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Old 22-07-14, 20:17   #1
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Angry PhOTOs-'Dad Killed MUM-Then Sold ME When I was 13yrs

'My Dad Murdered my Mother -Then Sold ME to Yemen as a Wife When I was 13yrs':
British Child Bride Reveals the Violent Abuse she Suffered at the Hands of her Father
-AND her Husband

Daily Mail UK, 22 July 2014

  • Gabriella Gillespie, now 50, grew up in Wales and now lives in Bristol
  • Her Yemeni father was jailed for killing her British mother when she was six
  • On his release, he took her and her sisters to Yemen for a 'holiday'
  • The sisters were sold off in marriage, with Gabriella married at 13
  • Ismahan, 15, killed herself on her wedding day rather than wed old man
  • Gabriella herself was married to Ziad Nasser, 18, a violent drug addict
  • After 17 years, she fled to the British Embassy with her five children
  • Eventually flown home to the UK in 1992 with her family
  • Has written a memoir in a bid to ensure that her story won't be repeated

With her dark hair neatly pinned back, glamorous sense of style and remarkably unlined skin, Gabriella Gillespie, 50, looks every inch the professional mother-of-five.
But her immaculate looks conceal a dark secret, for unlike her neighbours in the quiet Bristol suburb that she calls home, Gabriella is a former child bride.
Now, more than 20 years after escaping her violent rapist husband, she has written a memoir in the hopes that telling her story will help prevent other girls from going through the same trauma.

Back in Britain: Gabriella Gillespie (far left) with her children Taz, Justina, Adam, Sandy and Luke
Born to a British mother and Yemeni father in Newport in Wales just over half a century ago, Ms Gillespie's first years were idyllic.

One of a brood of seven sisters, she was close to her siblings, in particular her sister Yasmin, and revelled in the love of her devoted mother.
But all that changed after her mother Mary was murdered by her father Ali Abdulla Saleh Yafai when Gabriella was just six years old.

'Most of the memories I have of my early childhood are good and happy but I don't have many memories of my mum or my later childhood,' she says.
'I think I blocked them out. That is something I've learnt to do throughout my life - Iíve become very proficient at blocking out any memories that hurt me.'

On 2nd September 1971, her father unexpectedly arrived to pick the girls up from school, telling them their mother had gone to visit her family.

Early days: Gabriella (second right) aged 12 with her father (left), sisters and foster father Jim (right)

Idyllic: Gabriella on holiday with her foster family in Pembrokeshire before she was taken to Yemen

Three days later and with Mary, then just 26, still nowhere to be found, Yafai reported his wife missing - sparking a massive nationwide manhunt.
But a year on from the disappearance, Gabriella's father was arrested and charged with killing his wife and she and her sisters were put into foster care.

Although Mary's body was never found, Yafai himself was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter.

Gabriella and her sisters moved in with Jim and Thelma, a local couple with three daughters of their own, and a period of normality ensued.

Heartbreakingly, none of the sisters, barring Ablah, the eldest, could bring themselves to believe that their father had really killed their mother, so when he was released, all agreed to return to his care.

'My foster family were good to us and I have a few happy memories from my time in foster care,' says Gabriella.
'We didn't want to go back and live with our dad because we were happy and settled in our foster home.
'But I remember that at the time there was an awful lot that I didnít understand about what had happened to mum, and I still adored my Dad and I missed him.'

Despite their doubts and their foster father's battle to keep the girls, by the time Gabriella was 12, she was back with her father in Newport. It wouldn't be for long.

In May 1977, Yafai decided to take the girls on a 'lovely holiday' to Yemen, although without Ablah who refused to go and chose to stay behind with their foster father, Jim.

'We all wanted to go to Yemen at the time,' remembers Gabriella. 'We were promised that it was going to be this fantastic holiday.
'Our father had told us so many lies about how beautiful Yemen was and how we were going to have a brilliant time while we were there; a family united again for the first time in years.'

Ableh's decision proved to be a wise one, for within weeks of their arrival, Yafai put his plan to marry off the girls into action.

First to wed was Gabriella's sister Yasmin, then just 14, who was forcibly taken by a man three times her age whom they had known, up to that moment, as 'Uncle Nasser'.

A very Welsh childhood: Gabriella (right), who grew up in Newport in South Wales, had a British upbringing

Adored: Despite the death of her mother, Gabriella says she has good memories of her time in foster care

Gabriella and her sister Ismahan were taken to the Yemeni capital Sana'a by another 'uncle' named Mohammed.
For a while, the two lived with their paternal grandparents in a village near the city, learning Arabic and to wear the body-covering abaya - a garment neither had donned before.
Their sister Yasmin, rejected by her 'husband' after attempting to kill herself with an overdose of painkillers, soon rejoined them. But the respite was to be a brief one.
Six months after they arrived in Sana'a, their father announced that 15-year-old Ismahan - or Issy as she was known - would marry a man of 60, who already had a wife and children older than she was.

Tragedy: Gabriella's sister Ismahan, 15, killed herself by jumping off a roof rather than marry

The impact was devastating. Despite her repeated refusals and desperate protests, their father insisted she would marry.

