Bernadette Louise Padley was just a toddler when Scott Walker entered her life. It was 2006 and Walker and his second wife were living next door to three-year-old Bernadette and her family in Milnthorpe Lane in Wakefield.
He started an affair with her mother, Sarah, then a pregnant single mother of five. A decade and a half – and four more children – later, their volatile, toxic relationship would implode.
In July last year, the man Bernadette had called ‘Dad’ for as long as she could remember, killed the 17-year-old to silence her claims of sexual abuse at his hands.
This week, as 51-year-old Walker was found guilty of murder and perverting the course of justice, his estranged wife Jill, to whom he is still legally married, spoke exclusively to the Mail about the terrifying, evil man who tore apart her own life before moving on to Bernadette’s mother.
She claims that ‘highly-sexed’ Walker regularly forced her to have sex, verbally abused her and threatened to kill her before she fled.
Jill also reveals that before moving away from Yorkshire to Walker’s home town of Peterborough, Bernadette’s mother contacted her, concerned about his behaviour and asked ‘whether he would hurt her children’.
‘Maybe I could have saved Bernadette,’ says 51-year-old Jill, an NHS support worker.
‘I have immense feelings of guilt about being able to save her if I’d warned Sarah more. I told Sarah not to move. I told her that he would alienate her from her friends and family and taking her away would make this worse.
Scott Walker started an affair with her mother, Sarah, then a pregnant single mother of five. A decade and a half – and four more children – later, their volatile, toxic relationship would implode
Bernadette Walker, 17, (left) of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, pictured with her mother Sarah Walker (right)
Scott Walker (pictured left) told jurors that Bernadette’s (right) allegations of sexual abuse were ‘untrue’
Harrowing diary entry from Bernadette reveals abuse claim
The un-dated entry seen by jurors reads: ‘Told my mum about my dad and the abuse. She called me a liar and threatened to kill me if I told the police.
‘She said that the other kids matter more. I love feeling unwanted. I feel nothing right now cause I always thought mum would deal with and it would all go away.
‘But no, he’s still here telling me I made it up.
‘What kind of parent wouldn’t believe their daughter?
‘But it’s fine, I’m going to pretend it’s okay till I leave home then I will block them out of my life.
‘I’d rather say I’m an orphan than say I have abusive parents who couldn’t give a sh*t about me or what happens to me.
‘If I was brave enough I probably would have already left, or just killed myself.’
‘Knowing he has murdered Bernadette has shaken my world to the core. How can you process the fact that somebody you are legally married to has killed a child?’
Bernadette’s 38-year-old mother Sarah, who changed her surname and those of all her children to Walker’s by deed poll, stood trial alongside her partner at Cambridge Crown Court and has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice, while ‘believing’ or ‘knowing’ her daughter was dead.
After Bernadette’s murder, she and Walker hacked into her social media accounts and phone, posting fake messages to make it seem she had run away. The tragic teenager’s body has still not been found.
Before Bernadette’s death, life at the family’s five-bedroom council house in Peterborough had become highly chaotic.
Sarah had given birth to her tenth child just a few weeks earlier. But she was also planning to leave Walker – father of four of her children as well as two others from previous relationships – for a new lover. Walker was infuriated by her infidelity and the prospect of his family being broken apart.
In the midst of what was already a toxic, emotionally-charged situation between her mother and stepfather, photography student Bernadette dropped the bombshell that ‘Dad’ had been secretly filming her in the bathroom as well as sexually abusing her over a number of years.
But despite telling her mother of the abuse, she was betrayed in her hour of need by the very person who should have protected her. Her devastation at her mother’s refusal to believe her was made clear by a heartbreaking note found in her rucksack – which itself was found by police at a lock-up garage in Peterborough visited by Walker and Sarah after Bernadette was killed. ‘Told my mum about Dad and the abuse,’ the teenager had written. ‘She called me a liar and threatened to kill me if I told police.
‘What kind of parents wouldn’t believe their daughter? It’s fine. I’m going to pretend it is all OK until I leave home, then I will block them out of my life. If I was brave enough I probably would have already left or killed myself.’
According to Jill Walker, who has two grown-up children of her own from a previous marriage, and has since moved away from the area where she lived with Walker: ‘He’s a narcissist so I know the threat of his step-daughter revealing abuse would threaten the image he gave to the outside world.
‘If you didn’t know him, he’d be the nicest man you’d ever want to meet but inside the home he is vile and nasty. I wouldn’t even call him a human being.’
Jill was 39 when she met Walker, who was working away from home, in August 2004. The son of a buildings inspector, he worked as a glazier, a locksmith and an odd-job man but was often unemployed.
‘He was different,’ she says. ‘Not overly charming and smarmy but very polite and thoughtful.’ Seven weeks later, he’d moved in with Jill and her two teenage sons.
Cracks soon appeared in the form of possessive and controlling behaviour. ‘He would take me to work and quiz me on whether that is what I was really doing. If we saw any man I knew, he would ask me if I’d had sex with him. He didn’t ever actually hit me but there were constant threats to slit my throat or set me on fire. I was terrified of him.’
By the time he proposed nine months later, she was in his thrall and too frightened to say no. They married in Lindos town hall on the Greek island of Rhodes in September 2005 with just immediate family present. Her memories of that day are blurred by the ‘living hell’ that followed.
‘He would demand sex from me almost every day,’ says Jill. ‘It didn’t matter if I was ill or if I’d worked three days straight. He would always say ‘I have my needs’. If I said no, he’d badger me for hours and just get into bed and do what he wanted. One time I was crying during the ordeal and he said: ‘What are you crying for, you hard, Northern b****h’.’
