WARNING:Woman forced to eat pictures of her dead relatives and beaten with hammers in ‘one of worst domestic abuse cases’

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The victim of “one of the worst cases of domestic abuse ” who was forced to eat photos of dead loved ones has bravely shared her traumatic story for the first time.

Beaten with hammers, made to sleep naked standing up, and given deadly ultimatums were just some of the horrors Charlotte Rooks was subjected to.

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Speaking out about one of her lowest points, the now 34-year-old said: “That is when I knew that I was f***ed. I thought I was going to die. That night I remember telling him to just kill me.

“He said ‘I will either give you bleach or you can put a bag over your head’. I remember really weighing up these options because I just wanted to die.”


Charlotte was punched and tortured

The courageous domestic abuse survivor spoke to Wales Online about the horrors she endured.

In 2013 Craig Thomas, then 33, was jailed for 10 years following what a judge described as “one of the worst cases of domestic abuse” he had ever encountered.

For months his then-partner Charlotte was subjected to what can only be described as a sustained period of torture.

Despite what she had to endure not being out of place in a horror film there is something depressingly familiar about her story.

Like the vast majority of domestic abuse cases, themes of control, manipulation, domination and dependence run deeply through Charlotte’s story.

Two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales.


Charlotte has shared photos of her injuries

‘At first I thought he was amazing’
In a brave and moving interview Charlotte has spoke publicly for the first time about what she went through at the hands of Thomas.

Cardiff-based mum Charlotte first met him a few years before the abuse began while she was in work.

“We met two years before this happened,” she said. “You know what, I thought he was amazing. I was with someone else and it wasn’t great and we used to talk all the time.

“He always used to sound so caring. He told me he had a flat and if I ever needed time alone I could go there.

“He used to come into work to see me to check I was okay. I thought it was incredibly lovely. I thought he was genuinely coming in to see if I was okay.”

The pair lost contact for a while but Thomas got back in touch in early 2013. Charlotte was going through a tough time after a fire at her home.

She had moved into a new house with her son, who was then 13, and didn’t even have furniture.

Thomas was supportive, telling her he would cancel jobs painting and decorating to look after her.

However the relationship quickly turned violent as Thomas spent long periods of time in Charlotte’s home.


Charlotte has bravely told her story

‘The first time he punched me in the face’
“I hadn’t let him live with me,” she said. “It got to the point where I said he had to go back to his own place because I have to go to work to be able to buy beds and furniture.

“We argued and he punched me in the face. I remember actually apologising to him because I didn’t know what I had done to make him so angry.

“That was the first time he had hit me and I remember thinking: ‘It must be because he thinks I’m ungrateful after he’s taking time off work’.”

It was very early in the relationship when Charlotte discovered that she was pregnant. This was a spark for Thomas’ escalating behaviour.

She said: “Things started to happen. He would stay over and say to me that I had to sleep standing up – then if I was falling asleep he would throw stuff at me.

“When my foster mum died he made me eat her pictures. I was given a ring that was something sentimental that been left to me and he made me eat that as well.


Charlotte Rooks from Cardiff is a domestic abuse survivor

‘Things became f***ed up’
“I loved my foster mum. When he made me eat her pictures it was the most f***ed-up thing.

“Numerous times when I was living in my house he would hit me in the stomach with the metal part of the Hoover while I was pregnant.

“There was glass from a picture frame where he cut the back of my head. He was just waving it at me and it was the back of my head but he managed to hit. When I shave my head you can see the scar.

“Sometimes we would be in the car and he would just repeatedly punch me in the side of the face. I was glad he would do it in the car because I would think that someone would see it and call the police. If someone did see it they never did call.”

According to Charlotte it was fear for her loved ones that kept her from leaving initially.

She said: “This was weeks into the relationship but he kept on threatening to do stuff to my family and my son.

“He used to make me spend all night standing up naked.”


A judge described it as one of the ‘worst ever cases of domestic abuse’

‘I was living in poverty’
Charlotte’s living situation had become desperate. Unable to go to work because of her injuries and as a result unable to pay her bills her internet and electricity were cut off.

She said: “I didn’t go to work because I was too hurt. From the first two weeks to four months later at least one of my eyes couldn’t open. We were living in poverty.

