Somerset woman speaks out about childhood abuse by older brother

  • Watch Robert Murphy's report

A woman who spoke out about being abused as a child can finally be revealed as the sister of her attacker after a reporting restriction was lifted.

Liz Roberts was sexually abused by her older brother Andrew Herbert in the early 1970s. He was 15 years old at the time.

But unsupported by her parents and fearful she would get into trouble, she did not report her brother until years later - after her parents had died.

When she did confront her brother years later, in 2020, he replied with a confession letter which she passed on to police.

Herbert then admitted 10 counts of sexually assaulting Mrs Roberts and another girl, who must remain anonymous, in the early 1970s.

The 50-year wait between Herbert's crime and conviction is one of the longest gaps between crime and conviction ever seen in the South West.

Andrew Herbert admitted abusing his sister and another girl in the 1970s Credit: Bristol Live

But it is only now that the relationship between Mrs Roberts and her attacker can be published.

"He would be put in a position of care and responsibility of me," she told ITV News West Country

"He would be babysitting and he would sexually abuse me during those periods when he should have been caring for me.

"It didn't stop out of any goodness on his part - it stopped because of fear that he was going to be caught."

Mrs Roberts, who went on to become a police officer, waived her right to anonymity in a bid to encourage other victims to report their abuse.

"It's a hidden scourge and I'm sure it happens far more often than we think it does," she said.

"The only way to stop it is to talk about it. And put the shame where it belongs - and that's on the perpetrator, not the survivor."

Liz was eight years old when she was assaulted by Herbert, who was 15 at the time.

Mrs Roberts says her parents were aware of the abuse but did not support her.

She said: "My parents knew about it 30 years ago and did nothing, quite the opposite.

"I didn't feel like anyone would listen, my parents hadn't listened. I thought I would be ostracised as someone who caused trouble. I didn't think I'd be believed as I didn't have any proof.

"Because who is going to believe an eight-year-old child with the memories that are boxed off, that are flashbacks?"

Liz followed in her father's footprints and became a police officer

Mrs Roberts still felt she could not report her abuser even as a police officer.

"I just felt completely emotionally overwhelmed," she said. "Back then, as well, sexual offences weren't treated the way they were now.

"Victims weren't supported the way they are now, and again, I didn't want to get into trouble.

"I had no proof and I absolutely thought I was going mad. I took all the shame and the blame on myself."

Mrs Roberts said the confession letter was "the missing piece of the puzzle" - and a chance for her to get justice.

Andrew Herbert must report as a sex offender for five years.

Herbert admitted 10 counts of indecent assault. Four against Mrs Roberts and six against another underage girl in the 1970s.

He faced trial for two rape counts against Mrs Roberts, but a jury at Bristol Crown Court acquitted him of one and failed to reach a verdict of the other.

The 67-year-old, of Goodrich, Herefordshire, was handed a two-year community order and given indefinite restraining orders preventing contact with either woman.

He also received an 18-month curfew, must carry out 225 hours of community service and was ordered to pay compensation to both victims. He must also report as a sex offender for five years.

Liz waited for fifty years to get justice and now she wants to rebuild her life

Mrs Roberts says she can now start rebuilding her life: “I waited 50 years to tell my story as I didn’t think anyone would care about what happened.

"That clearly isn’t true and I only wish I’d reported it sooner. There have of course been times when it has brought the trauma of what he did back, and I still have a long way to go in my recovery journey, but I have no regrets.

“I’d urge anyone who has been abused to talk to someone. There is support out there and people will help whether you want offences investigated or not.

“Justice comes in many forms. Feeling the care and support of everyone around me means that I can now hold my head high – that is the best kind of justice.”