Book Review by Wanda Gibson
Where There Is Evil is different from most of the other autobiographical accounts of an abusive childhood inasmuch as it was written despite many family members’ protests to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.
Sandra Brown is well known in Scotland for her work as a teacher and champion of abused children. Her father was a known serial sexual abuser and seducer of young girls. He had a history of being lecherous and seedy. His family protected him as many families do, because of the threat of shame and embarrassment.
When Sandra was eight years old, a twelve year old neighbour, Moira Anderson disappeared never to be seen again. At a family funeral many years later, her father implied that he had some involvement with this child and thus began Sandra’s quest. When her book was first published in 1996, she was ostracised by a large percentage of her family and her father’s family. She received death threats and was stalked by step-brothers who supported their now elderly and frail father.
More information came to light and in the midst of this Sandra visited her father in the hope that a death bed confession would free him for the journey his soul would take. He refuted any involvement in Moira Anderson’s death. It was only when another ex-colleague of his decided to make a death-bed confession that the enormity of the crime was revealed. That man was Jim Gallogley who was serving a term of imprisonment for child abuse. He stated that three men had systematically abused Moira Anderson on the night she disappeared after using chloroform to keep her quiet. He made it clear that her father was involved and probably was the one to kill her. More investigation implicated these men with Fred and Rose West in a huge paedophile ring where organised child abuse was carried out on an international scale.
There is no happy, tidy ending even at the end of the reprinted book. Moira Anderson’s body has still not been found and no one is any the wiser where she could possibly be. The only really clear aspect of this is the statement that evil really does exist in individuals such as her father. Sandra Brown is very clear, however, that she firmly believes her father was one of the people who murdered Moira and possibly other children not necessarily associated with him.
Sandra Brown’s style is matter of fact and at times frustratingly pedantic. One cannot imagine the horror of knowing that she was this man’s offspring, and it is clear at times that she was very concerned that she had not inherited any behavioural traits. She and her immediate family suffered in many ways once she decided that she could not keep quiet about what her father had probably done. At the core of this is the recognition that a family is still in pain because they cannot lay their child to rest. The death of any child is horrendous and unnatural; the disappearance of a child is a life sentence of wishing and hoping and praying that they may be found.
This is an interesting book. There is an undercurrent of righteous anger, but no preaching. It is worth having as a voice of reason amongst some of the more angst-ridden publications on this subject.
Brown, S., Where There Is Evil
Pan, Revised edition (2006)