Telling My Kids I Was Abused Is the Hardest Thing I've Ever Had to Do; Ex-Chelsea Player Gary Johnson on His Torment

Daily Mail (London), December 22, 2016 | Go to article overview

Telling My Kids I Was Abused Is the Hardest Thing I've Ever Had to Do; Ex-Chelsea Player Gary Johnson on His Torment


Byline: Sam Cunningham INTERVIEW

MARYCE JOHNSON used to call her husband Gary 'Jekyll and Hyde' because of his dramatic mood swings. When the big, black cloud of depression descended he might not speak to her for 12 weeks.

After Gary told Maryce that an older man had forced him to have sex when he was just 13, it was she who had to tell him: 'That's abuse.' Depression is just one of the devastating effects suffered by Gary Johnson since he was targeted by former Chelsea head scout Eddie Heath while a youth player. It is just one of the unimaginably difficult conversations the Johnsons have endured during 30 years together.

Johnson says his childhood was ruined and that he and his family have continued to live through a nightmare. He believes his parents mother Joan, who died in 2009, and father Leonard, who is 86 and suffering from dementia probably think they failed as parents because he has never spoken to them about it and they learned of his suffering only years later.

Sometimes he would go to work as a cab driver in tears yet not know why.

Telling their six children about his ordeal before Johnson received PS50,000 from Chelsea's insurance firm in 2013 to keep quiet was, he says, the hardest thing he'd had to do in his life.

Football's historic child sex abuse scandal has shaken the sport to its core, but the Johnsons' harrowing story shows that the painful experiences of its victims and their wives, partners, parents and children prove it is still a problem years later.

For decades, Maryce, now 60, was the only person her husband could tell. She knew he came with baggage after the break-up of his first marriage but, soon after they met, he disclosed his secret.

Maryce, a former Crown Court clerk, asked if the man who preyed on him was older. Johnson said 'yes'. She asked how old Gary was when it started and he revealed he was just 13. 'That's abuse,' she told him.

'The very first thing Gary said was, "It's my fault",' says Maryce. 'As time went on, his dark moods would be very low, very dark. It would be black and white. If he was fine, he was a brilliant husband, brilliant man. I used to call him Jekyll and Hyde. He could turn on a sixpence. Something could just trigger it off. It could go on for weeks.' On a holiday in Turkey two years before she died, Johnson's mother asked Maryce if something was wrong with her son.

'I told her,' Maryce says. 'She knew she was ready to face it.' Johnson believes his parents suspected something had happened and is saddened that he never told his mother about it.

'She probably thinks she failed as a mother,' he says. 'My father thinks he failed as a father. Wouldn't you? If anything was to happen to our children, or our grandchildren ... ' Things worsened as Johnson, now 57, grew older. He would work nights as a cabbie but not sleep during the day, instead staying alone in his bedroom.

The days grew even darker when he first approached Chelsea three years ago. He would not speak to Maryce for months on end. Johnson was finally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at the beginning of 2015.

'After he went to Chelsea and was getting the brick walls he grew worse,' Maryce says. …

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