable, using the vulnerabilities to exploit and manipulate her and her life.

The signs were there. She began to distance herself from me, her family and friends and we saw less and less of her. I saw bruises on her body but she always had an excuse for them, she covered for him and didn’t admit the abuse.

He would call her names, slowly chipping away at her confidence, making her believe she was ugly and worthless.

With time the abuse began escalating from emotional manipulation to serious assaults resulting in injuries which would take her to hospital.

Even then she would cover for him and when police were at her home she asked them to turn their body worn cameras off.

After the birth of their daughter, his behaviour changed however that didn’t last long and the abuse continued.

Then she attended domestic abuse workshops at the Freedom Programme, she began to open her eyes about what was happening and better recognise abusive patterns.

After a while Lisa managed to gather enough courage and strength to break off their relationship. That was where the threats started. He would keep asking to see her even after she would say no to him numerous times.

He relentlessly messaged her and knew exactly what to say, lulled her into false sense of security by lying and making promises he never kept.

The final straw happened on 5 December 2018. Lisa agreed to meet with him, but he began accusing her of seeing other men and assaulted her at a local hotel in Bedford. This assault was well documented on CCTV and with multiple witnesses present. He was arrested and charged with the offences, but pleaded not guilty at court.

After that assault Lisa’s declining mental health as a result of the toxic relationship, led to a decision for her children to be taken away from her.

We will never know exactly what pushed her to taking her own life. All we know is that at the time she was suffering immensely due to being separated from her children and left messages about not being able to live without them. Her self-worth was extremely low due to the years of abuse. 

She took her own life just days before the original court date was scheduled.

After her death the case was postponed numerous times for various reasons but the police, and especially Detective Sergeant Darren Armitage, never gave up and were adamant to bring him to justice even after Lisa passed away. I cannot thank them enough, the support and professionalism of police officers involved in this case is something I will always praise.

The abuser maintained his innocence through all these years and made us go through the pain of the trial. He was found guilty by a jury of causing grievous bodily harm without intent and received a two-year suspended sentence on 1 October 2021.

Lisa’s death made a ripple effect across many organisations including the police who changed and reinforced their policies following the inquest and its findings, such as preventing contact between abusers in custody and prison and their victims.

Sometimes I ask myself what could I have done to change what happened, or if there is anything anyone could have done.

Lisa was a beautiful, strong woman and she is no longer with us. Our entire family has been torn apart by her passing. I have lost a beautiful daughter and my grandchildren lost their mum.

I want to share her story with hope that it will give enough strength to anyone experiencing abuse at the hands of their partners. You are worth more than that, you are important and you deserve to live your life without abuse.

The first step is the most difficult, if you are living in fear, under emotional or physical abuse, pick up the phone to organisations that support victims of domestic abuse and will help you make strategies to get out. Help from specialists and the police is available. It will take time and it won’t be easy, but I can promise you it will be worth it.

I want to bring up my grandchildren to be strong and teach them that if a person really loves you they will never hurt you. Most importantly they would never ask you to lie for them to your family, friends or police. And that’s also a message I want to pass to anyone who is reading my story.

I hope our story will help anyone out there who is struggling with abuse or mental health issues and if it saves even one person it will be a legacy which Lisa would be immensely proud of.

If you were affected by Tracy’s story, remember there is support available.

Mental health crisis support for all ages is available 24 hours a day every day across Bedfordshire and Luton by contacting NHS 111 (option 2) or the Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone).

If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can contact Signpost for Bedfordshire, which offers free and confidential support regardless if the crime was reported to the police.

There is a number of support organisations which you can contact by phone or online. Visit Bedfordshire Police’s website for full list https://www.bedfordshire.police.uk/information-and-services/Crime/Domestic-abuse/Domestic-abuse

If you have concerns about your partner you might be eligible to ask the police about their past through the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare’s Law. Visit Bedfordshire Police’s website to read more and submit an application – https://www.bedfordshire.police.uk/apply/Clares-Law/Clares-law-Disclosure-Scheme.

If you are having thoughts about harming yourself do not suffer in silence contact Samaritans for free on 116 123. In emergency call 999 or go to the nearest A&E department.

I joined the police for moments like this; to save people, to be there for someone who has no one else.

As I was driving into work, I came across a man who looked very distressed and was standing on the wrong side of a road bridge railing, peering down into the traffic below.

I was immediately on the alert, realising that this man was going through some sort of crisis.

He was looking down and crying hard, so I stopped my car and ran towards him.

As I was in civilian clothes, not in uniform, he wouldn’t have known that I was a police officer. Luckily, I had my radio with me.

I begged him not to jump, and I told him that if he gave me a chance, I would do whatever I could to help him.

He told me he had enough and that he wanted to jump; that he couldn’t take the pain any longer and that he had been crying out for help, but no one was listening to him.

Seeing him so distraught, and shaking, and thought to myself, I need to convince this man to give me a chance.

I said to him: “Let me make one call, I promise you I will help you”, and I said this over and over to him.

He began shaking again, and I thought he would let go of the railing, so I pressed the emergency button on my radio.

My team mates quickly responded, and closed the road down to stop the traffic.

I showed my radio to the man and said “Look, I am getting help for you, just give me a chance”.

Once the man heard the chatter over the radio, he began walking to a safer spot on the bridge.

Shortly, another officer arrived on the bridge, and we both grabbed hold of him, and took him to a place of safety where he will get the help he so badly needed.

I joined the police for moments like this; to save people, to be there for someone who has no one else, to help people with their problems, and to be someone a vulnerable person can look to and ask for help.

Working as part of a team and helping people that need it the most.

PC 610 Naseeb Khan
Team 3 North Response

Whether you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, there are mental health charities, organisations and support groups that can offer expert advice and help.

Anxiety UK

Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.

Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 7.30pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 2pm)

Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk

Bipolar UK

A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.

Website: www.bipolaruk.org.uk

CALM

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.

Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)

Website: www.thecalmzone.net

Men’s Health Forum

24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.

Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk

Mental Health Foundation

Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Mind

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

Website: www.mind.org.uk

No Panic

Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.

Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge

Website: www.nopanic.org.uk

PAPYRUS

Young suicide prevention society.

Phone: HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)

Website: www.papyrus-uk.org

Rethink Mental Illness

Support and advice for people living with mental illness.

Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

Website: www.rethink.org

Samaritans

Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

SANE

Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. 

SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)

Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare

Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum

Website: www.sane.org.uk/support

YoungMinds

Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.

Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

Website: www.youngminds.org.uk

Making a difference for people with vulnerabilities

Before becoming a police officer, I worked in contract catering. I had a good, well paid job with prospects. I progressed quickly, working in loss prevention and training, but I really felt something was missing. There was no real motivation to do more, and certainly no daily excitement. 

I felt there had to be something out there that was a more worthwhile use of my time and, I wanted to make a difference. Ask any of my colleagues and they will no doubt tell you a similar story. I think it’s what drives us as people, and makes us better police officers.

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