Police 'lost' girl's evidence of abuse by babysitter

A picture taken from the police interview tape where Michaela Allen - seen sat next to her mother - alleged abuse by her babysitter
Michaela Allen - seen here sat next to her mother - was interviewed by police on video after she was allegedly abused by her babysitter [BBC]

A sexual abuse victim says multiple police failures over 30 years have "robbed her of justice".

Michaela Allen, 36, claims she was abused by a babysitter at her home when she was seven.

Police never charged the man and lost vital evidence until it was found years later - only to end any prospect of a conviction when they wrongly sent it to Michaela in the post.

South Wales Police and Gwent Police have both apologised for failures and said they took all reports of sexual assault seriously.

Michaela Allen as a seven-year-old girl
Michaela Allen says she was sexually abused by a babysitter as a seven-year-old [Michaela Allen]

When Michaela told her grandmother what her babysitter had done to her in 1995, her mum phoned the police immediately.

In the police interview video seen by BBC Wales Live, the seven-year-old describes how he asked her to give him "grown up kisses".

She refused saying it was "naughty", but he threatened to tell her parents she was not behaving.

On the tape, she said he told her: "You're enjoying this aren't you?"

She went on to describe how he pulled her trousers down and accurately described male genitalia.

Her mother Stephanie said: “The police officer in that room stated that never before she had a child give so much detailed evidence without being questioned.

"There was no doubt in my mind that this was going to court.”

Even though the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) instructed the police officer in charge to ask her parents if Michaela could face cross-examination in court, Stephanie said that never happened.

“I continually rang the police station to find out what was going on," Stephanie said.

"I’d be told that somebody would get back to me and nobody did."

Michaela Allen
Michaela - pictured as an adult - says both South Wales Police and Gwent Police "failed her" over three decades [Michaela Allen]

Over the years Michaela said she would ask her mum if the police had taken any action, prompting Stephanie to repeatedly chase the officers involved.

Years later, in 2017, Michaela tried to re-open her case - only to be told the video evidence could not be found.

While South Wales Police was responsible for the original investigation and storage of the evidence tape, a boundary change in 1996 saw Gwent Police then assume responsibility for Caerphilly, and Michaela's case.

An investigation by Gwent Police in 2018 stated that the officer in the original case could not remember it, but claims he would have followed the CPS instruction.

With no further action police said the video evidence would have been "lawfully discarded in 1996".

Michaela with her grandmother at a wedding
The first person Michaela told about her abuse was grandmother, Margaret (right) [Michaela Allen]

Michaela said: “It was absolutely devastating to read that. Without that evidence it left a large gap, so it meant the perpetrator couldn’t have a fair trial. But where was my fair trial?"

Believing she would never get justice she told her story on social media in 2022, saying she felt a "duty of care to warn the public".

But shortly after, the police got in touch with unexpected news.

“I was shocked to have a CID officer knocking on my door, claiming that they had potentially found my evidence,” Michaela said.

In a letter to her, South Wales Police blamed a lack of cataloguing evidence tapes, and it was only in July 2021 when 8,605 tapes were digitised that Michaela’s tape was found.

Michaela Allen as a seven-year-old girl
Michaela has been waiting since 1995 for her abuser to face justice [Michaela Allen]

This revelation gave Michaela hope that she would finally to face her alleged abuser in court.

At the request of the police, Michaela said she did "everything they asked me to" including deleting Facebook posts she had published about the case.

Not believing police had really found the tape she asked for a copy, but was told she could not have it until the end of the investigation.

But to her surprise the tape turned up in the post, and a copy was sent to her by email from Gwent Police.

It was because of this that the CPS then told Michaela in September 2023 they did not feel "the suspect could be given a fair trial".

Another reason given by the CPS for not being able to charge the man was due to her social media posts about the case.

Michaela said: "I was told my evidence had been lawfully destroyed and had no chance of ever going to court, so I didn’t think I had anything to lose by posting what I did.

“I have been completely robbed of justice for what has happened to me.

"When I’ve been chasing things up I’ve been accused of being impatient. When I’m trying to highlight things, I’m being talked over.

"The frustration reduced me to tears at one point. I’ve been spoken to like a child when I’m trying to get answers."

Michaela said she is now trying to claim compensation, but said it was not about the money, rather it was "accountability for the failures".

"It’s the only option I have left to hold them accountable, this is a last resort for me," she added.

South Wales Police said: "An investigation into the complaint has taken place and a wholehearted apology for the original failure to locate the tape in 2018 has been made."

Gwent Police said: “We have apologised to Ms Allen for the failure to proceed with charges in 1996 and for the upset, distress and disappointment caused as a result of this and the outcome of the recent investigation in 2022.

“We have also reflected on the issues raised in this case and have put measures in place to learn from these including revising our disclosure processes."

For more on this story, watch Wales Live on BBC iPlayer.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this article you can find details of organisations that can help via the BBC Action Line.