The Teresa Thornhill Story
                                     From The Telegraph

:: 1988 - Teresa Thornhill - attempted abduction
Teresa was 15 years of age but looked much younger. She was only 4ft 10in and at the time conceded she looked about 12.
On the evening of Sunday April 24, she was walking through the Radford area of Nottingham with a friend, Andrew Beeston.
It was then they spotted a blue Ford Transit van driving suspiciously.
After she and Andrew went their separate ways at a crossroads, Teresa again saw the vehicle, this time parked up in front of her on Norton Street.
The driver got out and opened the bonnet and shouted at the girl.
Feeling uneasy, she crossed to the other side of the road.
Again the driver shouted out.
''Can you fix engines?'' Robert Black barked.
Next thing she knew he had grabbed her from behind, enveloping her in a tight bear hug, and tried to drag her over to his van.
In her efforts to escape, Teresa bit Black on the hand and arm and knocked off his glasses.
He thrust his hand over her nose and mouth and tried to push her into the van door.
But the schoolgirl, stronger than her diminutive frame suggested, resisted fiercely, wedging her feet up on either side of the door frame and refusing to go in.
''Get in, you bitch,'' Black shouted.
But he could not push her through. Teresa later told police: ''I was fighting for my life.''
As the struggle continued Teresa's friend Andrew, who had heard her cries for help, came running to the scene.
Black finally let go and the two of them ran away as the killer sped off in his van.
During his trial it emerged that Black had made a delivery just 500 yards from the scene of the attempted abduction earlier that day.

I escaped a child killer - but he destroyed my life

As a schoolgirl, Teresa fought off serial murderer Robert Black. Two decades on, what does it feel like to be the one that got away?

Twenty-three years have passed since the day Teresa Thornhill fought for her life, but time has not dimmed that terrible memory.

‘I can see the man who attacked me as clearly as if he was standing in front of me now,’ she says. ‘He was chubby with big hands. He was wearing blue trousers and a greasy white T-shirt, and smelled of engine oil and sweat.’

Teresa is still loath to say his name out loud. The man was Robert Black, the serial killer and paedophile who last week was convicted of a fourth child murder.

His name has long carried a grim notoriety. In 1994, the Scottish delivery driver was convicted of the abduction and murders of 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, ten, from Morley, near Leeds.

He was serving a life sentence for these crimes when he was charged with the killing of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in 1981. Last week, a jury in Armagh, Northern Ireland, unanimously convicted him of Jennifer’s murder.

Prosecutors are likely to be asked to review evidence linking Black, 64, to one of Britain’s most notorious unsolved cases — the disappearance of 13-year-old Genette Tate in 1978 — as well as numerous other unsolved crimes.

Teresa Thornhill’s name could all too easily have been added to this tragic roster of young lives lost. But she is the girl who got away, the only victim known to have battled free of the paedophile’s grip.  

She was just 15  — though her petite build made her appear much younger — when Black grabbed her off the street in 1988. He tried to bundle her into his van, but Teresa fought back, biting him on the arm, grabbing his crotch and screaming for help before he finally let her go.

Her testimony proved crucial in helping to secure Black’s convictions at both of his trials.

It is something of which she can be proud — though that is not a word Teresa, 38, would use. Instead, she can only reflect on the price she has paid for Black’s twisted desires.

‘There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of Robert Black, of what he did to those other little girls and what he tried to do to me,’ she says.

‘I’m glad he’s behind bars and the parents of his victims have got justice, but that doesn’t change how I feel. I’ve spent my life looking over my shoulder because of what he did and can’t see a time when that will ever change. He ruined my life. That is his legacy.’

Though happily married with two grown-up sons, her life has been blighted. Vulnerable and lacking in confidence, she barely goes out. The only place she feels safe is behind the bolted front door of her family home in Nottingham.

It’s the town where she grew up as a happy little girl, the youngest of three children. ‘I was bubbly and full of fun,’ she says.

All that changed one warm spring evening in April 1988, as she was making her way home from playing with friends. Black, parked on a street near her home in a light-blue transit van, saw her and marked her out as a victim.

He had already left a chilling trail behind him, kidnapping and murdering Jennifer, Susan, Caroline and Sarah. But Teresa, of course, knew nothing of his crimes.  