“One day I ran out of the house. I don’t even remember if I was going to go to the police or my mother’s. He held up my dog in the window and said he would kill her. I just went back in – I knew that was my life now.”

Unable to pay rent, she was evicted from her home.

“I left my son at my mother’s and told her that the landlord was selling the house and at the time I think she was so grateful to see me she just accepted it.

“Then he took me to his flat for the first time ever.

“I was saying to him I didn’t want to live with him and I would rather live with my mother and he would say that he would let me go when I had paid him for all the times he had fed me and he had missed work.

“I told him but I had no way of going to work to give him money and that he had taken my cash card off me which was where my credits were being paid into.”


Charlotte’s horrific injuries

‘I became a prisoner being tortured in my abuser’s flat’
Once in his flat Charlotte became a prisoner. She was regularly beaten, not given food, and only allowed to urinate in a mop bucket.

She said: “Sometimes he would tie me up and I would lie on his bedroom floor, which was tiled. If I fell asleep he would throw glasses at me so they would smash on the tiles and obviously they would cut me.”

At one point the police actually called at Thomas’ flat.

“Someone had seen him beat me up and they called the police,” she said. “The police came in and he told them I was mentally ill, pregnant, and that he felt obliged to keep me. He told them he didn’t love me but said that I was mentally ill and was carrying his baby.

“This was the opportunity. If they had put his name in the system they could have seen his criminal record. When they left I knew that I was f***ed. I thought that I was going to die.

“That night I remember saying to him to just kill me and he said: ‘I will either give you bleach or you can put a bag over your head’. I remember really weighing up these options because I just wanted to die.

“I stank of piss and I hadn’t changed my clothes because all my stuff was in my old house.

“That night he lifted up the sofa and made me lie down and put my arms above my head so that my hands were trapped under the sofa and would then repeatedly jump on my stomach.

“Obviously your body reaction is to curl up but my hands were trapped under the sofa. If I couldn’t control my reflexes he would just stamp on my head – that went on all night.

“I was being tortured. That is exactly what CID said. [The person interviewing me] had to take a break himself during the interview.”


At her lowest point she thought she would die

‘I was pregnant and risking an escape’
According to Charlotte the flat she was kept in had a door with multiple locks. In the state she was in she had no chance of forcing it open.

When she did escape it was down to a mixture of her bravery and random chance.

“After that night when he trapped me under the sofa I couldn’t walk and my whole body was broken. My ears had completely closed up and I couldn’t even put a cotton bud in them.

“Someone had borrowed his car and had bumped into somebody else. The police turned up his house and rang the buzzer. This is all pure chance. He put me in the bedroom and unlocked the door.

“There was lots of locks on the door but he couldn’t lock it after because it would have locking the police in.

“I remember thinking that if I don’t go now I will never leave.

“I could walk out and be with the police but they had already left me 24 hours before and I wasn’t taking that risk. I wasn’t taking that risk because if they had left me again I would be dead. I just ran.”

Looking back Charlotte can’t help but grimly laugh about the state she was in. She said: “I say run but I was four months pregnant and had been stabbed in my bum as well. I use the phrase run loosely.

“I didn’t even know where I was running – every part of my body hurts.

“I was frightened because he would have heard the door and would have known the whole time that I had got out.

“I had no shoes on and I ran to the local garage because I know the guy who runs it because he fixes my mother’s car. He didn’t even recognise me because my face was that swollen.

“You know in the film Drop Dead Fred when he gets his face trapped in the fridge? That is what my face looked like.

“The police turned up at the garage and I was screaming because I didn’t know where my son was. I told the police they had to get to my son and armed police turned up at my son’s school.

“I remember being really embarrassed. They were telling me to sit down and I told them that I’d wet myself.

“If you look at the pictures you can see my arms. You know old people when they are in an old people’s home when they’ve got no colour in their cheeks and they are thin? I was like that.

“When my friends came to visit me in the hospital they kept on walking up and down because they couldn’t recognise me because my face was so damaged.

“If that guy hadn’t bumped that car I would be dead.”


She said every part of her body hurt

‘In the end I managed to get help’
When she arrived in a hospital Charlotte came face to face with a nurse who had seen her before when she had been admitted earlier in the relationship. That nurse had tried to convince her to report Thomas.

