Her parents beat her up for having a black boyfriend. So why does Jane say it's HER fault – and she wishes they hadn't been jailed
Parents sought out daughter's black boyfriend and screamed a torrent of racist abuse so vile that police were called David Champion punched his daughter in the face several times, while her mother Frances watched before
landing her own blowNow the young couple are living together in a flat in Swansea while they study at university
Mr Champion told Jane that she had brought 'shame to the family' while he beat her
21:41 GMT, 10 August 2012
13:56 GMT, 11 August 2012
Trips to the beautiful Gower peninsula and the annual family holiday to Spain punctuate Jane Champion's many happy memories of her childhood.
Hers was the kind of family who sat down to meals together. Her parents were hard-working people who encouraged their children to do well at school.
Today that once-happy family has been smashed to smithereens as Jane still struggles to come to terms with the night her parents carried out a vicious physical assault on her.
David Champion punched his daughter, now 18, in the face several times, while her mother Frances watched before landing her own blow.
David Champion punched his daughter, now
18, in the face several times, while her mother Frances watched before
landing her own blow.
The reason for this brutality They didn't like the colour of her boyfriend's skin — a fact they made abundantly clear when they sought him out and screamed a torrent of racist abuse so vile that police were called.
It is hard to imagine more shocking parental behaviour. This week David, 50 was sentenced to a year in prison and his 47-year-old wife to nine months for assault and racial abuse, leaving their youngest daughter, 13, to be looked after by her maternal grandmother and their eldest daughter racked with guilt at the way her mixed-race relationship has torn the family apart.
In this fraught, highly-emotive situation, Jane and her boyfriend Alfonce Ncube, 21 — known as Alfie — remain shellshocked. Both shy and sweet-natured, they are still struggling to comprehend what went wrong.
Even more surprisingly, Jane is anxious to almost justify her parent's actions, even absorbing some of the blame. Alfie is equally anxious not to be blamed for tearing a family asunder.
'The last thing we wanted was to see them locked up,' says Jane. 'Whatever they've done they are still my mum and dad and I know they love me and want the best for me. But it was out of our hands. They're not bad people. I think they were taken by surprise by the relationship and they were both reacting to negative stereotypes.'
Alfie nods, clutching his girlfriend's hand. 'I don't want people to think I came in and destroyed a family. This is the very last thing I wanted to happen,' he says gently.
But there's no getting away from the fact that Jane's family has fragmented catastrophically. As her parents start their jail sentences, she's had to move out of her family home and now shares a small flat with Alfie in her native Swansea.
She is due to start university next month to study Sports Science and Alfie is studying for a counselling and psychology degree. Both work waiting tables to pay their bills.
It's clear that Jane still loves her lorry driver father and her mother, a primary school teaching assistant.
'We had ups and downs like any family, but we got on well,' says Jane. 'I was close to Dad. We're quite similar, quite shy,' she says.
'You deserve it': Jane was punched in the face by her father after admitting she was still dating Mr Ncube. Her mother also hit her, saying 'you deserve it. It is all your fault.'
Alfie's family circumstances, meanwhile, were more nomadic, but still respectable. His parents, both now social workers, came to Britain from their native Zimbabwe 13 years ago to join relatives.
The move was a culture shock for Alfie, then eight. He'd been in boarding school back home, and admits that adapting to life at a chilly primary school in Southend, Essex, was difficult.
Nonetheless, he made good friends and did not, he says, have a moment's trouble there because of the colour of his skin.
That all changed when, four years ago, his parents decided to move to Swansea. 'I don't want to make generalisations — I've met lovely people here,' he says. 'But I would say there's been a minority who have been unpleasant, who find it harder to accept a black face.'
After leaving school at 18, Alfie went to a local college to study for a business diploma, and it was here, two years ago, he met Jane. 'I thought she was beautiful,' he says. 'I was the one who chased her.'
She didn't make it easy, refusing his request for a first date. 'I didn't know much about him so I wanted to get to know him a bit better,' she says. A month later, she relented, and the pair went for meal. 'The more I got to know him the more I liked him,' she says now.
Alfie was her first proper boyfriend, and one would assume that, after a while, the natural next step would be for him to meet her parents. But Jane kept the relationship secret, despite having been openly welcomed by her new boyfriend's family.
Given what we now know, it can probably be assumed that, on some level, she knew her family would react unfavourably to the colour of his skin.
Racial abuse: Boyfriend Aflonce Ncube was subjected to racial abuse and physical assault from Jane's parents because of his race
Perhaps, still anxious to protect them, she refuses to say this. 'He was my first boyfriend. I'm a shy person and think I was just embarrassed,' she insists.
'I regret it now. I feel a lot of this is my fault for not saying something at the beginning. But I wasn't sure if they'd be happy about me having a boyfriend.'
Alfie admits they both probably suspected her father might have a problem, but for some reason chose not to acknowledge it openly. Jane does, however, recall that she mentioned to her mum she had a boyfriend about six months into the relationship.
'She didn't make a big deal of it. She's not the sort of person who would put pressure on me to make an introduction.
'She'd want me to come to her,' she says. And adds that her mother knew what Alfie looked like after spotting them on the other side of the road one day while out shopping about a year into the relationship.
'Later, the only remark she made was that Alfie had been dressed very smartly,' says Jane.
Who knows what was going through Frances Champion's mind But, it seems, she did not relate this encounter to Jane's father, who appears to have had no idea about his daughter's relationship.
It is against this backdrop that, in January, when his daughter and Alfie had been dating for over a year, that David Champion returned unexpectedly to the family's privately-owned three-bedroom terraced house and found them together.
It was, Alfie admits, terrible timing, given that they rarely spent time at Jane's family home, and only when they both felt absolutely sure her parents would be out.
