'I'll fight on for the little girl I love': Vow of mother who was branded a liar for calling her ex a sex abuser and then jailed for defying the courts to see her daughter
Victoria Haigh made five allegations that her ex-husband sexually abused their young daughter, which were later dismissed in court as lies
Her ex-husband was awarded sole custody of their daughter in January 2011
Two months later she was arrested and charged with breaching that order
Last December, she was sent to prison for three years, despite Victoria insisting her meeting with her daughter was a chance encounter
Heartbroken Vicky now expects to be free by Christmas - but it will be June 2013 before she can apply for even limited access to her daughter
She is also apart from the baby girl she had with a new partner in May 2011
In this troubling prison interview, she vows to continue fighting
By Antonia Hoyle
When Victoria Haigh wakes up, the first thing she sees are the photographs of her eight-year-old daughter on the wall beside her bed.
In one of the pictures, her little girl is happily riding her pony; in another she smiles proudly in her school uniform, looking every inch the product of her privileged, middle-class upbringing.
Yet these photos are not showcased in silver frames nor displayed in the sitting room of a comfortable family home. They are stuck to a prison wall — each image reminding Victoria of the enduring pain of her daughter’s absence.
Victoria hasn’t seen her eldest daughter since March 2011, when a brief meeting between them changed the course of their lives forever.
Soon after, Victoria was arrested and charged with breaching an order placed on her in January last year to stop her contacting her daughter - who cannot be named for legal reasons - after sole custody was awarded to her ex-husband.
Victoria had previously accused him of sexually abusing the child.
The abuse allegations were dismissed by a judge, who named and shamed Victoria to lift the stigma surrounding her ex-husband’s name.
Last December, she was sent to prison for three years for an incident at a petrol station - which Victoria insists was nothing more than a chance encounter.
Earlier this week, an appeal against her term saw it reduced to two years and three months.
Victoria, 41, now expects to be free by Christmas, but celebrations are likely to be muted, as it will be June 2013 before she can apply for even limited access to her daughter.
She knows that because of the dim view the family court has taken of her past behaviour, she is likely to be refused that access.
In all probability, she will not see her daughter until she is an adult, by which stage the damage to their relationship may be too great to repair.
This situation must also be having an impact on Victoria’s younger daughter, a 13-month-old baby - by a new partner - who lives with her mother in prison.
There are many who would say that Victoria has only herself to blame for the plight she finds herself in. But when you talk to her, Victoria’s agony for the loss of her daughter is palpable.
‘It is like a death, and I am grieving,’ she says. ‘A mother has a duty to care for her children, and not being able to do so is torture.
‘I wake up every day wondering if all this is a dream.’
Victoria is now Prisoner A8294CH, earning 30p an hour washing dishes, and wondering what her future holds, but not so long ago she was a successful racehorse trainer and a former model and jockey.
Home was a seven-bedroom grange in Bawtry, South Yorkshire. She drove a Mercedes, and owned a wardrobe of designer clothes.
Apart: Victoria and her current partner David Cutts hold their baby daughter Sapphire before Vicky was imprisoned last December
In 1998 she met David Tune, now 42, at a running club. They fell in love and Victoria became pregnant in early 2003. She and David, the owner of a fresh produce business, were married in May that year.
But Victoria claims their marriage collapsed within weeks when his business went bankrupt and she discovered he had accrued substantial debts in her name, an accusation David denies.
Victoria says she filed for divorce on the grounds of David’s unreasonable behaviour in May 2004, and they informally agreed that he would care for their daughter on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
By her account, she was forced to sell the family home to clear her ex-husband’s debts. But she continued to work, and moved into a rented home in Wiseton, Nottinghamshire, where she tried to build a new life for her daughter.
‘Being a mother meant everything,’ she says. ‘Whatever I did, I did for my daughter. I read stories to her for hours and I bought her a pony for her first birthday.’
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In April 2005, Victoria met her current partner David Cutts, now 47, at a wedding and they started dating. He was a recently divorced football scout, with three children: Olivia, now 12, Megan, 11, and Jo, nine.
The couple divided their time between her home and his in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
But, by her own admission, Victoria broke the informal custody agreement with her ex-husband by refusing to let him see their daughter at weekends.
In response, David secured a court order granting him official access to the little girl - but Victoria continued to deny him access.
So in 2006 he applied for a penal notice to be attached to the order, meaning Victoria could be punished for non-compliance.
Hours after that notice was granted, Victoria made the first of five allegations about the father.
After each complaint, David’s access to his daughter was stopped while a police investigation was carried out, including several physical examinations of the little girl for signs of abuse.
She repeated her mother’s allegations to police officers and social workers, saying she never wanted to see her father again - yet no medical evidence was ever found to support the claims.
Victoria, meanwhile, publicly accused the police and social workers of covering up the alleged abuse and of failing to prosecute her ex-husband.
