Paedophile John McCallum raped his twin nieces – but made sure neither of his victims shared their secret with each other.
Rachel Steadwood and Tracy Brown have waived their right to anonymity to talk about the eight years of abuse they suffered at the hands
of McCallum from the ages of five to 13, but neither told the other they had been raped and abused until only two years ago.
Yesterday, McCallum, 53, was convicted of raping them while they were just little girls. The sisters said the ordeals had “ruined their lives” and left them battling depression, while each has attempted suicide.
The sisters were abused by McCallum in his caravan at a Duddingston travellers site and in Loanhead, Midlothian, where the businessman also lived, between 1978 and 1987.
Neither victim knew than the other had been abused until two years ago. Both women had earlier disclosed the ordeals to GPs as they sought medical help for their trauma.
McCallum, who raped the girls while his own children were sleeping in his caravan, was found guilty after a four-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.
On the witness stand, McCallum accused the 40-year-old women and his own ex-wife, Mary, of making the whole story up. As the judge was remanding him before sentence later this month, the pervert said: “I’ll take a lie detector test.”
His ex-wife told the court that McCallum boasted that he had “had” his nieces during an argument between them.
Tracy Brown told the jury that she was raped at the North Cairntow caravan site as a youngster while McCallum’s son was in the same bed. She also described being sexually abused in the lorry that McCallum used for driveway repair jobs and in a van from which he delivered logs.
She said that McCallum would “pull up and take his trousers down” before telling her to perform a sex act. She told the court: “It happened quite a lot. It went on for years.”
Rachel Steadwood said she had been raped in the caravan while it was parked in her grandmother’s yard in Clerk Street, Loanhead. She described sexual abuse she suffered at the North Cairntow caravan and at her uncle and aunt’s home in Paradykes Avenue, Loanhead.
McCallum, who was president of a children’s boxing club, had denied the charges of rape and four charges of indecent behaviour. Giving evidence, he said the sisters and his former wife were lying but was unable to give any reason for them inventing such a story. He even claimed he only met Rachel and Tracy “four or five” times despite his ex-wife describing herself as “like a mother to the children”.
As the verdict was read out, McCallum stared forward and occasionally shook his head. He then turned to his supporters in the gallery and shrugged his arms.
McCallum, of Straiton Road, Loanhead, will be sentenced on September 30 after reports are completed. Judge Lord Boyd told him that he faced a “substantial period of imprisonment”.
‘He destroyed our lives but at least truth is now out’
By Gina Davidson
IT was a dark secret that would nearly destroy them, but one that has now united a family following the conviction of a sick sex tormentor.
Brave Rachel Steadwood and Tracy Brown were raped and sexually abused by depraved uncle John McCallum over an eight-year period, but neither had the courage to tell each other of the dark cancer at the heart of their intimate relationship until two years ago.
Yesterday, after a jury found the 53-year-old guilty of their abuse, the sisters waived their right to anonymity to talk about their ordeal and a lifelong horror roller coaster of emotion that has taken them from the depths of destructive despair to the reforging of a bond that can now never be broken.
With the Straiton businessman looking at a lengthy prison term for their abuse, the 40-year-olds hope their horrifying account will encourage other women who have been abused by McCallum to go to the police.
“This is the only way for the truth about him to come out and for everyone to know what he did to us,” says Rachel of her ordeal. “Since we went to the police there’s been intimidation of our families, my kids have been scared to go out on their own, cars have been covered with paint stripper, and Tracy and I have been called ‘junkie whores’ and been accused of making it up for money.
“He’s a man people have been frightened of for so long. And now they know the truth – that he is an abuser and a paedophile. Everybody else is frightened. That’s why we’re putting our names to it, to help others to come forward and tell their stories.”
Tracy adds: “We have been told that other women have been to the police about him but have been too afraid to press charges because of his reputation. We hope that this conviction will help them go back and give their evidence.
“The intimidation our families have had since we went to the police has been shocking but it only made us stronger. What we’ve done is for us and all the others who have been abused and to protect the next generation.”
When she talks of her childhood, Rachel, an assistant support worker for vulnerable adults in Edinburgh, can barely keep her emotions in check. Not that there are tears as she talks about how McCallum “robbed” her as he abused her in caravans, houses and road-tarring lorries. It is anger which is just under the surface.
“He totally destroyed my life, he took everything that shouldn’t have been taken,” she says.
She was raped by McCallum when she was just five-and-a-half years old. “We were always with my aunt, it’s just the way it was growing up, which meant he was always around,” she says. “My memories of what happened are not great because I’ve spent my life trying to block them out, but I remember the rape.”
It happened in a family house in Clerk Street.
“He shoved me into the bedroom and lay on top. I told him it was sore and remember him saying it would only be sore for a wee bit and that it was my aunt’s favourite thing, so I would like it too. That’s all I can remember of that, I’ve blanked the rest from my mind.
