Weekend Edition: The week's best reads
"It's the worst feeling anyone can go through. It's every parent's worst nightmare," says Deborah (not her real name). "I was beating myself up. How? How could it have happened? How could my child disappear right under my nose? How? And I have no idea of how she left. Who did she leave with?" When police in Newcastle upon Tyne were told that the missing toddler was last seen talking to two teenage girls, a notorious case from the 1990s immediately came to mind. As the kidnappers crossed the city, police used hundreds of CCTV cameras in a desperate hunt for the missing girl. Andrew Bomford has the inside story of what happened.
Katy Morgan-Davies spent the first 30 years of her life imprisoned by a cult in south London. Comrade Prem, as she was known, was dressed in genderless clothing, never went to school, never got to know any other children and only rarely left the house. She was not told who her parents were and was brought up collectively by the group, who were not allowed to show her affection. Then one day in 2013, she escaped. "I just couldn't take living like an animal like that any more, being treated with such disrespect and just being a non-person," she says. So why did a succession of women stay with cult leader Aravindan Balakrishnan for so long? Four years after her escape, Katy tells her story.
Jennifer Bricker was born without legs, but by the age of 11 she was a gymnastics champion. And she didn't want any allowances made for her disability. "That way when I compete, I know that it's legit," she says. She remembers spectators being surprised when they saw her. "But the love, the support when I did compete was amazing," she says. "They would always applaud and cheer because I made sure that there were no exceptions made for me - nothing." She had fallen in love with the sport after watching Dominique Moceanu win a gold medal for the US at the 1996 Olympics. And it turned out the two had a lot more in common than athletic talent.
"One day when I came home from work - I was a research assistant at Barts Hospital - my mother told me the dressmaker had died. I discovered she had had a backstreet abortion that went wrong. I was so shocked that I mentioned it to colleagues the next day. The doctors said it was a common experience and invited me to stay behind on Friday evening, and we'll show you what the world is really like." Diane Munday saw the women brought in, suffering from the effects of backstreet abortions using gin and knitting needles. Some years later, in 1961, she had her own experience of abortion, when the procedure was still illegal in Britain. It led to a lifetime of campaigning on pregnancy advice but Diane, now 80, says there are still taboos around the subject to be tackled.
"When I first got my licence I was only doing this as a hobby, I'd go to work as a dental assistant and catch my alligators on the side," says Christy Kroboth. "But I got well known for taking the alligators alive, and I'm now doing this as my full-time job." Where she lives in Texas there are many communities with man-made lakes and ponds that attract alligators and Christy may be called upon to remove them. "I have an SUV and sometimes the smaller alligators will want to climb over the seats and try to make their way to the front to help me drive, so it's me and the alligator waving at people going down the freeways. I've found out if you make it freezing cold in your car the alligators are calmer."
When so-called Islamic State seized control of a town near Mosul in northern Iraq and began killing police officers, some of them resorted to unconventional measures to stay alive. For Abu Alawi, this meant wearing a niqab, or full-face veil, and pretending to be a woman. This way he could move around, avoiding and outwitting the jihadists. "They were near to me so many times and I was so afraid," he says, miming a heart pounding in his chest. "All the time I was thinking I was going to be checked and discovered."