'He drugged my daughter, raped her for years'
Warning: Disturbing content
HE drugged her so he could rape her daughters and was starting to groom his own biological daughter when the police were called, but the nightmare is not yet over for Rachel Knight*.
Even with ex-husband in prison, locked up as a convicted paedophile, child rapist and poisoner, Barry John Roberts* continues to persecute her via the justice system.
"He drugged me, drugged my daughter and raped her for years, now he's trying to rob me," she said.
"I've got six kids to bring up and four of them are his, but he doesn't care about them.
"He's a psychopath and a narcissist and he not only groomed my daughters, I realise now he had started on a third, his own biological daughter."
Incarcerated in Parklea correctional centre in western Sydney, a relative of Roberts is suing Rachel for $100,000 in an unrelated matter.
It is only at the end of the criminal trial for Roberts's child sex crimes, that the concurrent civil case can be revealed.
Rachel is a highly intelligent and successful businesswoman.
She is witty and wise, and yet was completely fooled by her abusive, controlling husband until his self-promoted image as a devoted father cracked.
"In the few months leading up to his arrest, his behaviour had been quite strange but never in a million years could I have imagine this," Rachel told news.com.au.
"There were a 100 pieces of a puzzle floating around in my head, and suddenly they came together in my head."
On Tuesday, a jury found Roberts guilty of 22 charges of drugging his stepdaughter Elly between the ages of 12 and 16 years and four charges of drugging Rachel.
The six man, six woman jury found him guilty of sexual intercourse with Elly when she was aged between 10 and 14 and when she was under his care.
They found him guilty of indecently assaulting her, and on two counts of indecently assaulting her younger sister Sophie, aged 11.
The District Court had convicted Roberts of 99 indecent and sexual assault charges against Elly when he pleaded guilty because he could not defend them.
Roberts had videoed himself raping Elly and violating her with objects. After his arrest, Rachel found 13 SD cards hidden in one of his jackets and police discovered the videos.
At his trial, Roberts argued that he hadn't drugged Rachel or Elly, who could be seen comatose during the assaults.
He claimed Elly, who he began abusing just after her 12th birthday, had entered into a consensual sexual relationship.
He also claimed he was a devoted father to Sophie and that Rachel had concocted two assaults against her.
The jury didn't believe him.
Roberts barely flinched in the dock on Tuesday as the female foreperson's voice rang out in the courtroom, charge after charge, "Guilty ... guilty ... guilty ... guilty ...".
Rachel, Elly, Sophie and their large band of family and friends hugged each other outside the court and went off to celebrate.
But just hours later Rachel came down with the flu.
Three-and-a-half years battling to get the case into court and her daughters through the ordeal of giving evidence was over.
"I never get sick, I don't catch anything," Rachel told news.com.au from her home two days after the verdicts.
"But I started to feel it the day of the verdict.
"The whole thing has had a massive impact and some days I'm really shaken up about it.
"But it doesn't have to ruin your life.
"I have very vivid nightmares, flashbacks. I have a lot of trouble switching off.
"I find it hard looking at photos of [Elly] as a little girl thinking she was being horrifically abused.
"But we are very proud of her, how she's coped, although she is scarred from it."
Since the jury verdicts, Rachel has also been subject to some Facebook comments by people who cannot believe she was unaware of her then husband's abuse.
But Rachel's story is a classic case of how paedophiles can work within a family, assaulting the children and "gaslighting" or duping the mothers.
She has decided to tell it to make other women aware of how a cunning man can get away with abusing children.
"He didn't only groom my daughters, he groomed me and my family," Rachel said. "He manipulated everyone."
How Roberts got away with his crimes using Travacalm and a meat tenderiser was so banal, it seems evil.
Rachel met Barry when she was 17 years old, but did not enter a relationship with him until she was 25.
With another partner, she had given birth to Elly, and was pregnant with Sophie when that man ended the relationship.
Barry was present at Sophie's birth, a fact he repeated at his trial to claim that he could never assault a child he felt was virtually his own.
The truth would prove more sinister.
During their 13 years together, nine as a married couple, they had four children together.
"I honestly believe he married me so he could have access to my children," she said.
"After I'd had one daughter with him, I was pregnant again and I thought here I go again making the same mistake as with the father of my first two girls.
"I said if we don't get married, I'm not giving your second daughter your surname.
"I believe now that he was worried that I could see through him, that I would destroy all the work he had done and that I was going to bail.
"We got married and I thought how romantic and beautiful."
In about 2006, after Elly had turned eight years old, Roberts began grooming her for sex.
Rachel noticed Elly would always got to Roberts and sit on his lap, and thought it was lovely that her eldest child had an affectionate relationship with her stepfather.
She now knows that it was coercion rather than choice.
The sex began soon after Elly turned 12.
Roberts claimed in court that the child had touched him first and encouraged him to assault her.
