Wednesday 21 February 2018

Last Night’s TV: Jaycee: My 18 Years In Captivity

On June 10, 1991, eleven-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard was waiting for a bus near her home in Lake Tahoe, California when she felt a stinging sensation in her neck. She had been shot with a stun gun owned by paedophile Phillip Garrido.

Garrido and his wife Nancy, who encouraged and facilitated his paedophilia, were in a nearby car. Once Jaycee had been stunned, they drove up beside her and abducted her.

Jaycee remembers Garrido laughing as the car sped away and saying: “I can’t believe we got away with it”. She described those first seconds of what would turn out to be a long captivity as “the most horrible moment of your life times ten”.

Jaycee: My 18 Years In Captivity (Channel 4) explained very well how Garrido “got away with it” for so long.

The subsequent police investigation was a litany of mistakes and carelessness. Although Jaycee’s stepfather Carl Probyn saw the kidnapping and gave a detailed description of what happened, and of Garrido’s car, to police, he was regarded from Day One and for the next eighteen years as the only suspect.

Garrido appears never to have been regarded as the perpetrator. A well-known paedophile, who had recently served 10 years of a 50 year sentence for rape and kidnapping, he somehow avoided investigation. When Sgt Jim Watson, the lead investigator in the case, was asked to explain this, the best he could come up with was: “there’s a lot of what, if, what if, what if”.

That’s for sure. Over the course of Jaycee’s captivity, in a crude compound at the back of the Garrido home, parole officers checked in on Phillip 70 times. On one occasion they met Jaycee. They never suspected a thing.

Garrido regularly raped Jaycee during the earlier years of her captivity. Two daughters resulted from those rapes, the first born when Jaycee was 14. After the second child was born, Jaycee was never sexually assaulted again.

By then, Garrido had gone completely off the rails and was making mistakes of his own. He believed that angels were protecting him and had put an end to his evil behaviour. He began to take the girls out, introducing them to people – even to those who knew he was a paedophile - as his daughters. He arranged for family photographs to be taken.

He was finally caught when he accompanied the children to an event at the University of Berkeley. Their unusual behaviour brought them to the attention of the police, and on August 26 2009, Jaycee and her two daughters were finally free. The children were 11 and 15 at the time of their release. Phillip Garrido was subsequently sentenced to more than 400 years in prison, his wife to 36.

Programme makers sometimes can’t resist the temptation to over egg stories like this one, to accompany them with dramatic music, to film re-enactments or to encourage participants to cry for the camera.

Not here. The very sensible decision was made to round up as many of the people involved as possible and just let them talk, although Jaycee was unavailable having signed an exclusive deal with ABC for an interview.

Some sections of that conversation, with journalist Diane Sawyer, were shown last night. In them, Jaycee came across as a remarkably calm and level-headed presence, temperamentally very similar to the gentle child who was abducted in 1999.

Her relationship with her mother seems as close as it ever was, unaffected by the long years of separation.

Jaycee could have ended that separation much sooner. As the years went by, she was free to come and go as she pleased. She had full use of the internet. But, she acknowledged, Garrido had a hold over her.

He told her she shouldn’t leave because the world outside their home was a dangerous place, full of rapists and paedophiles. She believed him, and why wouldn’t she? She wasn’t suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim identifies with her kidnappers, but she had become psychologically dependent on him.

One of last night’s unanswered questions was whether she would still be with Garrido had he avoided the attention of the authorities.

Most likely is the answer to that, so it was all the more gratifying to see her back home with her mother and clearly happy to be there.

She’s only 33, so the possibility of a long and contented life still exists. After what she’s been through, very sensitively revealed in last night’s programme, nobody will begrudge her that.

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