Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 12:34 UK

'I can't believe how evil she is'

Jonathan Morris
BBC News, Plymouth

Vanessa George
Vanessa George used a position of trust to abuse children

Plymouth nursery worker Vanessa George and two co-defendants have admitted sex abuse after George exchanged a series of pictures with them showing her abusing children at the nursery.

Little Ted's nursery, where George took the photographs, is now closed.

But for the parents picking their children up from the primary school on the same site, the pain is still vivid.

Some of them remember George as the happy, smiling woman who used to hand their children back to them at the end of the day.

The sense of betrayal by someone who should have been caring for their children is clear.

"We just want to skin her and roll her in salt," said one mother.

"We just feel so frustrated that we cannot get to her."

'Worst nightmare'

It is clear that whatever her sentence, nothing will compensate the parents for the damage done to the children or the pain inflicted on them.

Another mother said: "What's happened is any parent's worst nightmare.

"It's gut-wrenching and makes you feel sick.

"I was unable to sleep and started drinking. Everyone was the same."

Mothers and fathers were in tears at a meeting arranged by police at a local church after George's arrest in June.

Kathy Hancock
There are times when I've gone home and had a cry myself
Kathy Hancock, community leader

The anger in the community exploded later with a police van carrying George into court in Plymouth being attacked.

"There is still a lot of anger," said one mother, who had two children at the nursery.

Like other parents, she will probably never know if it was her children that were being abused because police could not identify any of the victims.

Although George had given herself away by showing a nursery logo in the pictures, only the children's torsos were shown.

Social services set up a weekly drop-in for parents to get advice about how to answer questions from their children which they may not have felt confident answering.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "The worst bit is knowing that I used to pick up my son and daughter from Vanessa George and she would come out smiling, laughing and having a joke and knowing now what she must have been doing to children that day.

"It's awful. It makes you feel so guilty and there is nothing you can do to prevent it."

George has been described as "lovely, bubbly, friendly, funny".

"Think of your average big bubbly woman," said one mother. "The kids loved her."

She added: "It's just horrible to think that you were so close to someone every day and that they could do that."

The memories of what happened come back to haunt her when she is least expecting it.

"If I see anyone in town that remotely resembles her I feel sick.

"I have to walk in the other direction.

"I can't look at any newspaper if I know she's going to be in it."

Slipped through net

Paediatricians have been on hand to offer help for children for whom the long-term damage is not yet known.

Social services have been supporting families and Plymouth City Council launched a serious case review into how George, who had worked for the nursery since 2006, had slipped through the net.

Kathy Hancock, chairwoman of the local community association, has been a link between public agencies and the parents.

The mother-of-five was thrust into the centre of the storm after a phone call from police.

She said: "Eight months ago I was asked to be liaison between community and police if there was a major incident in the area.

"I said 'yes' because I love working in the community.

Little Ted's Nursery site
The removal of the Little Ted's sign cannot remove the pain

"I never thought that my first incident would be such a horrible subject."

She has been to every one of the meetings that police have held to update parents on the case.

"I'm a mother at the end of the day," she said. "Some parents I have known since they were children.

"There are times when I've gone home and had a cry myself.

"This whole case gets to you when you see people hurting in your community and not knowing what's going to come next."

The day when George first appeared at Plymouth Crown Court was "horrendous".

She added: "That will stay with me for a long long time.

"The emotion, the groans and helplessness of the parents.

"Parents were in pieces about what was being read out in court.

"I just feel disbelief at how evil she is."

'Tight-knit' community

The regular communication between police and parents has been described as "invaluable".

"It's a very tight-knit community. People rally round each other. They will get through this.

"They are already beginning to become stronger."

All the children involved had been placed in other schools, but some parents initially found it hard and wanted to keep their children at home while they came to terms with the case.

Ms Hancock said it had been "horrifying to see people hurting so much".

"As a mum I would hate to be in the position that some of these parents are in.

"All you want to do is protect and love your children."



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SEE ALSO
Nursery worker admits sex abuse
01 Oct 09 |  England
Are there women paedophiles?
29 Apr 09 |  Magazine

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