And so, when Black asked her if she knew anything about car engines, she innocently walked into a carefully planned ambush.

‘He grabbed me from behind and clamped his hand over my mouth with my elbows pinned to my sides,’ she says.

‘His foul stench was overwhelming and I could barely breathe. He lifted me off my feet and had nearly pulled me through the side door of his van, but I started fighting back. I managed to scream and bit his arm, then grabbed him by his trousers. He dropped me on the floor.’

A male friend who happened to be nearby spotted what was happening and ran over, scaring off Black. ‘Black ran to the front of the van and cursed me, shouting “You f*****g bitch” before driving off,’ says Teresa.

Distraught and dishevelled, she ran home, relating what had happened through her sobs. Her horrified parents called the police, who arrived within minutes.

‘All I wanted to do was have a bath. I felt dirty, soiled. But I had to wait. The police wanted to take a statement then drive me around to see if I could spot the van.’

But Black was long gone, leaving behind a bewildered young girl struggling to make sense of what had happened.

‘Overnight I became a different person,’ she says. ‘I’d always been outgoing, but now all I wanted to do was to lock myself away.’

The impact on Teresa’s day-to-day life was immediate: when she did return to school, weeks after the attack, she had to be picked up and dropped off at her front door by a teacher. Once home, she didn’t want to go out again. Her school work suffered. No longer able to concentrate on her studies, Teresa dropped out with no qualifications and got a job working in a bakery with her parents. 

The police kept in contact, on one occasion asking her to attend an identity parade.

‘I felt sick and wasn’t sure if I could face it, but I plucked up the courage to go,’ she says. ‘It wasn’t the man who had attacked me.’

Then, two years after Black had attempted to abduct Teresa, the police arrived on her doorstep.

They had arrested a man in Scotland after he was seen snatching a six-year-old girl off the street (Mandy Wilson). The girl was found in the back of his van, hooded, bound and gagged, but alive.

At his lodgings, police discovered a well-thumbed cutting from a local Nottingham newspaper reporting Teresa’s botched kidnapping —  detectives believed he had kept it as a trophy.

‘Thinking of him looking at that is still a horrible feeling,’ she says. Teresa was shown Black’s picture and was able to confirm he was the man who had attacked her.

‘I realised that had he got me into that van, I might have ended up like those other girls. It was a sickening thought,’ she says.

Black was sentenced to life imprisonment in August 1990 for the abduction of the six-year-old girl, but it would be another four years before he stood trial for murder and the attempted kidnap of Teresa.

She married Paul, a friend of her brother’s, and had two sons, Jamie, now 20, and Shaun, 19. But motherhood has proven to be bittersweet.

‘Having my own family gave me a focus, but it also gave me a lot to worry about’ she says. ‘If my boys were even just five minutes late home, I panicked.’
But it was the thought of her sons that helped her when she gave evidence at Black’s trials. ‘I was terrified because I didn’t want to set eyes on him again,’ she says. ‘But I did my best for the sake of the girls who had died.’

At the first trial, Black was found guilty of three counts of murder, and guilty of Teresa’s kidnap. ‘I was glad his victims had got justice, but I still felt afraid every time I stepped out of the front door,’ she says.

At Black’s trial last week for the  murder of Jennifer Cardy, abducted as she cycled to a friend’s house in the village of Ballinderry, Co. Antrim, on August  12, 1981, Teresa’s evidence was read out in court and again helped to secure  a conviction.
‘I know in my heart there is nothing I could have done to save any of the girls, but I lived and they did not, and that makes me feel terrible,’ she says. ‘I’m a mother and can only guess how the parents of those girls have suffered.’  

She will write to Jennifer’s parents, she says, just as she wrote to the parents of Black’s other victims, to express her deep sorrow. She hopes in time to visit Jennifer’s grave.
‘My husband says I need to be out there doing things that other women my age do. But I haven’t been able to find the courage to live life like a normal person,’ she says.
It is a dreadful legacy, and there is little surprise that there is no talk  of forgiveness.
‘I feel nothing but hatred for him and everything he has done. I hate to think of him in prison being fed and watching TV,’ she says.

‘I wish we had the death penalty, and if we did I’d like to be the one to sign it. If he was in the electric chair, I’d want to throw the switch.’
There will be many who share those sentiments.

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