Staff member
Jun 3, 2003

She was imprisoned, drugged, beaten, raped and made to perform degrading acts - by the "therapist" she had trusted to help beat her drug addiction' she hadtrusted to help beat her drug addiction

CLUTCHING her baby son to her chest, recovering heroin addict Tracey Birkett shot a fearful glance at her tormentor and then fled into the night.

She had finally seen the middle-aged psychotherapist for what he was - not a Good Samaritan who was nursing her back to health, but a perverted sadist who was using her as his plaything.

Evil Christopher Dearman had held her hostage for a month in his country cottage in Wass, North Yorkshire.

There, in the name of "treatment", he drugged Tracey, took her clothes, tied her up, spat on her, beat her, raped her repeatedly, and forced her to drink his urine and perform other degrading acts too vile for M to reveal.

Broken and humiliated, it was only the thought of what he might do to her newborn baby, Jack, that finally gave Tracey the will to escape his clutches.

While Dearman slept, she grabbed her son and stumbled, barefoot and bleeding, through the country lanes in search of help.

The young policeman who found her, semi-naked, hysterical and crouched in a phone box, could barely meet her eyes. Tracey will never forget his appalled expression.

Just as she can never forget the horror of her terrifying ordeal - which, seven years on, she is now sharing in an effort to warn other women of the danger of predators like Dearman.

"I hate Dearman for what he did," says Tracey, 32, a mum-of-two who now lives in South Wales and is studying to become a youth worker. "He had complete control over me, like the leader of a cult.

"But I have had to move on. Now I've got my partner and kids - I've got everything to live for."

When Tracey fled and reported Dearman to the police, she brought to an end his sordid reign of terror involving at least three other women.

In March 1998, 54-year-old Dearman appeared before Teesside Crown Court charged with a series of offences of assault causing actual bodily harm, indecent assault and rape - all of which he denied. He was jailed for eight years.

DEARMAN'S sordid catalogue of crime shocked those who thought they knew the devout Christian. A member of Ripon Choral Society and of a local gliding club, he had seemed a pillar of the community.

He certainly convinced Tracey that he only had her best interests at heart when he turned up out of the blue.

Police had been called to a domestic disturbance at the Leeds flat Tracey shared with her then boyfriend, Tim. After the officers left there was another knock on the door. It was Dearman.

A small, smartly-dressed, bespectacled man with thinning hair and a beard, he handed Tracey a business card - "Christopher Dearman, psychotherapist", plus his office and mobile phone numbers.

"Good evening," he said, in a pleasant, middle-class accent. "I understand you may need my services. Please call me to make an appointment."

Tracey wrongly assumed he had been sent by the police or social services. It was a mistake that would cost her dear.

Later, at his trial, it emerged that he had driven around Leeds for weeks looking for vulnerable women to target. When he spotted the police car outside Tracey's flat, he seized his chance.

She had no reason to think he was bogus or to suspect his offer of help, and her troubled background made her especially vulnerable to his deceit. As a child, Tracey had been sexually abused by a relative. It led to her becoming anorexic and bulimic. At 15, she turned to drugs and, despite 11 attempts to get off heroin, she was still hooked.

"When Dearman took an interest, I finally thought someone was giving me some support," she says. "He'd meet me at a cafe or park instead of coming to the flat where Tim would get angry.

"I could just phone him and he'd come round. It was more counselling than anything else. I knew he was a Christian, but he didn't push religion. He just seemed a caring person.

"At first I thought it was strange because he didn't seem to want anything from me. He was so much older than me and we didn't have much in common, but he listened to me and made me feel like I was important.

"He was a father figure. That's why his disgusting betrayal hurts even more."

In July 1996, Tracey fell pregnant. It was the incentive she needed to get clean, once and for all - even if it meant ending her relationship.

"I couldn't have forgiven myself if the baby was born an addict," she says.

Her GP prescribed a special low dose of methadone which wouldn't harm her unborn baby.

Meanwhile, Dearman made the most of his church contacts to help Tracey find a place at a Salvation Army hostel in Leeds.

Throughout her pregnancy he drove from Wass to see her, always signing the hostel's visitors' book as "Dr" Dearman.

Once when he was in the area with his wife, Hilda, he invited Tracey to lunch.

"Hilda was very quiet, but she seemed nice," she recalls. "He introduced me to her as one of his patients. It was as if he took a real pride in his work and I was his protege."

Jack was born 12 weeks prematurely in January 1997. He weighed 5lbs, but showed no signs of heroin withdrawal.

"I was so relieved," says Tracey. "He was perfect, really beautiful, and I loved him to bits."

When Jack was five weeks old she was allowed to take him home to her studio flat at the hostel. But then post-natal depression set in.

She was still on methadone and came close to relapsing because she felt so low. So Dearman's call, a few days later, seemed like a godsend.

