Taranaki woman beaten, held against her will

  • 12/07/2015
Taranaki woman beaten, held against her will

A Taranaki woman, beaten and held against her will for 17 years, has spoken of her escape to freedom.

The woman, her children and her mother talked openly to TV3's 3D tonight about what they witnessed, how they were powerless to stop it and how they are all rebuilding their lives.

Katrina Jones was held as a sex slave for nearly two decades, all under the noses of the residents of a tiny New Zealand town.

It is one of the worst cases of domestic abuse this country has ever seen – the crimes so bad that the man who carried them out has been given the harshest sentence in the land, preventative detention.

Ms Jones finally managed to get away from her abuser in the dead of night. Starved and beaten, she weighed just 35kg, but Ms Jones managed to walk over steep countryside for 26kms to freedom.

The story began in 1989 when Ms Jones was a naïve 15-year-old. At the time, she was doing well in school and was part of the Air Corps with dreams of joining the Air Force.

"I was naïve and innocent and would do anything for anyone," she says, "even if I got in trouble, just to make people happy."

So when she met 24-year-old Alan Rosewarne, a local bad boy and small-time cannabis dealer with a reputation of being agro with his girlfriends, Ms Jones says she found it hard to say no to him.

"Yeah, and he would say, 'I'm going to train this bitch well.'"

Within a year they were living together and the control that Rosewarne would exert over her for the next 17 years had begun. He made Ms Jones leave school and drop all her friends and family. Then the beatings began.

"The hidings were horrifying. They would last 14 hours, but there was only an hour break, 24/7, and I'm not talking a hit to my head; he smashed against the wall and he kept hitting me and smashing me into the corner, chocking me unconscious, stabbing me with forks, with broken brooms – a lot of the time I was naked."

It wasn't just beatings Ms Jones had to endure. Rosewarne had full control over her money, even what she ate. She wasn't allowed outside of the house unless he was with her and when she was allowed the occasional phone call to her parents, he listened on the other end. For all intents and purposes, Rosewarne was Ms Jones' captor.

"He would treat the dogs better," she says.

Rosewarne would beat her, urinate on her and make her sleep on the floor naked.

"He wouldn't let me out of his sight. I had lost all hope for myself and love, and my spirit was gone. I had completely given up on myself."

By now Ms Jones had borne four children to Rosewarne. To keep them isolated, Rosewarne had moved her to Whangamomona – population 20. It is 63km to the nearest large town of Stratford.

He would make her tell any visitors to go away; the only people allowed to occasionally visit were her parents.

"The house was always shut up," says mother Katherine Jones. "The windows were never opened. She was always thin and pale and never spoke much. He did all the talking."

But she thought she wanted to be there.

"Yes, I heard what I was supposed to hear. They covered up all the time. I would take the kids down to the park, but for some reason Katrina wouldn't come with me. He was always keeping an eye on her. She was also very pale and quiet and I didn't know why."

Ms Jones did get away once, escaping to her parent's place. They stayed by her side for three weeks, but the moment they went back to work, Rosewarne broke in and grabbed her.

"I got back to the house and she was gone," says her mother. "None of her stuff – just her and the kids at the time – I thought it was her choice, but it wasn't. I found out later she didn't have a choice."

He had forced her into the car.

Ms Jones phoned the police but Rosewarne was one step ahead. He had driven her to the police station. While he waited in the car he made her go inside to tell the local constable that she was all right and that she wanted to be back to him. All the while, Rosewarne had threatened to kill all of her family if she didn't follow his orders.

"He said, 'I am going to rape and kill your parents and the kids if you don't go back,' so I came back to Whana and I decided that my next escape I had to do properly. There were no flaws, and no trusting anyone; they might do it wrong."

But it would take her nine more years to finally escape.

For nearly two decades Ms Jones lived in a house of horrors, beaten and abused by Rosewarne – a morphine-addicted drug addict who kept her as a sex slave.

She had no running water; there was raw sewage outside and Rosewarne insisted on keeping 12 big dogs inside.

Given the way they were living, it is remarkable that over the years no one uncovered the extent of the abuse.

The police did visit the house once, but they questioned Ms Jones in front of Rosewarne, who threatened to kill all of her family if she talked.

"You don't need a cage to kidnap somebody; you terrify them."

Witness to all of this were the four children she bore to Rosewarne – the eldest two Shoshanny and Cheyanne.

"[I remember] just being scared and on guard the whole time," they say. "I didn't want to mess anything up, worried about every little thing. The worst part was when Mum did something wrong. Any little thing and he would go off."

"One night I woke up and I thought he was going to kill her. It was so loud and the things I kept hearing I thought she couldn't survive. I got up and went to the toilet and there was blood smeared all over the walls and there was blood everywhere, and all I thought was she couldn't' have survived this. I really thought she was dead.

"Many times I wanted to step in and try and stop him, but I was too scared."

Ms Jones knew her children were suffering but couldn't do anything about it.

By now Ms Jones weighed just 35kg because there was so little food in the house. She also had brain damage from all the beatings. She knew if she didn't escape she would die.

"It wasn't courage; it was just desperation. I had to. I was dying. My skin was melting. I was that malnourished. My kids were starving. He'd nearly killed me. For months the things he did – I knew I was going to die."

For months she had planned her escape, keeping a backpack hidden in the house with warm socks and a change of clothes.

In the dead of night she crawled out of the house and began walking towards Stratford. It didn't take long for Rosewarne to discover her gone, but she hid when he searched for her.

Ms Jones walked an incredible 26km across steep countryside until she reached a house and phoned Women's Refuge. The police then raced to the house and rescued the children.

"I was just happy I was free. That's all I wanted. We had no clothes, no food, but it didn't matter; we were free."

But Ms Jones was too scared of Rosewarne to press any charges. For years she's felt guilty about that because he went on to get another girlfriend, who became another victim. Rosewarne injected her with morphine while she slept to make her an addict.

When this woman finally escaped she went straight to the police and Rosewarne was arrested. Last October he was sentenced to preventive detention.

She doesn't think he should ever be let out of prison.

"He's never going to change. He's a danger to anybody he walks past. He didn't just abuse me; he abused everyone he was around. It's a lot easier knowing he's behind bars. We can finally be free and not have to worry about him anymore."

Ms Jones will carry the scars of her 17-year nightmare forever. Her brain damage from the beatings is so bad she is supposed to wear a helmet 24/7 to protect her head.

But she doesn't mind. All she cares about is that she and her children are finally free.

Katrina Jones' story represents one end of the spectrum of domestic violence. Whether the abuse is verbal, financial, physical or emotional, any victim has a right to know that domestic violence is illegal and there are places to go for confidential help and advice.

Women's Refuge works with all women, with or without children, of all ages and ethnicities, whether the abuse is reported to police or not. If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member you can contact the crisis/support line on 0800 REFUGE (733 843), 24/7. To get more information about domestic violence visit the Women's Refuge website.