A Sheffield mum raped and brutally beaten by her partner has waived her right to anonymity - to speak exclusively to The Star’s Court Reporter Polly Rippon about her terrifying ordeal.
DANIELLE Elliott, a petite, pretty blonde, perches on the sofa of her new Sheffield home sipping a cup of tea.
Her cosy flat is decorated with pink floral wallpaper, and photos of her two daughters adorn the walls.
It’s a haven for Danielle, aged 31, and her girls aged 14 and 12 - who were forced to flee their old home in Wybourn in terror after her ex partner Michael Dennett threatened to beat her to death and cut her into pieces.
For a year Danielle suffered beatings, humiliation and sexual assaults at his hands.
He punched, kicked, tried to strangle and suffocate her, and threatened to set her on fire.
He checked her phone, banned her from going out, shredded her clothes, and made her cover up - even when she went to work as a care assistant for the elderly.
He beat her until she needed hospital treatment - and later raped her as she lay ill in bed.
But the brave young mum eventually found the strength to escape and is now rebuilding her life and hoping to help other victims.
She said: “My message to others is be strong - there is help out there, from the minute you go to the police station. The police have been brilliant.”
When Danielle met Dennett last year she was a happy young woman who loved her job, spending time with her daughters, and seeing friends.
“I fell for his charm,” said Danielle. “He told me he loved me. He told me he had been in prison but had been ‘set up’, and I believed it.”
To start with things were ‘lovely’ - but there were warning signs. “He always wanted to know where I was and who I was with - but I put it down to him loving me so much.”
Dennett soon became more controlling, accusing Danielle of looking at other men.
She said: “He read my texts and ripped up clothes he didn’t want me to wear.
“He made me wear vest tops under my uniform so I didn’t show cleavage. He’d make me wear bras that were too big for me so my whole chest was covered.”
He demanded Danielle’s Facebook password and made her delete her male friends.
He started hitting her, punching her until she was winded, and once hit her over the head with a hard hat with such force it cracked.
Danielle was left covered in bruises, aching all over, and unable to go to work. She almost lost her job because she took so much time off sick.
“But he would always hit me where the bruises couldn’t be seen,” she said. “If he hit my face it was on the left of my forehead because he knew my long fringe would cover any bruises.
“The next day he would say, ‘Look what you made me do’, and, ‘I did it because I love you’.
“I didn’t leave because I believed he was going to change.”
Dennett even threatened to set her on fire so she would ‘look like Katie Piper’, the model disfigured for life after acid was thrown in her face in an attack arranged by her ex.
“For Christmas he bought me her autobiography,” Danielle remembers. “When I opened it, he smiled.”
It was her best friend who finally gave her the strength to report him to South Yorkshire Police’s Apollo unit - the dedicated rape investigation team - but Danielle was terrified he would find out.
The following month, while she was ill in bed with a chest infection, Dennett raped her.
“The next night he tried to suffocate me with a pillow, and tried to strangled me until I was foaming at the mouth.”
The next day Danielle left - but returned after he promised never to hurt her again. Instead she got home to find he had torn up all her clothes, smashed up the bedroom - and was waiting to sexually assault her.
“He said, ‘I am going to beat you until you are dying, I’m going to cut your body up into little pieces and scatter you all over England’.
“At that point something clicked in me, and I thought, ‘Once I get out of here, I am never coming back’.
“The next morning I got up and ran downstairs. My daughter ran after me and he followed. We managed to get out of the house and into the car. I flew off the drive, I have never driven as quick in my life. I thought, ‘If he comes out, I will run him over’.”
Danielle got to safety, called the police, and Dennett was arrested.
Her physical nightmare may be over but the mental torture continues.
She now takes anti-depressants, can’t sleep, has panic attacks and nightmares about Dennett setting her on fire, and wakes in the night patting herself down to put out the flames.
But Danielle - who has started writing a book about her experiences - said: “I see myself as a survivor.
“I can’t believe he put me and my children through this, but I am not going to continue to let him destroy my life.”
Where to get advice
Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling - 0114 244 7936
Rape Crisis - 0808 802 999
Apollo Unit rape investigation team - 01709 832 768
Emergency - 999
Abuse victim kept diary of her ordeal at the hands of rapist
Danielle kept a diary of her terrifying experiences, which she hopes to turn into a published book. Here are some of the extracts.
“Michael would constantly call me saying, ‘Where are you slag? Sleeping with other men in our bed?’
If we drove down the street he would accuse me of looking at other guys, and punch me in my back as I was driving.
Sometimes he hit me that hard in my back he winded me.
Then he would be sorry the day after and, like a fool, I would fall for it.”
“Michael was on top of me with his hands around my throat, strangling me. Fluids were coming out of my mouth.
He let go and I started screaming, my head felt very light, then he got a pillow and put it over my face.
‘Oh my God, he is going to suffocate me,’ I thought. ‘I’m going to die. I will never see my girls again’. So I went silent and laid still, hoping it would scare him and it worked. He got off me.
But he started chucking things around the bedroom and I told him to stop. Then he picked up a long piece of wood from the side of the bed and said if I did not shut up he would smash my skull in.”
“Every time I left a counselling session I became more positive about my life. I knew I could not let this evil man destroy me or my girls any more.
“That evening I went and bought paint and wallpaper for every room. I could pick my own colours - no-one was controlling me any more”
It is important for people who have suffered sexual attack to come forward
THE number of rapes being reported in South Yorkshire is on the rise - police say because victims are more confident about coming forward.
But charity Rape Crisis still estimates only 11 per cent of attacks are ever reported to the police.
In South Yorkshire 300 rapes were reported between April 2011 and March this year. The detection rate is 25 per cent - something bosses are trying to improve.
The force has a dedicated team of specially trained officers in its Apollo Unit at Maltby police station.
They help victims through every step, from making a complaint to support after court.
Sgt Lynsey Ellis leads a team of nine PCs - eight women and a man - who look after victims of sexual offences.
Each victim is assigned their own officer.
Sgt Ellis said: “Since the unit was set up in October 2009 the number of recorded rapes has increased significantly.
“This does not mean there are more offences, simply that more people are coming forward to report them.
“We are hoping this will keep increasing, as we see it as a measure of success that people are more confident in coming forward.”
Officers first visit the victim and discuss whether they want to make a formal report.
Sgt Ellis said: “It’s about giving people choice and some control back, especially people who have been raped or abused by their partners.
“We explain their options.”
Police interviews and a forensic medical examination take place at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre at Rotherham Hospital.
And police work alongside independent sexual violence advisors from organisations including the NHS, Rape Crisis and Victim Support.
Sgt Ellis said: “We make sure the victims have support in other aspects of their lives.
“Financial issues, housing, drug or alcohol problems can massively impact someone’s ability to go through the court process.”
Crisis counselling is also offered, as are home safety measures, and victims are given advice about court process.
These days victims give their evidence by video-link so they don’t have to appear in court or face the perpetrator.
Sgt Ellis said: “It means they don’t have to relive their account from start to finish. They don’t have to face the defendant or go through embarrassing details about what’s happened.
“It’s really important for people who have been raped, or think they have, to come forward and at least get some support, whether they chose to report it or not.”