Ian Wright sobs as he recalls cruel childhood abuse and how his mum wished she’d aborted him – but he still 'adores' her
“I remember him having her up against that wall,” recalls an emotional Ian Wright as he relives the horror of watching his mum being throttled by his violent stepdad when he was just nine years old.
Former football hero Ian, 57, sobs as he returns to his single-room childhood home in South London for the first time in almost 50 years in a bid to heal the lasting scars which saw him and his mother suffer horrendous violence at the hands of his twisted and cruel stepfather.
Tearfully, he adds, “He grabbed my mum by the neck and she was so small. It just made me feel so helpless. She was trying to say sorry while he had his hand around her throat.
"When I was going to bed I just could not get the memory (out) of how helpless, she was.”
Fifty years on and Ian still frequently has “vivid” flashbacks to the violence that left him “anxious and scared” every day of his childhood.
But it wasn’t his stepdad’s brutality that cut the deepest – Ian’s mum abused him in turn, physically hitting him before cruelly telling him she hated him and wished she’d had him terminated.
New documentary Ian Wright: Home Truths sees married dad-of-eight Ian admit that his can’t stop getting “dragged back to some very negative and horrible feelings” which often ruins family occasions for everyone because he can’t stop worrying his now “perfect and wonderful” life is about to crumble.
In the BBC One documentary he visits his old home, opens up to a psychologist and talks about the abuse with his older brother, Maurice, for the first time since they've grown up, in a bid to finally forgive his mum and move on for the sake of his own kids.
Returning to Merritt Road in Brockley, South London, for the first time since 1973, Ian is overwhelmed by memories.
He tells the cameras: “We shared a house with another family and me, Maurice, my mum and stepdad, all lived together in one room.”
Ian describes the room’s layout but can’t stop fixating on the wallpaper.
He explains: “There was this orangey wallpaper with funny kind of patterns on it. All I remember is being afraid to turn around, you know, a lot of shouting.
"I mean, a lot of thuddy noise, a lot of grabby stuff going on here. I literally can't see past the wallpaper. Can’t see past it.”
There was mental cruelty too.
Ian’s stepdad knew he liked Match Of The Day but would make him face the wall when it came on.
Ian said: “To listen to the music and hear Match Of The Day is on – it's torture. Just cruel.”
However, it was the abuse meted out by Ian’s own mother that left the deepest scars.
He said: “She regularly beat me but it was the thing she said, that really hurt. It was at this house when my mum told me about termination.
"She didn't just say the word. She said: ‘I wish I had terminated you.’ She said it a few times to me. I knew what it meant.
"When you're hearing that at eight/nine years old that's going to cause you a problem when you get older.”
Sitting against the wall where he used to sleep, he says: “This wall doesn't realise what it's done in my life.
"I'm actually making sure my back's towards it, because there's no love here, that's for sure.”
Ian even fantasised that his real parents would rescue him one day.
He revealed: “When I was young I used to think, Am I with the wrong parents?’
"Because my mum always spoke about how much she disliked me, I genuinely used to think one day someone's going to knock the door and say, ‘Can we have our son back please?’"
Ian’s elder brother escaped most of his stepfather’s wrath and did what he could to protect his young sibling.
"Despite remaining close they have never talked about the abuse since and for the first time Maurice confirms Ian’s recollection of his stepdad was “giving her a hiding” while he covered his brother’s ears as they tried to sleep.
Maurice is shocked by how much Ian saw, but Ian dreads to think how he would have survived without his big brother.
He tells Maurice: “What you meant to me at that time, I can't even put into words. You did it bro. Love you man.”
Shocking statistics reveal that one in five children will have witnessed domestic abuse by the age of 16.
In the UK last year 1.6 million women were victims of domestic abuse and in 90 per cent of cases a child was present.
Ian meets others who have witnessed and suffered through domestic abuse in their childhood and finds some comfort that he’s not alone.
He says: “I'm totally knocked sideways to find out it's not our fault. You know, we are victims.”
He also makes a big revelation that he still loves his mum and struggles with internal conflict raging within him.
He says: “I absolutely adore and love her. And then there's times when I totally hated her. It's so complex.”
'I am slowly forgiving her'
Finally, a psychologist helps Ian make a breakthrough.
Dr Nuria Gene-Cos, Consultant, psychiatrist and trauma specialist for adults at Maudsley Hospital in London, listens to Ian’s story before telling him “that’s the trauma reaction".
She adds: "The worst betrayal in your life is your mother and your parents”.
When Ian describes the words his mother said to him, Dr Nuria defines it as “severe emotional abuse” but tells him he’s not trapped any longer.
When he confesses that the anger inside of him comes from when he was nine and just wanted a hug or “tactile love” she tells him “you can’t let a child run your life” and that he is no longer trapped.
Afterwards, visibly lighter and on the road to forgiveness, Ian says: “That's going to be a massive breakthrough for me.”
Ian’s stepfather left home when he was a teenager but maintains a relationship with his mum who has been “too ill” to take part in his film.
To understand why his mum turned her pain onto him, Ian meets Naomi who admits that she used to hit her own daughter after being a victim of domestic abuse herself.
Listening to her story, Ian’s compassion for her and his mum is evident.
As a father-of-eight, Ian knows he needs to make peace with his mum for the sake of his own family.
Ian says: “There were times when she would just start crying when we were younger and there is obviously some pain in there.
"I'm slowly and surely forgiving her, simply because I have to accept that whatever her journey was, she hasn't been able to deal with that like I've been able to deal with it but now it's getting easier.
“I can forgive, because I have to move on for my own kids. I've got to try and make sure they are OK”.
Ian might be able to forgive his mum now but it’s taken almost half a century and ruined his happiness and, that of others around him.
Wife Nancy tells him honestly that he is impacting Christmases and birthdays saying: “You’ve got to somehow make things not go well because you can’t always be happy. Because you’re used to things not being happy.”
But it’s not just Ian’s kids that he wants to shine a light on domestic abuse for – it’s for the one million kids living with domestic abuse in the UK.
He says: “One million kids, that has to change.
"If I could talk to that 9-year-old me, the one what was scared and lonely, I would say you can get through this, you are strong and you are worth something.
“Abuse creates a vicious cycle and it's up to all of us to stop it.”
Ian Wright: Home Truths is on BBC1, Thursday May 6 at 9pm.
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