I’m not one to post my whole life and everything going on in it on Facebook, and I wasn’t ever planning to post anything about what happened to Charlie, but after a few days of over thinking and growing more and more frustrated following a phone call with the detective investigating his case, I’ve decided that I just need to vent!
This is a long story, but please take the time to read it, I feel it’s really important to share. A couple of weeks ago when in the McDonalds near Hampton in Peterborough, I was walking to the toilet with Charlie and Elsie. I had Elsie in front, guiding her forward with one hand, and Charlie behind holding onto my other hand. All of a sudden it felt like Charlie’s hand was snatched from mine, so instinctively I turned around imagining the worst, that someone was trying to grab him.
What I saw next had me so confused. I saw Charlie on the floor, and on top of him was a girl, of about 12/13 years of age, with fair wavy hair, just completely obscuring him from my view almost. On top of her almost, was what I assumed to be her mother. In that first half a second, I automatically assumed that she must have fallen onto him accidentally, and her mother with her, and then as I bent down to help my crying child up, I realised that her teeth were embedded into the top of his back.
This had come from absolutely nowhere. Then all I could see and hear was chaos. I could see her grappling with him and biting him as hard as she could, I could hear the animalistic sounds coming out of her mouth as she bit down, and her mum telling her to stop. I could hear Charlie, my little 5-year-old screaming for help, hysterical with the shock and the pain, and it all sort of blurred. Elsie was thankfully shut behind the protection of the door heading into the toilets, so I bent down as fast as I could, and started pulling at Charlie as her mum pulled on her.
The harder I pulled the stronger I realised she was and she just seemed to bite harder and thrash her body about on top of him. Charlie was beside himself, just screaming, and I was crying as I was begging her to stop. I’m not going to lie, I wanted to kick her, I wanted to pull her literally by the hair off of my child and I wanted to hurt her, anything to get her off, but I just couldn’t quite do it, because I knew she was a child, if a bigger one, and I knew she likely had some underlying condition that was leading her behaviour. As I looked up in desperation to her mother, all her mother said was “I’m sorry, she’s autistic”, as she continued to try to pull her off.
After what seemed like forever, but in reality was probably about 30 seconds, I managed to pull him away slightly.
Just enough that he started to move. As I moved him away further and as her mum tried to restrain her, she was lashing out at him, getting him wherever she could. Hitting, scratching, biting. Down his back, his bottom, his legs. All I could think was to get away, so I don’t even remember looking at anyone who must have witnessed this and yet not intervened, I just grabbed my screaming 5-year-old child, carried him through the door, got his 2-year-old sister who was being looked after by a kind man this whole time, and locked us in the nearest disabled toilet.
When we were in there I got on my knees and held Charlie, asked him where it hurt, and he just said, in between sobs, “everywhere”. I lifted his top up and felt sick at the sight of his back. There was blood running down from where she had broken through his skin with her teeth. He had red marks where she had slapped and hit him as hard as she could repeatedly, scratches, blotches that I knew would turn into bruising. Charlie’s only saving grace with his back I realised, was the fact he had been wearing a really thick, cotton joules top. Had it been a thin t-shirt of any sort like he normally wears, it would have been a hell of a lot worse and she likely would have taken a chunk of him with her.
I couldn’t believe she had bitten him so hard that she had managed to cut through his skin despite this. I wiped the blood away as gently as I could, and held a cold compress on there for a few minutes, and then I just needed to get out and get in the car before I dealt with the rest. I pulled his top down, grabbed their hands and left the toilet. When we got out the door all of a sudden, the girl who was now sitting at a table with her mum, leapt up to try to get to Charlie again, just shouting manically “naughty naughty naughty, he’s naughty”.
Her mum had to pin her down in her chair to stop her. Charlie started screaming hysterically all over again, hiding behind me just shouting “no mummy, no.” I genuinely just wanted to cry, but held it together. At this point, some staff came over and blocked her view of him, and his of her, and escorted us out. When we got outside they told us to sit down on a bench, and someone went in to get some ice for his back, proceeding to hold it on there for him when they came back out to reduce the swelling. They offered him and Elsie an ice cream (although he wouldn’t eat his), and then filled in an incident form with our details and what had happened.
I was crying freely along with Charlie the whole time, just completely traumatized and in shock by what had happened. I looked back in and could see the mum, still struggling to control who I assume was her daughter. I just wanted to go home, Charlie just kept asking to go home, so as soon as I had filled in our details, we went to the car, and both of us cried all the way home. I kept thinking all the way home, and whilst I was still there too, what do I do? Can I call the police? Does this girl’s autism mean that somehow her behaviour is outside of the law? What happens now?