"Why don't you stay at our cottage for the weekend?" he said. "Bring Jack. Hilda and I are dying to meet him."

He picked them up on the Friday and drove them to his cottage. But Hilda was nowhere to be seen. Dearman said she was visiting her sister, although it later emerged that she had left him.

IT was a little strange, but I thought nothing of it," recalls Tracey. "Jack and I had our own room and it was nicely furnished."

Dearman took them to a theme park and for Sunday lunch. And when Tracey started packing to go home, he said if she stayed he could help her get her life back on track with his special detox plan.

"It is my dream to see you as a respectable, independent woman with your own home, career and social life," he told her.

"You and Jack could be so happy. It is only the spectre of drugs which is threatening all this... If you trust me implicitly, I will cure you."

She agreed and Dearman told the hostel that Tracey was staying on. She phoned her mum, Nina, who was relieved she was "safe" and with a "friend". The next day they visited Dearman's GP to get various medications for Tracey.

At the trial, the GP wept when he told how he had been duped by Dearman. He had little knowledge of addiction and had prescribed a range of tranquillisers and sedatives - many of which had unpleasant side-effects such as hallucinations, palpitations and drowsiness.

Dearman used them to control Tracey's moods. He started his "treatment" by brainwashing her into thinking she was dependent on him.

"I have hazy memories of him reading from The Bible and telling me the only way I could recover was to repent," she says. "I had to do exactly what he said to be cleansed."

The abuse started at the end of the first week. Dearman told Tracey to bend over and smacked her hard on her bottom.

"I was shocked, but somehow I believed it was my punisHydromaxent," she says. "He said the guilt needed to be beaten out of me. That he wanted to break me and then rebuild me."

Next he ordered her to strip naked - and stay that way. Jack was put in a separate room. She could feed and change him, but at all other times she was under Dearman's control.

Over the following four weeks, she became his sex slave. He tied her up and beat her before raping her repeatedly and forcing her to perform degrading acts. Once he whipped her and made her drink his urine.

TRACEY says, "I was so drugged and terrified, I had no energy. He said the house was alarmed and the phones were tapped. Then he said he was God and I had to obey him.

"Once he let me call my mum, but I thought he'd kill me if I tried to tell her anything. Then I thought he'd turn his attention to Jack. I was desperate to escape, but I didn't know how."

Things came to a head one night when Dearman woke up to find Tracey crying over a photograph of her mum and flew into a rage.

"He spat at me and beat me with his fists," she recalls. "In that moment, something clicked. I knew I had to get out of there."

She went back to bed and lay by his side. Then, at 3am, when she was sure Dearman was asleep, she got Jack and crept out of the cottage.

Her clothes had been confiscated so she ran three quarters of a mile to the phone box wearing only a pair of Dearman's long johns.

"I couldn't think clearly because of the tranquillisers," says Tracey. "I called 999, but I was convinced Dearman would come after me."

A recording of that traumatic phonecall was later played in court. Tracey and Jack were taken to a doctor in Leeds. She had 24 fresh wounds and 40 old injuries. Fortunately, Jack was unharmed and too young to remember the ordeal.

Dearman was arrested the next day. At his cottage, police found torture implements, many adapted from stolen hospital equipment.

Three other victims came forward and, at his trial, the jury heard how he "groomed" women by posing as a healer, psychotherapist, or a Christian do-gooder.

One victim said he hypnotised her claiming he could cure her agoraphobia. He lied that he had given spiritual therapy to Princess Diana and Bill Clinton. Then, when she was in a trance, he tied her over a stool and whipped her with a rose bush and a belt.

"The trial was traumatic, but I was determined to get justice," says Tracey. "But nothing could prepare me for facing him in the dock. He was smartly dressed and humble-looking, but I knew it was all an act.

"When the case was reported in the papers, I could imagine people thinking maybe it didn't matter because I was a junkie. But I'm still a human being. Thank God, the judge treated me with respect.

"I entered a twilight world when I started doing drugs. It was a waste and most of the people I knew back then are dead. But I've been clean since I was pregnant with Jack."

It emerged that Dearman had been convicted and fined in 1973 for caning three waitresses who worked at a cafe he once owned.

He claimed to have qualified as a psychotherapist in Nottingham. In fact, he was a former RAF nurse who was discharged in 1967 as medically unfit.

He died in Durham Prison two years into his sentence.

"It is three-and-a-half years since he died and it is only now that I feel ready to talk about it," says Tracey.

She is now busy rebuilding her life with the help of her partner, her son Jack, now seven, and her two-year-old daughter, Nina. Tracey is also studying sociology and psychology.

"We are a happy family and my life has been transformed," she says. "I have refused to allow Dearman to wreck my future.

"When I was in his grasp, I was barely alive. Now I know how wonderful it is to love and be loved.

"I am the independent, strong person I always longed to be. And that makes me proud."