Amanda Clay was at her most vulnerable when she went to the police to report her adoptive father for historic child sexual abuse. Emotionally fragile, she was terrified no one would believe her.
But police investigator Alan Butler quickly won her trust. Polite and sympathetic, Amanda felt safe as he listened to her harrowing account of the abuse.
When she’d finished, Butler left her in no doubt that he not only believed her, but would do everything in his power to bring her adoptive father to justice.
‘I’ve struggled with trust all my life, but I trusted Alan Butler 100 per cent,’ says Amanda, 57, a former banking manager. ‘I felt he was my knight in shining armour.’
To begin with, Butler seemed to embody the sensitive new face of modern British policing in its handling of such cases.
Certainly, Amanda never imagined that Butler — a married father with more than 30 years’ service with Warwickshire Police — would betray her trust in the most appalling manner. But today, Amanda’s knight in shining armour — who helped to put her adoptive father behind bars — is himself in prison.
Two weeks ago, Butler, 64, was jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of two charges of misconduct in a public office.
Amanda Clay was ‘groomed’ and ‘manipulated’ into a sexual relationship in 2015 by PC Alan Butler who was investigating her case against her adoptive father
Warwick Crown Court heard that Butler ‘groomed’ Amanda before ‘manipulating’ her into a sexual relationship in 2015, and in 2017 tried to form a relationship with another victim on whose case he’d worked.
The second woman, also the victim of an alleged sex crime, complained to his bosses that Butler had groped her bottom when he visited her home and had ‘coerced’ her into kissing him.
He denied the charges, but, jailing him, Judge Anthony Potter said: ‘Your offending has had a profound effect on both women. You cynically made an assessment that if they were to complain, there was every chance their complaints would be disregarded. Not only must police officers be deterred from such conduct, but the public must see that condign [appropriate] punishment will follow for officers who betray the trust placed in them.’
Superintendent Daf Goddard, head of the Warwickshire Police Professional Standards Department, said after the conviction: ‘Butler abused his privileged position to exploit these vulnerable women and in doing so, abused trust and let down the public he was meant to be serving.’
Amanda has now bravely waived her right to anonymity to encourage other victims of rogue officers to report them to protect others from harm, and urges police bosses to do more to restore trust.
British forces have been thrown into crisis following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, who was last month given a whole-life sentence.
Couzens — who’d previously been reported for indecently exposing himself to workers at a McDonald’s restaurant — handcuffed and abducted Sarah as she walked home in South London in March.
PC Butler, left, was jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of two charges of misconduct in a public office. Right: Amanda Clay, pictured at a charity show at the age of 21
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick defended her force — praising her officers for their ‘highest standards’ — but in a speech in June, talking more widely about violence against women and girls, admitted: ‘On occasion, I have a bad ‘un.’
But just how rare are those few bad apples?
Last week, Channel 4’s documentary series Dispatches, Cops On Trial, revealed that almost 2,000 serving officers, special constables and Police Community Support Officers across the nation were accused of some form of sexual misconduct over the past four years.
Data returned by 39 police forces, in response to Freedom of Information requests, revealed more than 370 accusations of sexual assault, almost 100 accusations of rape, and 18 accusations of child sex offences. Only 8 per cent of allegations led to a dismissal.
‘I’ve struggled with trust all my life, but I trusted Alan Butler 100 per cent’
Research conducted by Bournemouth University and supported by the National Police Chief’s Council — relating to 514 proven cases of sexual misconduct across 33 forces over the past five years — suggested that, in many instances, some officers were deliberately targeting women known to be vulnerable.
Of those who were victims of police officers, 40 per cent were victims of previous domestic abuse, 20 per cent had mental health issues and 25 per cent had suffered previous sexual assault. Just like victim Amanda Clay.
Born to a 14-year-old in a mother and baby home, Amanda was adopted at birth by a childless couple who went on to adopt two further children before having a surprise baby of their own.
Growing up in Warwickshire, she remembers her adoptive father, business owner Robert Ellis, as a ‘controlling bully’, who berated her for her poor grasp of mathematics and pushed her to excel at competitive swimming.
She can’t remember exactly when the sexual abuse started — as young as four, she believes — but she was 11 when it became a regular occurrence, taking place whenever her mother left the house to go shopping or visit a friend.
She tried to tell her mum, she says, but explains: ‘Being adopted, I already had a very fragile sense of identity. As much as I felt angry with him, and wanted it to stop, I was too frightened of being put into care.
‘So it continued, on and off, until I left home at 19. The only way to cope with it was to completely dissociate from what was happening to me and go into a trance. That became my mode of survival.’
Moving to North Yorkshire, she buried the memories and tried to get on with her life. She got married, had five children, but says: ‘It was always there in my mind, every single day. I had flashbacks and long periods of anxiety and depression.’
By the time she turned to counselling in middle age, Amanda had been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and functional neurological disorder, which triggered physical symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis.
Her supervisor on the counselling course she was taking suggested that reporting her adoptive father to police might be a way for Amanda to come to terms with her abuse and enable her to move on.
She says it took all her courage to go to Northallerton police station in 2015, where a female officer took her first statement, treating Amanda with kindness and sensitivity.
‘I thought, even if it didn’t progress, just the process of telling the police would make me feel better,’ says Amanda. ‘But once I’d made my video-recorded witness statement I thought: ‘Yes, I do deserve justice for this ruined life.’
