Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Jailed Julia is proof that a mum's love is boundless

The troubling case of Julia Saker, the mother jailed for taping her daughter Tabitha's legs together in a bid to stop her visiting her heroin dealer, has led to an outcry regarding the hypocrisy and stupidity of the justice system.

But hearing Julia's husband Tim Saker speak this week, I realised it is also a story which underlines as strikingly as any I've heard in recent times, the unique relationship between mothers and daughters.

To say that Julia and Tabitha's relationship has been tested over the last few years is a gross understatement.

Tabitha was a heroin addict by the time she was 18, plunging her parents into a horror of which they had no experience or comprehension.

They repeatedly funded college courses which Tabitha dropped out of and forgave regular thefts of money and jewellery, as well as the aggressive mood swings which Tim says had a 'devastating' effect on the family.

It's clear that Julia's tying of Tabitha's legs on the night of the 'false imprisonment' was neither brutal nor vengeful, but a panic reaction to Tabitha's goading announcement that she was off to see her heroin dealer, whom, she suggested, might request sex as his 'payment'.

But Tabitha's angry 999 call led to an arrest, and ultimately a 12-month sentence for her mother last month.

Tim Saker says he is struggling to deal with seeing his wife in her new 'intolerable' habitat, but stresses that the greatest impact has been on the guilt-ridden Tabitha.

She has spent the weeks since her mother's arrest delivering, via the Press, impassioned love letters to the mother whose absence she fears may provoke her own relapse.

During the trial Tabitha wrote a letter to the judge, which Tim Saker revealed in detail this week. In it she said her mother was "my confidante and the only person I trust 100%".

"She has always been like a best friend to me and is one of the most gentle people you could meet. I wouldn't change her for the world," she added.

She also said she was scared that if her mother didn't come back home she would 'lose the plot'. "No one else can fully support me. We are both needy gentle people. This is the first time we have lost contact with each other and I feel it is damaging both of us," Tabitha wrote.

Tim himself admits that while he's close to his daughter, she doesn't confide in him the way she does with her mother.

Of course, this isn't the case in all families, but many mothers and daughters will recognise the idea that there are many things which they secretly share, not just because of their gender, but because women often seek emotional connections and mutual frankness of a depth which men either feel uncomfortable with or regard as unnecessary.

Tabitha's letter and her father's unselfish admiration of his wife and daughter's closeness, is testimony to the fierce fortitude of Julia Saker's unconditional love.

As Tabitha has finally realised, Julia has fought to save her beloved daughter from a life of hell and an early grave. Julia never gave up despite what must have been the heart-breaking coldness of Tabitha's usual response to her embrace.

It is both agonising and moving to know that, while she suffers in jail, most of Julia's time is spent worrying about how her daughter is getting on without her.

Like so many unspectacular, half-invisible mums around the world, inside, she is a lioness.

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