“All the other times it was more about him getting me to touch his private parts and do things with it. It happened at Duddingston camp, at his house at Paradykes Avenue, in his lorry. He told me not to tell, that no-one would believe me. He was the adult so I believed what he said.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rachel’s life has been blighted with depression, eating disorders and two attempted suicides.
“I’ve never been able to keep relationships going. I’ve had terrible mood swings, and it’s all because of what happened. It’s his fault.”
While Rachel lives in Loanhead with her three teenage children – who all describe her as “brave” to speak out publicly – 20 miles away her twin sister Tracy runs a cafe in Stow, where comforting cakes line the counter and there’s always a brew on for the labourers working nearby on the new Borders Railway.
She too is angry but, unlike Rachel, she’s been through years of counselling and her doctor has increased her anti-depressants so she’s calm, collected and blistering in her disgust for the man whose abuse, she says, has left a legacy of pain and made her become so overprotective of her own daughters that she won’t even allow her husband to bath them.
Tracy remembers the rape happened at Duddingston travellers’ camp while 19-year-old McCallum’s baby son slept on the bed. She says: “He locked the door. I was watching television and then he just climbed on me. It was painful and I wanted it to stop, but I was so scared I couldn’t even scream or say anything.”
That was just the start. While he never raped her again, she says he used every opportunity he could to touch her and make her perform sex acts on him.
“My aunt would tell me to go with him when he was out pricing up jobs. She thought I liked going in the big lorry. As soon as he could he would make me touch him, and if Aunt Mary was out he would do it in the house as well.
“He told me that I was the special twin, that I was lucky and it was just between us, our secret. It didn’t cross my mind that I should tell anyone because he was telling me it was the right thing, and at the age of six why would I think otherwise? As I got older it was something that just happened, that was a ‘normal’ part of my life. It took me a long time to realise that what he had done was wrong.
“I’ve not really got a lot of memories from childhood. I’ve blocked a lot of my early life out. It’s been the only way to get on with life, but now I can only remember the bad things.”
The memories of the abuse first came back when she was 21 and living in her own house in Loanhead. She says: “I had friends round and one of them was chasing me down the hall for a laugh and I got to the front door and suddenly panicked. I couldn’t get it open. I was in a right state, then I had this flashback to when he raped me.”
It was then that Tracy started going for counselling. “I had a life which I thought was normal then I started getting flashbacks. I thought I was going mad. I went to the doctor. It was like a jigsaw, piecing everything together. I’m sure there’s still a lot my mind doesn’t want me to remember.”
The sisters may not be close geographically, but the revelation that they were both raped then abused by their aunt’s husband when they were children has brought them together.
“Everyone always thinks twins are supposed to be close, but growing up we never were,” says Tracy. “And now we know why. We were each hiding what was happening to us. It ruined our lives, it made us look for ways to block out what had been done to us. We both had problems with drink and drugs in the past, and it’s all because of what he did.”
Rachel says: “When our brother, David, was killed in a motorbike accident two years ago, the grief of that finally got us talking to each other. We were sitting at our Aunt Mary’s kitchen table when it all came spilling out. Tracy asked me if he’d [McCallum] ever done bad things to me and I said ‘yes’. That’s when we really talked about what we’d been hiding from each other.
“It’s also when I discovered that Tracy had actually told our mum years ago what had happened to her, and that our gran also knew, but Tracy was told to let sleeping dogs lie. I was furious. Aunt Mary, who had been his wife, decided to go to the police – she wanted to protect her grandchildren. So that’s when we decided we would speak to the police and finally let everyone know what sort of man he is.”
Tracy says that she had told her mum when she was in her late 20s. But the twins are part of an extensive traveller family, and the ties that bind are tight.
“She did want me to go to the police to report it, but I wasn’t ready to do that and I also thought it would destroy the family. I wanted to protect my aunt and even my dad because I was afraid he’d do something,” she says. “I thought the only person I was hurting by not reporting it was me. But of course I didn’t know about Rachel then. He stole from both of us.”
The abuse ended when McCallum and his wife – who also gave evidence against him – split up and he no longer had access to them. By now they were almost 13 and had been abused regularly for eight years.
Rachel says: “I am so angry, so bitter about it all. I have never been for counselling, I’ve just not been ready for it. Maybe now that he’s been jailed I’ll be able to do that and get on with my life without having this hanging over me. I’m standing up for myself, taking control of my life back from him. I’m not that wee lassie.”
Tracy adds: “He robbed me of a childhood and he’s robbed me of having proper relationships. I’ve been on medication, like anti-depressants, for most of my life. There’s been drugs and bulimia and I’ve even tried to take my own life . . . that’s what he did to me.
“Waiting for the trial was incredibly stressful. The police were great, and I have a panic button in the cafe.
“But now it’s done and I want to move on. I have my husband, my kids, my business. He’s not in charge of our lives anymore. We are.”