Her case was transferred to Warwickshire, where the offences had taken place, and assigned to Alan Butler, who was employed as a staff investigator at Nuneaton CID after his retirement as a police officer with the force.
‘I just sat there sobbing as I realised I had no choice but to report him, because I knew the chances of the other victim being believed were very slim’
‘The first time Alan called me I found him a little over-familiar, but I thought he was just trying to put me at ease, and he was very supportive,’ says Amanda, whose communication with Butler was mostly over the phone to begin with because she lived 167 miles from Warwickshire.
‘It was an awful, stressful time,’ she recalls. ‘My family was struggling with what was happening, my second marriage was breaking down, and there were times I felt Alan was the only person I could turn to. I felt he really cared about me.’
Amanda first met Butler in person late in 2015, after her father’s arrest, when she went to stay with her younger brother, who lived in Warwickshire.
‘Alan’s first words when I walked into the police station were: ‘Ooh, you look a lot better than on the video interview. Normally, when people have been through what you have, they wear leggings and a big woolly jumper’.
‘I was a bit taken aback, but just thought it was his attempt to be light-hearted, to help me relax because I was so anxious.’
Butler took down Amanda’s statement again in detail. The repeated dredging up of old memories left her so upset that it didn’t register when a few inappropriate questions were thrown in — such as ‘did you like the pain?’
During subsequent phone calls and home visits to update her on progress, professional and personal boundaries blurred further.
After one of Butler’s visits to the house she shared with her second husband, she remembers him asking her to follow him outside alone and remarked: ‘I can see that you’re not happy with him — you deserve better.’
He later started to share details of his own marriage, suggesting he was unhappy, too. ‘Once Alan came to see me while I was staying with family in Warwickshire, and after he left, my brother was furious, saying: ‘That’s not acceptable, totally out of order, I don’t like him one bit.’
‘I asked ‘What do you mean?’ and he said: ‘Did you not realise he had his hand on your knee?’ I hadn’t even noticed. People kept warning me that he was interested, but I couldn’t see it at all.’ It was in 2016, as the legal process dragged on, that the increasingly personal relationship between investigator and witness became physical, in breach of ethics and police conduct rules.
‘My marriage had broken up, I was at rock bottom and it felt as though my whole world was caving in,’ says Amanda.
‘I was under so much stress, I collapsed on the kitchen floor at my brother’s house. I was all alone and the only thing I could think to do was reach out to Alan.
‘I called him and when he came round, I just talked and talked, getting everything off my chest.
‘As he was leaving, he suddenly turned to me and said: ‘Oh God, I was just going to kiss you,’ and I replied: ‘Well, go on then.’ I didn’t find him physically attractive, but I think I wanted to feel loved.’ From that moment, Butler was an increasingly regular visitor to the house, turning up when Amanda’s brother was out.
At the time, Amanda believed he loved her, but now feels she was exploited by someone she trusted for his own sexual gratification.
Friends who could see what was going on, threatened to report him if she wouldn’t, but she begged them not to.
She thought no one would believe her word over his. Butler had talked about his ‘friends in high places’ and she couldn’t cope with any more trauma in her life.
Amanda had also come to rely on his support, without which she wasn’t sure if she could face the daunting prospect of giving evidence against her adoptive father.
In November 2016, Robert Ellis, then 80 and living in Nottinghamshire, was jailed for nine years after being found guilty of eight counts of indecent assault against Amanda, between 1975 and 1981.
He was cleared of three counts of rape and two further charges of indecent assault.
The stress of the trial behind her, Amanda, tried to distance herself from Butler. She told him she wanted ‘a fresh start’ and was planning to move back north.
She thought that would be the end of it, but it was only the start of a new ordeal which would lead her back to Warwick Crown Court to give evidence against him.
‘Not long after the verdict, Alan came round to the house, barged through the door, and said: ”Have you reported me?” and then: ”You’d better not have”,’ she recalls.
‘I told him: ”No, I’d never do that, I’ve been through enough.”
‘He said: ”Well, someone has,” and I started to cry as I kept insisting it wasn’t me. He then told me it must have been another woman whose case he was investigating.
‘I was horrified, but he insisted she was just trying to get back at him because he hadn’t been able to get her attacker sent down.
‘Then he started begging me to send an email to his bosses, saying how supportive he’d been. My head was whirling — I didn’t feel at all comfortable with that, but he said: ”Do it now, while I’m here.” I refused and told him to go.’
Butler returned 20 minutes later to apologise and told her he had no one else to turn to. Again, she asked him to leave.
‘I just sat there sobbing as I realised I had no choice but to report him, because I knew the chances of the other victim being believed were very slim.
‘He’d told me I was the only person he’d had an affair with, but what if there were others?’
So, at a time when Amanda had been hoping to move forward, she instead faced more police interviews. Giving evidence in court against Butler, she says, felt even more traumatic than it had against her adoptive father.
Butler claimed there’d been no sexual relationship at all, so being cross-examined on the most intimate details of their relationship felt humiliating.
To help prevent future abuses of trust, Amanda is now calling for police forces to assign two officers to cases such as hers — with one of them being female.
‘All I ever wanted was justice for the abuse I’d suffered as a child, to move on and draw a line under it,’ says Amanda. ‘But this has taken six years out of my life.’
‘Sometimes, I wish I’d never gone to the police in the first place because if you can’t trust a police officer, then who can you trust?’