Thursday 19 October 2017

Irish Traveller girl told her mother set her alight in a caravan at 4 months old finds out what really happened that night

BBC Three documentary Annie: Out of the Ashes investigates

Annie Price was told that her mother had set her alight when she was four months old
Annie Price was told that her mother had set her alight when she was four months old
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Annie Price was just four months old when she suffered severe burns in a fire in the caravan in which she was sleeping.

Her mother was married to another white traveller but Annie was born after her mother had an affair with a black man.

Annie, who suffered severe burns in the blaze, was told by social workers that her mother had deliberately set fire to the caravan because a mixed-race baby would have been shunned by the community.

However, a new documentary investigating the incident reveals the truth.

Annie: Out of the Ashes, available on BBC Three today, sees Annie, 30, from Mitcham London, retrace her roots and track down the fireman who attended the scene that fateful night.

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Annie Price. PIC: Annie Out of the Ashes, BBC Three

John Backers tells her that her grandmother Briddie, who had been sleeping with her in the caravan, had burns on her hands where she tried to save her little granddaughter.

"What I suspect happened, because your grandmother's hand burnt, she in my view lifted you and carried you out from the van," he says.

He reveals that Annie was not expected to survive more than 24 hours or "possibly two days".

An official report said that the fire started accidentally when a cushion was set alight by a gas heater.

Before finding out the truth, Annie said, "I don't think any person with a happy normal childhood would think that's an option to do that to their child.  I kind of just feel bad for her and I don't know what kind of life she must have had."

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Annie meets Joe Jones from the Gypsy Council

Once she found out what had really happened she said it "knocked me for six".

"I was very shocked.  My first feeling was that I felt bad, I felt really guilty realising that."

After the fire Annie was taken into care  and had never met her birth family.  Her mother, she finds out in the course of the documentary, died in a fire years before she made the film.

She also found out that fires were extremely common in caravans in the 1980s.  More than 2,000 fires happened every year.

Annie: Out of the Ashes is available on BBC Three today (Saturday).

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