‘I THOUGHT he was going to kill me.’ That was what ran through Linda’s mind after she awoke to find a man with an iron bar standing in her hallway.
The 59-year-old, who lives alone in the rural Horndean area, was repeatedly raped by 28-year-old Ashley Millls.
It was the second time he had targeted her, having been released from jail after he admitted burgling her home in 2009 after she allowed Mills to pitch his tent in her garden.
Now Mills, of no fixed abode, has been jailed for 18 years with an extended licence period of eight years at Portsmouth Crown Court after pleading guilty to three counts of raping Linda and one of attempted rape.
Mills also admitted one count of trespass with intent to commit a sex offence after smashing his way into her home in the early hours.
Now Linda - who asks that we do not publish her surname - has bravely waived her right to anonymity to tell her story.
She said: ‘I was asleep in bed and I heard this terrible crashing and banging.
‘I opened my bedroom door and there he was in my hallway with an iron bar in his hand.
‘He had smashed his way right through the front door. I said “what do you want?”.
‘He said “a glass of water”. I said “you don’t go smashing somebody’s door in for a glass of water like this”.
‘He promptly headbutted me. He said I’m not going. I’ve come to rape you.’
‘I tried to run out of the back of the house.
‘He went to the kitchen cupboard and came out with a carving knife.
‘I grabbed hold of the knife and hold of him and said “give me the knife, give me the knife”.
‘He then got angry and said if I didn’t stop he would use it.
‘I just had to submit and he did what he wanted.’
Following the attacks, Mills asked Linda for a glass of water– a request he had made about a month earlier when he had tapped on her window.
Frightened, Linda had on that occasion refused and rang her neighbours who contacted police.
Now terrified, she agreed to his request: ‘I just wanted to keep on his good side,’ said Linda.
‘When I went out in the kitchen I had seen that he had dropped the knife.
‘I kicked it under the cooker because I thought that’s evidence for the police and it’s out of sight for him.
‘He had dropped the iron bar, too. I snatched that without him seeing and I threw it behind the sofa. I’m not a brave person at all. It’s weird, everything’s in slow motion and your brain’s thinking all the time.’
Mills left the property, while Linda then hid in a garage – which has no door – early on June 29.
She said: ‘I was trying to keep calm and remember all the little details for the police.
‘I didn’t think I was going to get out of it alive as he knows I can identify him and he knows the police are going to be after him.
‘I thought if I came back into the house to ring the police he might come back and kill me.
‘I waited about 10 minutes and I heard his footsteps coming back. I was terrified. Then I didn’t hear any more and ran to the neighbours.
‘I have to run through the woods. I thought I was going to run into him.
‘His attack on me was long and prolonged. He was in no hurry to get it over with.
‘He’s a dangerous individual. He’s got no respect and he’s not frightened of the police. I didn’t want him to have a huge sentence to be vengeful. I wanted him to have a big sentence so he can’t come out and do it again.
I want to say a big thank you to my neighbours and to the police for being so kind and so good. They couldn’t have been better.’
Victim had offered help - he repaid her with attack
WHEN Ashley Mills smashed his way into Linda’s home and repeatedly raped her, it was not the first time he had chosen her as his victim.
Mills first targeted her in 2009.
Linda said: ‘After mum and dad died, I had an attempted break-in into my bedroom in the middle of the night. The police didn’t get anybody.
‘About two months later this fella came up on a bicycle with a tent.
‘He gave his name, shook hands with me. He wanted somewhere to camp for two weeks. I thought it was a lad living in the countryside.
‘He camped here for a couple of days, then he burgled me, got in through the front door and burgled me. That was Ashley Mills.’
In February 2010, Mills was jailed for three-and-a-half years at Portsmouth Crown Court for the raid at Linda’s home in the Horndean area and for a separate crime of setting fire to a church.
He had sneaked in to St James’ Church in Clanfield with his cousin Ben and, after stealing from collection plates, they torched a pile of robes.
The blaze spread and it took 40 firefighters to save the 130-year-old church on December 1, 2007.
The vestry and the roof were destroyed while the altar and chancel were blackened by the smoke.
It was 18 months before the church finally reopened following repairs to the £250,000 of damage caused.
Both Mills and cousin Ben admitted arson. Ben Mills was jailed for 18 months.
But when Ashley Mills was released from prison, his reign of terror against Linda was far from over.
Linda said: ‘The month before he broke in he was tapping on my front door and asking for a drink of water.