“When I got wheeled into hospital the first thing I saw was the nurse who was taken my statement before.

“I remember being so ashamed because she had tried so hard to get me to report it the first time and I thought I’d let her down.

“She was so brilliant she actually stayed on after for me so I didn’t have to go up for scans on my own.”

The main reason Charlotte did not report Thomas when the nurse had suggested it was because of threats he had made to her family – especially her son.

She also feared her son been taken into care. At one point, she said, Thomas made her call her son and say that he wouldn’t see her again.

She said: “He would say stuff to me like he would rip my son’s face off and inject him with Aids.

“When people say to me ‘How do you know that he knew someone with Aids?’ I would ask them if they would chance it. This is someone who had already put a hammer over my head on more than one occasion – why would I risk this?”


She finally managed to escape
‘My abuser finally brought to justice’
In December 2013 in Cardiff Crown Court Thomas, then of Llanishen , Cardiff, pleaded guilty to four counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, one count of unlawful wounding, and one count of wounding with intent.

Judge Neil Bidder QC said Thomas’ crimes were “an appalling catalogue of very serious violence” and added: “This is one of the worst cases of domestic abuse I have encountered.”

The judge jailed Thomas for 10 years, which he attempted to appeal the following year.

But three senior judges at London’s Appeal Court rejected the violent thug’s attempt to have his sentence cut and said: “This was an appalling case of very serious violence, repeatedly inflicted by Thomas on his pregnant partner at her home.”

Charlotte carries physical and mental scars from her ordeal. She is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and has had extensive plastic surgery on her ears.

She said: “I have short-term memory loss for on by the stress – that is not to do with the hammer, it was all stress. My hearing is not very clear – I can hear but it’s not very clear.

“I’ve got lumps on my forehead where he has banged me with the hammer numerous times.”

She also has to wear an eye patch after she developed Bell’s palsy and will soon be seeing a specialist about having a weight put in her eyelid. She has also had issues with her speech.

Despite all she has been through she wants other women to know that there is hope.

“I do appreciate stuff now,” she said. “It sounds clichéd but it is good to be alive. It makes you value your life – although I wish I did have more money to do stuff.

“I went to see my best friend’s child in a Christmas play and I felt so emotional because I was so proud to see this little girl who means everything to me.

“With my son I feel so proud when my son gets As. I’m so proud of him – he could have turned into such a d*** with everything he has been through. I would have understood if he had but he hasn’t.”


Craig Thomas was jailed for 10 years

‘There’s hope for other women’
One of the reasons why Charlotte is keen to share her story is to raise awareness for Cardiff Women’s Aid who she said were vital in her getting away and rebuilding her life.

She said: “They will always do anything for you. They will phone you back and if you can’t talk they will talk to you down the phone. They will never put you in a position where they will jeopardise your safety by helping you.

“It’s not like you have to leave your partner before you go to them – they can always give you advice. To be honest they were amazing and I could not have done it without them.

“I know it’s their job but you can’t do a job like this unless you genuinely really care about people. I would love to do something like this in a few years time but you have to be free of domestic violence for a number of years.

“Even if it’s not office hours they will come to you, don’t be afraid – it can’t always be like this. I think that the stigma of domestic violence has to change.

“When the story went up people were saying that if I hadn’t have let him live with me none of this would have happened and that it was my fault.

“That is one of the reasons why I wanted to get this out there because, even if it doesn’t matter to anyone else, it matters to me how people look at me.

“I hate the thought that people believe that I just thought ‘F*** it, I’ll let someone live with me’. He was so calculating. When you have children you just go into survival mode.

“When I used to sleep standing up I would do it because I didn’t want my child to wake up. It is not like you are asking for it – you just do what you have to do.”

By sharing this story Charlotte, who still has panic alarms fitted at her house, wants some good to come out of her horror.

She said: “If other women read this and it helps them it makes me feel like I’ve got a purpose. I had lost everything in the fire and then I lost everything again.

“I feel like something good has got to come out of this. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got or what colour you are, if they’re going to batter you they are going to batter you and you need to get support.

“Stereotypically you think it might happen to a certain person but it could happen to anyone.”

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