On the day of her wedding, rather than marry the grandfather chosen for her, Ismahan killed herself by throwing herself off the roof of her fiance's apartment block.

Gabriella, knowing that it wouldn't be long until her father chose a husband for her, decided to strike out on her own, befriending a village boy named Mana and encouraging him to approach her father.

'My first marriage was led by me because I understood and had tried to accept at the time that I had absolutely no other choice in the matter,' she remembers.
'I knew I would be sold because I had had to watch my sisters get sold and one of my sisters commit suicide because she was so frightened and appalled by her fate.
'So I tried to desperately to come to terms with my situation by finding a boy I liked.

'My sister was sold to an old man who terrified her and I was so scared of the same fate happening to me. So I chose a younger man and I asked him to come and meet my father to ask if he could marry me.'

Aged 13, Gabriella became a bride for the first time. But just six weeks after her wedding, her 18-year-old husband Mana died following two days vomiting blood.
Gabriella was returned to her father who swiftly announced that she would marry again, this time to an 18-year-old son of a wealthy family named Ziad Nasser.

'My father chose my second husband,' she says. 'I only saw him the day the deal had been done. I didn't have an impression of him, I didn't know him or want to be with him.'

But it was too late and almost immediately after the wedding, Gabriella found herself, aged 14, pregnant and living the life of a Yemeni countrywoman in a small village near the capital.

'The first few years of my marriage were OK,' she remembers. 'My husband wasn't kind or unkind to me but he wasn't in Yemen much - he worked away in Africa for years so I didn't see him much.

Changed: By the time of her second marriage, Gabriella was no longer a British schoolgirl but Yemeni wife

Abusive: Gabriella with her three oldest children, her father (left) and husband (right) in Bangui

'I was living with his extended family and that was difficult. I was expected to do everything a Yemeni girl would do.

'Cook for the whole family in a clay oven. Feed animals by hand. Carry heavy loads on my head, including buckets of water. Work long hours in the fields while pregnant.

'It was extremely difficult adapting to a new culture, especially after being brought up as a British girl and not even being able to speak Arabic when we went to Yemen.'

The marriage produced five children, Taz, now 34, Justina, 32, Adam, 29, Sandy, 28, and the youngest, Luke, 26.
But while life in a Yemeni village was tough, things would become unbearable after she and her children were sent to join Nasser in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.

Now convulsed by civil war, the Central African Republic was relatively stable in the 1980s but ruled by a formidable military junta led by General Andrť Kolingba.
It was no place for a family and Nasser, then descending into drug addiction, wasn't much of a father or husband.

Terrified: Gabriella says her children were terrified of their father and just as scared of their violent grandfather

Better times: After her escape back to Britain aged 29, Gabriella lives in Bristol and has written a book

Harrowing: Gabriella's new book tells the story of her childhood and violent second marriage

'He became addicted to drugs and wasted his father's money,' remembers Gabriella. He also became increasingly violent.
'He raped me and beat me on numerous occasions - he felt it was his right to do so,' says his former wife.
'I almost died many times due to the violence and the injuries I sustained.'

But despite her husband's violent behaviour, Gabriella stayed put for 17 years until one day, he announced he had found someone to marry their daughter Justina.

'My husband was talking about selling my daughter into a marriage because he had gotten himself into trouble and needed to pay off the money,' she says.

Fearful of what might happen, she fled back to Yemen. Her husband didn't follow.

'My husband was a selfish man and never loved anyone but himself and money, so when I left he didn't care,' she explains.
'My children were all terrified of their father and couldn't wait to leave.'

Her father, still living in Sana'a, was furious but had to take his daughter back after village elders intervened.

'My father hated having me back home,' she says. 'But he couldn't say no because of his pride.'

With his plans to keep Gabriella away thwarted, he vented his anger on his daughter and grandchildren.
Eventually, after an incident in which he beat her two year old son before attacking her with a shotgun, she was forced to flee.

'I had to run or die,' she says. 'I waited until everyone was asleep and took my kids and walked miles to the road where we hitchhiked to my sister's house in the city.

'She then helped me escape and go to the British Embassy.' Staff there, horrified by her story, took the 29-year-old in, eventually repatriating her to the UK along with her five children.

'I was afraid my father would try to get me back,' she adds. 'My husband wasn't interested in having me or his children back but I'd shamed my family by running away and my father told me he would kill me - I knew he meant it.'

Today, although happily living in Bristol and with a new book about her experience days away from publication, Gabriella says she is still haunted by what happened more than 20 years after her escape.

'It will always be a part of who I was, but I'm not that girl anymore,' she says. 'I know I'm a strong person and I hope I can show other girls that no matter how long it takes, no matter how bad things get, things can change if you stay strong.

'I needed to start speaking out about what happened to us so that this never happens again.'

Girl Summit: What does freedom mean to you?

Gabriella's memoir, A Father's Betrayal, £9.99, is published at the end of July by Clink Street Publishing. She will also be appearing at the Too Young to Wed exhibition, which is part of the Girl Summit 2014, tomorrow
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