A woman who was indecently molested as a child has told how a chance meeting with her attacker at Primark led her to finally bring her to justice.
In the 1990s, Marri Dugdale abused the young girl in the Newton Aycliffe area when she herself was just a teenager and left her terrified with threats to stop her reporting what happened. passed. But the brave girl reported the abuse and Dugdale was questioned at the time.
However, the victim’s parent would not allow her to undergo medical examinations and did not want her to have to appear in court at such a young age, so the police had no choice but to drop the case.
Years passed and Dugdale continued to raise a family, but his crimes had a lasting impact on his victim who struggled with his mental health and “went off the rails” during his teenage years. Then, in 2020, the victim ran into Dugdale by chance in a Darlington Primark and it triggered memories of his abuse.
Read more: Spennymoor mother jailed for historic sexual abuse of ‘very young’ child in 1990s
Speaking to The Chronicle, the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I had been trying to get on with my life and when I was a teenager I got really derailed. Then I had a kid in my twenties and I tried so hard to move on.
“Then one day my partner and I were at Primark in Darlington and she walked past us. After that, after seeing her for so long, the effect was amazing. My mental health was so bad and I told my partner ‘I need to do something about this’, and I always thought she could have done this to someone else. I was so worried.
Dugdale was then questioned again, but faced with the historic allegations decided to try to pervert the course of justice by making “false allegations” to the police. The court heard a subsequent police investigation which quickly revealed the allegations were “malicious” and fabricated by Dugdale. She later admitted to trying to pervert the court.
After being found guilty of indecent assault and inciting a child to commit gross indecency following a trial, Dugdale’s sentencing was marred by delays. But on Wednesday she finally appeared in Durham Crown Court, via a link from HMP Low Newton where she was jailed for four years.
“I’m actually very happy with the outcome,” the woman said, “Part of me was really worried that she would somehow pull through.
“I waited so long for her to be sentenced. It was a really surreal moment for me. It was a bit bittersweet that she went to jail, obviously I’m glad I finally got justice, but I also feel sorry for her children.
“She destroyed so many lives.” She added: “It’s a huge day for me, I’m glad she’s getting some kind of karma.”
Speaking about when Dugdale escaped justice in the 1990s, the woman said it caused a “rift” between her and her mother, but she is now taking a more understanding approach. She said: “Now that I’m an adult, I can look back and understand where she came from.”
She also wants people to understand that women can be sexual abusers too, saying: “When I tell people my story and they find out I’ve been abused by a woman, they’re shocked that a woman can do such things, and it annoys me”. I’ve had people say, ‘oh that must have been a mistake’, or ‘wasn’t she experimenting?’
“That’s why I want to tell my story, I feel like people assume that only men can be sex offenders, but so can women.”
Dugdale’s prison sentence also ended his victim, who is now pregnant with her second child and moving on with her happy life. She said: “I’m in my final year of college so I’m looking forward to sorting this out. I want to use this experience as a positive and work with children who have also experienced trauma. That’s why I’m training to become a social worker.”
As well as a four-year prison sentence, Dugdale, 41, of Hawthorne Road, Spennymoor, will also be placed on the sex offender register for life and a life ban order has been imposed.
. wife Newton Aycliffe who met her childhood abuser Primark speaks relief so she is imprisoned