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Torture victim tells of 3-month ordeal in Toronto apartment
wow you've got to read this, its really messed up.
Torture victim tells of 3-month ordeal in Toronto apartment
VANCOUVER — He says his name, his real name, almost defiantly, proud that this, at least, has not been taken from him.
Not the nickname he was called by his torturers over the months he was kept in captivity, sleeping in a tiny closet, beaten to the point where every time the blood splattered on the walls, he was surprised at the sight.
“I didn't know I had any blood left,” he says. “I didn't know there was any more way they could hurt me and cause me pain.”
He is a victim, he was tortured and he survived one of the most shocking crimes to be heard in a Toronto court.
He can name the man, John Michael Siscoe, who did this to him but he cannot name his other captor, his wife. A court ban protects his identity but in doing so, it also protects her. He wishes he could go public.
“What happened to me happened because it was behind closed doors and most people who knew or heard something didn't speak up. Only a few people were willing to say something,” he says. “If they hadn't, I would still be there, in that closet. Or I would be dead.”
The man described exclusively to the Star the three months in which he was brutally tortured, physically, sexually and psychologically.
His wife and Siscoe pleaded guilty in Ontario Superior Court last week to a series of charges, including endangering a life and sexual assault causing bodily harm, from Oct. 31, 2009, until police rescued the man from the one-bedroom west-end Toronto apartment on Jan. 19, 2010.
He spoke in the rec room of the apartment building where he now lives in a Vancouver suburb.
The complex includes three other buildings, adjoined by hallways and linked by shared weight rooms, laundry facilities and game rooms.
He is aware of the time to the minute when doors are automatically and systematically locked in the public spaces and which door locks behind him when he passes through to go outside for a smoke. That he has the access codes to unlock the doors is a point of pride for him.
There is a wariness now about people where before, his current girlfriend remembers, the man she knew was always friendly, always willing to help anyone, with nothing unkind to say about anyone. But now he trusts no one and while he's still so angry at his wife and Siscoe that his hands clench reflexively when their names are brought up, he simply wants to move on.
“I just don't want to know them anymore,” he says when asked whether he plans to divorce the woman he married in 2005 in their former hometown in B.C's Fraser Valley.
They lived off the modest income he earned as a small engine mechanic and a disability allowance from the government.
But three years into their marriage, the man’s wife began an affair with Siscoe, allowing him to move into their apartment and relegating the man to a couch in his own home. In the fall of 2009, when his wife was pregnant with Siscoe’s baby, the three of them moved to Toronto and began living in a similar arrangement in a basement apartment.
A month after their move, the beatings began.
His girlfriend today, who first met him in 2004 at a Christian gathering, says when she saw him again after his return to the west coast in late January 2010, she hardly recognized him.
“Everything about him had changed, from the way he walked to the way he talks. He's not that person I knew back then, he's changed in almost every way,” she says.
His own mother didn’t recognize him. She walked by him three times at the airport when she went to pick him up after his release from hospital in Toronto.
“He was all shrunk up,” she says during an interview at her home about 45 minutes away from where her son now lives. She demonstrates, hunching her body into a curve, hands tucked low against her side. “This was the way he looked. Half his size. Afraid. I think he thought he would be hit again even though he was back home.”
His mother doesn't want to know the details of what her son endured and his girlfriend says she listens when he wants to talk about it, which is rarely.
Only recently has he been able to sleep without an overhead light on but still insists on a light being visible somewhere, whether as a night light or in a hallway. When he’s in the shower he wants his girlfriend in the couple’s tiny bathroom with him for security.
According to the agreed statement of facts presented in court, the man was forced to sit naked in a bathtub while Siscoe poured lighter fluid on his body, then set him on fire. Siscoe also used hairspray, aftershave and rubbing alcohol as accelerants.
“Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about,” Siscoe would tell the victim. His wife would shout “Shut up” when he screamed loudly, worried police or social services would come and take the unborn baby away if anyone learned about the abuse.
The tiny closet he was forced to sleep in was so dark that pitch darkness still makes him scream. But he has made progress.
Just last month, he turned off the lights in a room, did a mock scream and then quickly turned the lights back on.
“I even laughed about it. But I can still feel that I get totally freaked out when someone accidentally turns off the light,” he says. “I'll try it again sometime. I know I won't be able to do it ever in the washroom.”
He had quit drinking in 2004 but began again during the three months he was in captivity, the better to cope with the pain of being sliced with razor blades and pierced with pins through his lips to seal his mouth.
Oozing wounds were cauterized with hot knives or sewn with a needle and thread. Cartilage was ripped from his ears with a pair of pliers.
He believes at least once, drugs were mixed in with his soup to keep him from screaming in pain. This was after he was kicked with steel-toed boots, which were later recovered by the police with blood stains on them.
He says he has not consumed any alcohol since being rescued.
It was the agonizing pain and the desperate attempts to do whatever he had to do to keep from getting beaten again that has left him fuzzy about the time he was in the apartment. He was forced to fill out forms with headers such as “To do what it takes to not be stupid” and “To do what I have to do to stay alive.” He endured more beatings when his captors put an X next to boxes along the side to indicate he hadn’t done the right thing.
“They looked for any reason to start again. It felt like it never ended,” he says. He knows now, thinking about the measurements objectively, that Siscoe wasn't much bigger than he was, but the victim, who says he was always “a lover not a fighter,” felt physically threatened by the other man who knew martial arts.
Yet despite the pain inflicted on him, there was something else that he never anticipated: humiliation.
Once, he vaguely remembers someone else coming to the apartment, a woman, and he was called out of the closet by Siscoe.
“Embarrassed,” he says when asked what it was like to emerge from a closet wearing only a towel and being paraded in front of a stranger in the apartment. “Embarrassed and just felt humiliated, like nothing. Even then, I thought, it was like this was a movie. A movie that couldn't be real.”
Asked if he thought about asking her for help, the man looks uncertain. “I couldn't ask anyone for help. I prayed someone would come and find me but I didn't know if that would change anything.”
The woman reported that she saw the victim with his skin so purple and black from the beatings that she didn't know his race. She grabbed her daughter and left and he went back into the closet.
If she could leave, why couldn't he? Again, the victim thinks about this for a second. The bruises are gone but the scars remain all over his body, white healed marks so numerous they have become part of the texture of his skin, on his arms and legs and the rest of his torso.
“John said if I left, he would find me and kill me. If he couldn't find me, he would go find my parents and do to them what he was doing to me,” he says. “Those were his words. That what he was doing to me, he would do to them. I couldn't do that to them. They wouldn't survive.”
A week later, the woman who had been in the apartment and another man from a nearby bar who had also suspected something walked into a police station to report the abuse. The police officer who opened the closet door told the man he was safe. The first words out of the victim's mouth were: “I don't want to get them in trouble.”
He says now that his first thoughts were different. A phrase he kept repeating over and over in his mind but couldn't say out loud. “Thank you.”
The clearest memory he has about what happened after he was brought out of the apartment and taken to the hospital is eating ice cream, he says. A lot of ice cream and he could feel it dribble from his broken mouth but it didn't matter because there was no one to punish him for making a mess.
Then he fell asleep again and when he woke up, he was still in the hospital. His eyes traced an IV line connected from his body to the ground to a machine and from that to another tube over the hospital bed where he saw a bag of blood pumping and moving as if it was living thing.
“That's when I knew I was safe. I was hooked up to something and I was alive.”