WATCHING in horror as five-year-old Billy crawled across the floor on all fours and began eating food from the dog’s bowl, foster carer Louise Allen wondered what she had let herself in for.
In the first few days that her latest charge was in the house, he darted around at breakneck speed, kicked her daughter in the shin, and smashed precious statues and plant pots in the garden.
7Louise Allen has spent over a decade fostering troubled kidsCredit: Supplied7Billy’s Story is about a damaged five-year-old rescued from a vile familyHe would go on to bite Louise’s kids on the ankle while barking like a dog and even break a window before stuffing glass shards in his mouth.
But this whirlwind of destruction was not the only horror that would unfold as the broken boy revealed his secrets.
Billy – one of over 20 children rescued from one family – was a victim of serious sexual abuse by a paedophile ring who assaulted them at paid-for “parties” and women who ran a thriving business selling horrific videos on illegal pornography sites.
And in the latest book in her bestselling Thrown Away Children series, Billy’s Story, Louise reveals the Blackthorn* crime family controlled the children’s behaviour even after they were taken into care.
The artist, author and foster carer – herself a survivor of child sexual abuse – tells The Sun that Billy and the other kids rescued from the family were not an isolated case.
“There was hideous abuse and misogyny going on in that community,” she says. “Many of the women who gave birth to the children had grown up being abused themselves, which is sickening.
“The sad thing is that these children were bred for sexual abuse, as are many others, in communities that we don’t know about.
“They are well hidden but they do exist, and kids are being bought and sold and moved around the country for sexual abuse all the time.”
Barking, biting and eating from dog bowl
Over more than a decade ago, Louise opened the home in Somerset, which she shares with husband Lloyd and kids Jackson, Lily and Vincent, to troubled kids of all ages.
But Billy* – who arrived with a tiny bag of clothes and a teddy called Sharon, which Louise describes as “ugly and scary” – instantly displayed some of the most harrowing behaviour she had come across.
“The first thing he did was to eat the dogs’ dinner on all fours which was a disturbing sight,” she says.
“We later discovered the Blackthorns had fighting dogs and the children all ate out of the same bowl as them.
“On one occasion, when we were eating dinner, he jumped up on the table, knocked everything off, smashed all the crockery, and started barking like a dog, which was disturbing for the other children.
“Another time he scrambled under the table, barking, and bit Lily’s ankle, making it bleed, before biting me and sinking his teeth into Lloyd’s calf.”
Louise was also horrified when the tot threw a shoe at the glass conservatory, smashing a pane, before picking up glass shards and chewing them.
“I’ve still got tears in my eyes when I think about that,” she says. “How did he have such little fear or regard for himself that he could do that?
“That is the overwhelming, heart-breaking reality of looking after abused children. They don’t like themselves. You have to teach them how to like themselves.”
More trouble came when Billy was given a place at a local primary. On his first day he attacked several children, kicked the teacher, punched the headmaster in the stomach and destroyed two classrooms.
He was expelled after the first day, meaning Louise, who also works as an illustrator, had to put work on hold to home school.
On another horrifying occasion, Billy suddenly became terrified that guests at the house were there for a “party”.
With gentle coaxing, Louise discovered the little boy was subjected to sexual abuse at home during “parties” thrown by the family.
7Louise looks after foster kids at her home in SomersetCredit: Supplied7Billy tried to eat from bowls meant for Louise’s dogs, Dotty and DougCredit: SuppliedKids controlled by mic in teddy
Despite Louise’s attempts to calm him, Billy’s destructive behaviour continued and it seems the foster carers looking after the other Blackthorn kids, who were in a WhatsApp group, were having similar experiences.
One young girl had tried to seduce her adult carer, another had attacked a family cat and others had smashed property – all at similar times to Billy’s outbursts.
In an unexpected twist, after a tip-off from another parent, Louise discovered a two-way microphone was hidden in the “ugly” teddy, which was named Sharon.
It emerged that Sharon was also the name of a member of the Blackthorn family who was talking to all of the kids, and instructing them to wreak havoc in their new homes.
“In our group chat we could actually line up when another child would expose themselves or do something quite dramatic, and we thought it was weird they did it at the same time,” she says.
“The Blackthorn women wanted the children back, because they had the evidence to bring about the family’s demise. But the children were also their business.”
7Louise and husband Lloyd work together on helping kidsCredit: Supplied7Louise – pictured with her step grandchild – takes in damage kidsCredit: SuppliedBred for abuse
Growing up in care herself, Louise was sexually abused by an older foster brother and his friends from the age of six and was also neglected, starved and abused by her adoptive parents.
Piecing together the horrors of Billy’s life, Louise felt sick to her stomach – but when the truth finally emerged it was worse than she’d imagined.
After years of being left alone by the police and social workers – who considered the Blackthorns untouchable – a raid on their tight knit criminal community uncovered systematic abuse passed down for generations.
The family owned a whole estate of houses and the children lived in dormitories in several of the houses while the adults lived nearby.
The men were involved in many criminal activities and four of the Blackthorn women ran a pornography racket, and brought the children up to be in the films.
7The artist and illustrator in a rare moment of peaceCredit: SuppliedBilly’s own mum had been abused and had three kids by the time she was 16.
On hearing the scale of the abuse Louise admits she was physically sick – and she reveals she was told Billy was one of the “lucky ones”, because some of the kids born into the family were never found.
In the raid on the Blackthorns, many were tipped off and fled, and the brunt of the prosecutions involved women in the family.
“A lot of men disappeared and have probably set up other enterprises elsewhere,” Louise says.
“These families are like mafia organisations and are incredibly connected across Europe, across America, so they could be anywhere.”
Billy went on to find a long-term foster placement with a family, and is now doing well.
But as a survivor herself Louise says stories like Billy’s still angers and upset her.
“What upsets me the most is the exploitation of the genuinely innocent,” she says.
“The rise in porn is fuelling a massive business in child abuse, which causes emotional and physical damage and the results are heartbreaking.
“But if you are sexually abusing a child, you have dehumanised that child, and as long as people don’t like talking about it, it will thrive.”
*Names have been changed
Billy’s Story, published by Welbeck, is released on November 10 for £8.99.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk