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3 Oct 2014
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Picture Imperfect

Peter Roche contacted Home Truths because he was disturbed to rediscover photographs taken of him in 1965 by Lord Snowdon

Peter was brought up in Brixton, one of nine children and the youngest of six brothers. He had an appalling childhood that eventually attracted the attention of the NSPCC.

Both Peter's parents were physically abusive towards him. His father was drunk most of the time and used to say "If you aren't quiet, you won't be able to sit down for a week". His mother used to whip the children with a twig from a tree.

Peter and his siblings often didn't have enough to eat. They mostly just had bread and butter and he was often reduced to begging for food. "I would befriend people in the street to get a meal".

Understandably perhaps, Peter has never come to terms with the experiences he went through. About ten years ago, he tried to find out more about what had happened to him and made a remarkable discovery involving the NSPCC and a society photographer. It was a discovery that has left him, if anything, more troubled.

He found some photographs in a drawer. One of them was of him aged about 4 with a woman he didn't recognise. His mother told him this was Mrs Zils from the NSPCC who had had some contact with the family which began when Peter was about 2.

The photograph taken of Peter (age 4) by Mrs Zils

Peter wanted to understand more about his childhood. He has suffered from anxiety and depression and this prompted him to contact the NSPCC, mentioning Mrs Zils. He had been left wondering why the NSPCC had not helped him.

Mrs Zils was now retired, but the person he spoke to knew of her and agreed to pass on his number. Mrs Zils phoned him and Peter arranged to go and visit her. In her living room, she referred to a black and white photograph portrait on the wall of a little boy dressed in rags. Peter looked at it and remembers thinking what a sad picture it was. Mrs Zils said "that's you Peter".

The photograph had been taken by Lord Snowdon in 1965 when Peter was 2 years old, and it was the first time he had seen it. Mrs Zils told him that the photograph had been used by the NSPCC at the time to raise money, and that it had done so.

Peter does vaguely remember the photograph being taken by Lord Snowdon, because he recalls standing in the hall and feeling quite frightened because there were lots of camera flashes. It was used for a Sunday Times article intended to give the NSPCC some publicity.

It was only about a year ago when Peter's partner showed some curiosity about the photograph and the article that he contacted the NSPCC again and was sent a photocopy from their archives.

Peter's experience of violent parents has guided his behaviour towards his own children. He says, "I don't want my children ever to think of me in that way".

More Information

BBCi: Hitting Home
Woman's Hour: Domestic Violence
You & Yours: Child Protection Special

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