Bernadette Walker, 17, pictured with her father Scott Walker, 50, who murdered her
‘I told my mum about my dad and the abuse. She called me a liar and threatened to kill me if I went to police’: Bernadette Walker’s chilling diary entry about the abusive stepfather who has today been convicted of her murder
Chilling exchange between Bernadette’s mother and police call operator as she reports her 17-year-old daughter missing.
Pictured: Bernadette Walker’s rucksack. The tragic diary entry by Bernadette Walker was revealed as her father Scott Walker, 51, was found guilty by a jury of the teenage student’s murder
Bernadette Walker’s rucksack in a lockup. Bernadette Walker, 17, was last seen alive on July 18 last year when 51-year-old Scott Walker, who was not her biological father, collected her from his parents’ house in Peterborough, Cambridge Crown Court heard
She has since destroyed every single photograph she owned of Walker, including their wedding album.
Jill is not sure if Walker began his affair with Sarah while they were still together or when she finally managed to get away from him, a couple of years after they wed.
She and Walker had moved to their house in Milnthorpe Lane not long after they married. Sarah and her children moved in next door around a year later.
She often saw Walker flirting with her across the fence.
‘I used to think: ‘Go on, take him off me’,’ says Jill.
When the local housing authority refurbished their home and they emptied out their belongings, Jill took the opportunity to flee. A solicitor put her in touch with a council-run scheme for vulnerable adults and, on the day she made her escape with a friend, Walker was served with a ‘non-molestation order’ and banned from going anywhere near her.
A few months later, Sarah messaged her, telling her of her plan to move to Peterborough with Walker and her children – but she already had concerns.
‘I told her he is great with young kids but he doesn’t like them when they get a voice,’ says Jill. ‘I told her not to move, that he would alienate her from her friends and family and taking her far away would make this worse.
‘I was torn because I was relieved he was leaving but I was also worried for her. And I didn’t want to get involved, to attract his attention or cause any trouble for her.’
To neighbours in Century Square, Peterborough, however, Scott and Sarah Walker seemed devoted parents.
The couple were prolific social media users and gave the impression of a happy, close-knit family, posting photos of their children with hashtags such as ‘familylife’ and ‘proudparents’.
Both Scott and Sarah made multiple trips to the lock-up as well as to Cowbit, a rural area of Lincolnshire
But according to Bernadette’s older brother, 19-year-old Anthony, his stepfather was ’emotionally and physically abusive’ to all the family and had ‘wives and girlfriends all over the place’.
He was also a fantasist. Despite being unemployed, on his LinkedIn profile he wrote ‘never knew my true potential’ and claimed to be an ‘Associate of Arts and Sciences (AAS)’ – an American degree. In recent years he reinvented himself as a professional gambler, calling himself the ‘Telegraph Tipster’ and posing as a horse racing expert.
He had also taken to wearing a black baseball cap marked ‘POLICE’ which he teamed with aviator sunglasses, posing for macho selfies.
He took up photography, a hobby he shared with Bernadette.
After taking GCSEs at Peterborough Academy where she was a prefect, Bernadette began studying photography and art at Peterborough Regional College in September 2019.
The following month, she posted a selection of strange and spooky close-up images of a doll in Victorian clothes lying in undergrowth. Walker photographed the same doll, tied to a tree in several poses.He had also taken several disturbing photos of a naked man tied up with belts which he captioned: ‘Mental physical’ and ‘contained location’.
When Bernadette posted on Facebook about a new boyfriend, Walker wrote: ‘Any boy who kisses you better have the image of me in their head,’ along with a posed-up photograph of himself holding his fists in front of his face.
By July last year, the atmosphere at home was unbearably tense. Sarah had been conducting a long-term affair with Chris O’Connell, a teacher she’d met at an evening class.
Scott Walker was also found guilty of two counts of perverting the course of justice
Police were standing guard outside the 17-year-old’s home
Specialist forensic officers were seen going in and out of the house along with a police dog
Walker, however, refused to leave the family home despite knowing of Sarah’s new relationship.
According to Bernadette’s brother Anthony: ‘It was strange because Mum and Scott were living together with all the kids and she was seeing Chris. Scott kicked off about it and threatened him and he was never allowed to stay at the house and Mum was only allowed to stay for a minimum of two days at a time. He always seemed besotted with Mum but he emotionally abused her.’
When Bernadette told her mother that Walker had been secretly filming her showering in the bathroom and abusing her in the games room at home, her mother packed her off to her grandparents – Walker’s parents – for the night.
She confiscated her phone before she left for the house, also in Peterborough, so that she couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse. In court, Bernadette’s grandmother, Walker’s stepmother Julie Walker, said that Bernadette ‘was very upset. She was crying. She said she wanted her mum to believe her. She kept repeating ‘I’m not lying’.’
Walker collected her on the morning of July 18 and later claimed that the teenager simply jumped out of the car and ran off, a story concocted to cover up her murder. Historically, ‘no body’ murders have been almost impossible to prove, but thanks to advances in forensic science, in particular mobile phone data analysis, the couple’s web of lies quickly unravelled.
But while Bernadette’s killer –and her mother – have now been brought to justice, this tragic, despicable crime will not be resolved until she is found and laid to rest.
In the final weeks of her life, as she summoned up the courage to tell her mother she was being abused, her online posts became darker, almost prescient, in their references to dying.
‘Can you buy PLZ play this at my funeral’ she wrote on Instagram after posting the lyrics to a song by The Irrepressibles: ‘I bled everyday now, for a year, for a year’. She had recently changed her Facebook cover picture to a photograph she had taken of a gravestone showing an angel on a cross. Beneath her name, she’d written: ‘Life is just a dream for the dead’.
Additional reporting: Samantha Yule