I knew she must have some disability of some sort, and I was trying so hard to show some compassion and understanding, I really didn’t want to cause undue trouble. I kept going over and over it in my head, wondering if I was being unreasonable in my slowly developing anger. I’ve worked with autistic children before, and I’m a student children’s nurse so it’s not like I had a lack of understanding. I empathise with her mum and how I assumed she must be feeling, but it didn’t take away the pain I felt because of what my child had gone through, never mind the pain Charlie felt himself.
Once home, I stripped him down, ran him a bath, and properly looked at what she had done. He was covered in marks from the top of his back, right down to the top of his ankles. Worse than seeing the bruises that I knew would fade, was hearing him ask me “am I naughty? Why did she hurt me? Will other children hurt me now? Why? Why?”. I didn’t have all the answers, just tried to explain that he was safe, reassure him that this wouldn’t happen again, and try to put into words that this girl was poorly in her mind, and didn’t do it “on purpose”.
After deliberating some more, I decided to call the police through their 101 number. The scary truth was, I had decided, was that had it been my 2-year-old in her thin summer dress, the damage would have been so so much worse. If she had gone for the throat….or the face? And if this was a barely walking toddler or a baby in a car seat? I have no doubt in my mind that this girl could have killed a smaller child if she had taken a chunk out of their neck. She wanted to hurt and cause significant pain, and she didn’t seem to care for the outcome.
I felt like someone had to take responsibility because she wasn’t safe to be around small children, clearly? I spoke to a nice lady on the phone who took all the details, and told me they would investigate, look at the CCTV and get back to me. In the week following, my 5-year-old child’s behaviour seemed to suddenly deteriorate. He was moody, emotional and constantly asked questions about what had happened. Even worse, every other night at least he appeared to have started having night terrors.
He would wake up screaming, crying and drenched in sweat, and some mornings when I asked him how he was he didn’t even seem to remember waking in such a state. This incident hasn’t only affected my child physically, but has also affected him emotionally. The physical marks have faded slightly since, but I’m so concerned that the mental scars will take longer to disappear. He was prescribed antibiotics the next day due to the severity of his injuries to prevent infection, and after a couple more GP visits has been referred to counselling as well.
The police and more specifically the man handling the incident have rang me since and said the CCTV doesn’t cover the whole altercation, just the girl running from the tills with her mum, and diving on my child who is almost out of sight. McDonald’s have no CCTV outside to trace a car reg, and the mum refused to fill in an incident form so they don’t have her details. So what now? They’ve said they have a clear screenshot of her mums face they are rotating around local offices and organisations, but if no one knows her, then this mum won’t even get so much as a little advice as to how to address her child’s behaviour and whether it’s safe to have her around children.
This could happen again and next time this could be worse. Also, I don’t know about anyone else, but if I was that mother I would have been mortified. I would have gone out of my way to fix it, to get the victims details and send a card? A magazine? Anything! Just to apologise, because the guilt would have eaten me up! I’d have worked with anyone and everyone to protect other children from what I knew my own child was sometimes capable of. The officer who reviewed the CCTV said that judging by the mums reaction on the screen, she knew what was happening immediately, so she was aware of what her child was capable. I’m so angry! I’m so so very upset!
How can my child go through this, and yet no one is going to be held responsible? What is this teaching him? Who is protecting him? I’m trying so hard to be understanding to every aspect of the situation, but it just doesn’t seem right. If the girl who inflicted these horrific injuries on my child isn’t to blame, then is her mother? For allowing this to happen knowing what her child was capable of? Should I be angry at the McDonald’s staff because despite comforting and being great with Charlie afterwards, shouldn’t they have ensured 100% that they followed protocol and got mums details too?
Should I be angry at the police because I don’t feel like they are taking this seriously, just because this early teen is autistic? Does that mean no small child is safe when out and about in Peterborough? Should my child, or any child, really be scared to go in McDonald’s and eat a happy meal? I don’t want to be angry, I really don’t, because everyone I have spoken to has seemed helpful, and I’ve been offered support and extra help for Charlie from some lovely people through the police, but I just feel like Charlie is being failed and I just don’t know what to do?! Could people share this post and get the word around?. Does anyone have any advice? If someone knows the mother and the child it could be could they call 101 or contact me directly? Apparently they’ve been to that McDonald’s before a few times according to staff. I just want something!
Some sort of recognition, some form of justice? It’s just not right. It’s awful having to lay with your sobbing child most nights and seeing such fear and confusion in their eyes! As a mother it is truly heartbreaking! It hasn’t only affected Charlie either, the guilt I feel as a his mummy too, for not seeing her coming, for not protecting him, has me crying some nights. I need to gauge some sort of justice, or at least more understanding at where we stand in this situation? I seem to be hitting dead ends on my own, and the more time passes the more I just feel like somewhere along the line Charlie has been failed! What do I do? The photo below is just some of his injuries, please look, please share, please help? 💔