So, she says, it came as a dreadful shock to her when at a court hearing in January 2010, she was accused of coaching her daughter to repeat the allegations against David — and was informed that her daughter was being taken from her immediately.
Bond: Vicky has admitted that she fell pregnant with Sapphire in a deliberate attempt to assuage her loss at not being able to see her elder daughter
Vicky, current partner David and baby Sapphire. A judge last year ruled that Vicky is an unstable woman who cared more about her own welfare than her daughter's
Increasingly concerned that the authorities might try to take her soon-to-be-born daughter away from her, Victoria decided she would flee to the Republic of Ireland, where social services are not subject to the same governing body as in Britain.
‘Nottinghamshire Social Services had threatened to take my second child away too, and I knew that in Ireland they were unlikely to be able to do that,’ she says.
‘I had the full support of David (her new partner), but he couldn’t come with me because he had to help care for his own children.
‘So I rented a cottage in Limerick and gave birth to my second daughter, Sapphire, in hospital there in May last year.
'They might as well have shot me in the head'
‘I felt overwhelmed with love for her but terrified that she’d be taken from me, so I wouldn’t let Sapphire out of my sight those first few weeks. I showed her pictures of her sister, and David visited us with his children when he could.’
In June 2011, Victoria had to travel to London for a court hearing relating to breaching the non-molestation order, and left Sapphire in the care of trusted childminders.
She was confident the news would be good regarding contact with her older daughter — and was horrified when, instead, she was made the subject of a two-year order banning her from any contact with the child.
There was another blow for Victoria last August, when a judge decided that David had no case to answer, and that Victoria had distorted the police and social services’ version of events to suit her own purposes.
She was, he declared, an unstable woman who cared more about her own welfare than her daughter’s.
So incensed was the judge by Victoria’s attempts to ruin David’s reputation that he took the unprecedented step of naming the adults involved in the case, to shame Victoria and allow her ex-husband to clear his name.
David then gave an interview to The Mail in which he talked of how his world ‘fell apart’ when Vicky accused him of sexual abuse, and insisted that he had never harmed his daughter.
Extended family: Vicky holds Sapphire as she poses for a photo with two of her partner's children, Olivia (left) and Megan (right)
He likened the situation to ‘waking up in your worst nightmare’, and accused his ex-wife of launching a ‘ridiculous, evil campaign’ against him.
Victoria continued to protest her innocence, and at a trial in November last year she pleaded not guilty to breaching the non-molestation order in the encounter at the petrol station. But the judge said the incident had ‘sinister overtones’, adding: ‘It looked to Mr Tune as if it was an attempted abduction. I don’t accept at all that it was a purely coincidental meeting.’
Victoria was devastated when she was convicted of breaching the order and taken to prison to await sentencing.
‘I couldn’t believe the outcome of the trial, and Sapphire being back in Ireland broke my heart,’ she says.
She was put on suicide watch, and spent 22 hours a day in her cell in her first week, feeling haunted by memories of the years she had shared with the daughter she’d lost, and devastated to be apart from her baby.
‘Sapphire was only seven months old, and being apart from her was torture,’ says Victoria. ‘I was still breastfeeding, and didn’t understand how a mother could be treated like that.
‘I couldn’t sleep, I lost a stone within a month, and my hair fell out through stress.’
On December 16 last year, Victoria was sentenced to three years in prison. It took a further three months for social workers to decide that Sapphire could be reunited with her.
Victoria was moved to the prison’s mother-and-baby unit in March this year, and David collected Sapphire from the childminders in Ireland and took her to her mother.
‘David bought her in and she smiled at me,’ Victoria says. ‘I kissed her on the forehead and, as she fell asleep in my arms, I cried with relief.’
In May, Victoria made Sapphire a sponge cake with pink icing for her first birthday.
That same month she was moved to a women’s prison in North Yorkshire, where Sapphire sleeps in a cot at the end of her bed.
Victoria says: ‘In some ways Sapphire exacerbates the pain of being apart from my other daughter, because she reminds me of her so much.’
Victoria is allowed no contact with her older daughter, and can’t apply for contact to be restored for another year.
When she speaks of her love for her eldest child she begins to cry, but it’s apparent that she has few regrets for her actions. She says: ‘I try to block the memories out otherwise I wouldn’t survive.’
There are those who believe Victoria has been unjustly treated. Among them is MP John Hemmings, who says her imprisonment is ‘ridiculously harsh sentencing for what was a minor technical breach of a court order’.
And Victoria’s relationship with her partner has withstood the trauma and heartbreak of the last few years. In fact, she insists, it is stronger than ever.
‘The love David has shown both my daughters has made me love him all the more,’ she says.
While the courts have branded Victoria a liar who falsely accused her husband of the most heinous of crimes, her desperate love for her daughter seems beyond doubt.
The question of whether she has always considered the best interests of her little girl, the one true innocent victim in this wholly disturbing story, is much harder to answer
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