'I was brought up to respect people's parents,' says Alfie. 'I would never have knowingly put her father in a confrontational situation.'
Anxious to clarify the circumstances, he emphasises that Jane was not, as was suggested in court, in a state of undress, but in her 'lounging-around pyjamas', as it was mid-morning.
'I was fully dressed and we were snuggled under a blanket in the living room watching television,' he says. 'We had just an hour before I had to leave to sit an economics exam and Jane was going to college.'
Of course, many fathers struggle to cope when their daughters transform into young women. But nothing can justify what happened next.
Whatever he thought he saw, David Champion reacted with unmitigated anger, forcibly marching Alfie out of the house while releasing a volley of racist abuse at his terrified daughter, shouting — and this is among the more printable sentiments — 'why are you bringing a n***er into my house'
How did this make Alfie feel 'I've heard worse,' he says with a shrug. 'I've had strangers come up to me in the street and tell me I'm the reason they're voting BNP. I was more worried for Jane.'
After kicking him in the ankle with the steel cap of his shoe, David bundled Alfie out the door. Jane, who admits she was terrified, decided to follow.
'Dad told me if I went I couldn't come back, but I didn't want to stay. I was very upset. I left with just my phone and my wallet and went to stay with my grandma,' she says.
A few days later, her parents called and asked her to return home. 'We had a civilised conversation,' Jane says. 'Dad said he was unhappy I hadn't told him about Alfie, but, as I was about to turn 18, I had to make my own choices and he just wanted me to be careful.
'I was upset, but I knew it had been a shock for him walking in on us, and I also knew that in his own way he was trying to do the right thing, trying to protect me. In his mind he associated black people with gangs and he worried Alfie might be some kind of thug. I told him he wasn't like that, but he said I needed to think about what I was doing.'
Not a ringing endorsement, but with calm apparently restored, Jane confesses that both she and Alfie were lulled into a false sense of security.
'I thought my parents were coming to terms with it — I didn't rub their noses in it but they knew we were still seeing each other.'
Which is what makes the events of February 11 all the more shocking. After a family outing to the football, her father had, Jane recalls, taken her to one side on the journey home and said he needed to have a word with her.
Jailed for the 'vile' attack: Father David Champion (right) was sentenced to 12 months in jail and mother Frances (left) to nine months after punching and hitting their 17-year-old daughter and kicking her boyfriend
What she didn't know at this point is
that, during the match, an acquaintance had apparently mentioned to
David Champion that he'd seen his daughter 'with a black guy'.
And it is this, combined with the
copious amount of alcohol he'd consumed, which Jane believes unleashed
the monstrous chain of events that followed. Once home, he turned on his
daughter and demanded to know if she was still 'with that guy'.
'I said yes and then . . .' She
hesitates. 'He punched me in the face.' The blow was enough to knock her
to the floor, but it is a credit to Jane's loyalty that she is
enormously reluctant to give further details.
In fact, her father did not punch her
just once but several times, enough to bring livid bruises to one side
of her face, give her a black eye and leave her ear and hair matted with
Throughout this time he was screaming
racist abuse. Her mother meanwhile, shouted that she 'deserved it' and
had 'brought shame on the family' before — shockingly — hitting her
The entire assault also took place in front of Jane's terrified sister.
It is clear, on one level, that
recollections of the attack are still traumatic. Jane insists her
parents had never hit her before, whispering: 'I just couldn't believe
what was happening. Whatever their feelings. It was horrible.'
Awful indeed. But the Champions' rage
did not end there. Leaving their daughter bleeding in the living room,
they went to the restaurant where Alfie was working as a waiter.
'I recognised David immediately,' says
Alfie, taking up the story. 'He was red in the face and stank of
alcohol. He asked if I was Alfie and I said no, but he grabbed me and
started screaming in my face.' The abuse — both racist and vulgar — was
enough to attract the attention of the manager, who asked the Champions
Once outside, they continued to hurl
abuse at the restaurant windows, leading one customer to call the
police. By now Jane, after taking her sobbing sister to her grandma's
home, had arrived to check on her boyfriend.
'A policewoman took one look at her
and said she needed to go to hospital,' says Alfie. The Champions,
meanwhile, were taken into custody overnight and, the next day, charged
with assault and racial abuse. They were ordered not to contact their
daughter pending trial.
What a horrible, strained period that
must have been. 'It's been very difficult,' says Jane quietly. 'I felt
like it was all my fault, that if I'd been open from the start none of
this would have happened.'
Her parents did, at least, finally
enter a guilty plea last month, thus avoiding putting their daughter
through a trial, and allowing contact restrictions to be lifted. Last
month, as they awaited sentence, the family had an awkward but emotional
'We hugged and they said time and
again how sorry they were,' says Jane. 'They asked about Alfie, too,
whether he was OK. But beyond that we didn't talk about it much. It's
too painful for everyone.
'I sent them a text message before the sentencing to wish them luck, and I meant it. I hoped the judge would be lenient.'
Such a vicious assault was, though,
always going to lead to a prison sentence, and now the Champions are
behind bars after Judge Peter Heywood told them their behaviour was
'disgraceful.' Few would disagree.
It says much, then, for their daughter
and her boyfriend that both are able to say they have forgiven them and
Jane is planning to visit them in prison.
Alfie isn't ready to say whether he
could accompany her, but when I ask if he could conceive of a time when
he might shake David Champion's hand, he nods. 'I'd like to think so,'
he says. 'I don't think he's a bad man. He's someone who was brought up
in a very old-fashioned way and it is difficult for people like him to
adapt to this new world.'
But that is what his daughter
fervently hopes he can do. 'Nothing would make me happier than for us to
spend proper time together as a family,' she says.
David and Frances Champion, of course, now have plenty of time to reflect on whether they would like that, too.