‘I was so scared I rang the neighbours. The neighbours rang the police.
‘I didn’t give him his glass of water.
‘I opened the bedroom window and spoke to him. I didn’t recognise him at first.
Linda’s witness statement to the court
‘I loved living here – been here since I was 15 years old. It was the family home that I never left. I had my horses and donkeys here with me – what more could I ever want? I devoted my life to animals, not much of a social life as I had Mum and Dad – now sadly gone.
‘Since Mills came and attacked me, I feel I can’t live here now, so I’ve rehomed my donkey so that it will be easier to move. It broke my heart to see him go, and I thought, what is the point struggling along anymore with what’s happened to me?
‘I thought Ashley Mills was going to kill me. I was convinced that as he had smashed in my front door to get me, he could completely cross the line and kill me, so he would not leave a witness who could ID him.
‘I was terrified of being stabbed and how painful it would be. When now I see on the TV women who are raped and killed, I get upset, because I know the terror they went through.
‘Before I would just think ‘how sad that is’.
‘I did survive, when I thought that I was going to be killed in a horrible manner. How can I explain what it feels like – would he cut my throat? Stab me? Would I die slowly? A jumble of thoughts – keep calm, try to survive, distract him, maybe he will just go away. Thought I’d die of old age, not murdered.
‘Sometimes when victims are killed, I think they are the lucky ones, they don’t keep reliving the horror of it all any more.
‘The survivors have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Yet I’m grateful to be alive, but now have all the life-changing problems I’m now facing.
‘I live very in a rural area - a field behind, woods on three sides, no street lights – it’s very creepy if you’re not used to it. I’m not used to busy roads, houses overlooking me.
‘But now I’m so nervous. Every little noise at night, I get out of bed and pluck up the courage to pull open the curtains and peer out of the bedroom. Just a fox, what a relief, but what if it’s human?
‘When I hear a bump or bang, is it inside or out? I creep out of bed, but when I get to the bedroom door, I’m frightened to open it.
‘Someone can’t possibly be the other side, I tell myself. But I see in my mind Ashley Mills stood there. He’s in prison, I tell myself, but what if someone else is there?
‘Stop, silly billy, with my heart nearly jumping out of my chest, I turn the door knob and open the door.
‘No-one there, just my imagination scaring me.
‘Saw a man in the shop the other day, made my heart stop. He was built like Mr Mills, and (had) similar mannerisms – frightened me.
‘Due to him I need now to live near some friends for support, but as they’re 30 miles away it means I lose my job or I have to commute, so crunch time is coming – friends or job.
‘But I do need to move. This home I’m in is full of unhappy memories now. The fright of seeing him in the doorway of my bedroom, the terrible noise of the banging and crashing of the front door, I’ll never forget it, and the disgusting things he did to me, fills me with horror.’
Police praise victim’s bravery
POLICE have praised Linda for her bravery in the wake of her ordeal at the hands of Ashley Mills.
Detective Sergeant Glenn Robinson said the 59-year-old has shown ‘great courage’ in contacting the police and providing evidence against him.
Det Sgt Robinson, from Portsmouth CID, said: ‘Mills broke into his victim’s house and put her through a terrifying ordeal which is reflected in the very long sentence handed down to him.
‘We are grateful to the victim in this matter who has shown great courage in coming forward and providing the evidence that led to Mills’s conviction.
‘The victim was spared having to provide evidence in court as Mills pleaded guilty.
‘Offences of this nature are extremely rare. We take all reports of sexual assault very seriously and have specially trained officers to support victims throughout the investigation and court process.’
Where to get help and advice
Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis - Women’s crisis line (023) 9266 9511, Men’s crisis line (023) 9266 9516. Lines are open Monday, 1pm -3pm, Wednesday and Friday 7pm-10pm.
Aurora New Dawn offers safety, support, advocacy and empowerment to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence (023) 9247 2165 or at aurorand.org.uk
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Northern Road, Cosham – also known as Treetops – is available to anyone aged over 13 who has been a victim of rape or serious sexual assault in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The centre provides a supportive environment for victims of rape or serious sexual assault, specially trained doctors and project workers and signposting to other services. It also enables victims to choose whether they want to report a rape or sexual assault to police. Call (023) 9221 0352 between 8am and 6pm seven days a week.
Rape Crisis England and Wales (0808) 802 9999 or at rapecrisis.org.uk. Lines are open from noon to 2.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm.
Victim Support: (0845) 38 99 528 or at victimssupport.org.uk