Elly's evidence was the opposite: her stepfather had begun touching her, and escalated to violating her with objects and then to full sexual intercourse.
In the beginning he drugged Elly with Travacalm, videoed her and told her he could do anything to her while she was "asleep".
He told Elly if she revealed what was happening to her mother, the girl could tear apart their family.
Two years into the abuse, following the birth of the couple's fourth biological child together, Roberts began drugging Rachel.
He laced her Diet Coke or wine with Travacalm tablets he crushed with a meat tenderiser.
As the court heard during his three-week trial, this was to make his wife comatose so he could go downstairs and rape his stepdaughter.
He had tried to groom Rachel's second daughter Sophie, molesting her twice while reading to her in bed.
But the 11-year-old had objected, and Roberts told her not to tell her mother because she would upset the family unit.
"I think he left his run too late with her.
"He groomed [Elly] much earlier, rubbing her back, tickling her back, her on his lap reading to her.
"He never did anything inappropriate in front of me. Ever.
"But when you're the mum and you're supervising, you're also being groomed to accept that certain behaviour is acceptable.
"That he's taken on your kids as his own and is being a great dad.
"[Elly] would always be hanging off him and I just thought that was because she loved him.
"I've now found out if she didn't hang off him, she would get into trouble off him."
Rachel now looks at photographs of Roberts with her third daughter, and sees the girl positioned on his lap as he had done with Elly at the same age.
"And it's the way she behaves towards men, we've had to tell her you can do that with you Nan or your aunty but not with men.
"I strongly believe he was grooming her. I think he was getting desperate because [Elly] was starting to fight back and get rid of him."
In the last year before Rachel's family was torn apart by the discovery of Roberts's child crimes, his behaviour had altered.
Rachel realises now he was controlling all of them and in particular Elly.
Roberts forbade the teenager contact with boys her age.
By day he was continually ticking her off. By night he was raping her.
Rachel's constant fatigue, which would come on after drinking or eating something he prepared in the evening, was so chronic she gave it a nickname.
"The tired thing" plagued her up to four times a week. She would wake in the morning with dried saliva around her mouth.
Travacalm causes drowsiness and a dry mouth, but the volumes Roberts fed to Rachel was burning the lining of her oesophagus.
Because the drug contains a muscle relaxant, food began to stick in Rachel's throat; she could have easily choked in her sleep.
Roberts had a glib response for when Rachel cried about feeling sick and so, so tired.
"He said 'you'll be right darling, you just work too hard'."
At times her food or drink tasted bitter, and the white flakes in her drinks were attributed to crumbs on the ice, or dishwasher soap.
Rachel even joked about her tiredness in a Facebook post, writing "my dinner tasted weird tonight. I constantly feel tired and need sleep.
"Do you think my husband could be slipping a bit of poison my way?"
Roberts always brushed away Rachel's complaints with a ready response.
Rachel was working hard. She had two jobs, running her own business, and lecturing full-time at a tertiary institution.
Roberts had been a storeman and a salesman, but left his employment and became a "full-time Dad".
A continuing theme of his rambling self defence at the trial was Roberts' claim he "did everything" for the children, that he was the perfect dad.
"He didn't do all that much.
"Every weekend, I was doing something out with the kids. I'd save up and take them on holidays and I used to do these amazing parties for their birthdays.
"He'd never pitch in and help, he wouldn't go and get a job..
"Because he had it made. He was king of the castle."
"Towards the end, when I started to question his behaviour I allowed his position in the family to overtake any fears I might have had because he was my husband, and father of four of my children.
"And that's probably where I dropped my guard."
January 13, 2014 was the day the image of Rachel's family was shattered.
In the days beforehand, Roberts had been arguing with his stepdaughter about a too-short dress, and about her minding the younger children.
With hindsight, it was clear this was a classic case of control by a paedophile, as recognised by psychologists.
"Reward and punish, reward and punish, he had total control over my daughter and that's what he did," Rachel said.
In support of her husband, Rachel arrived home and chided Elly about her lack of respect for her stepfather.
Rachel told Elly she was taking away her phone and her gym membership.
A distraught Elly snaps, telling her mother that Roberts is "not my father" and telling him to explain to Rachel the background to the arguments.
Feeling the ground shifting beneath her, Rachel began recording the argument on her iPhone.
The explosive audio would later be played in court.
Elly can he heard saying to Roberts, "You tell mum, this is not my fault".
But when Rachel turns around, Roberts has bolted and fled in his car.
Rachel says that when her husband took off, the penny began to drop. The '100 pieces' in her mind began to form a picture.
On the audio recording, the disbelief and shock in her voice is palpable: "Has he been sexually molesting you? You are going to have to explain it. Oh my God this is a nightmare. How has this been happening."
Elly tells Rachel, "He's been drugging you ... the white stuff that's been in your wine".
Rachel: "How do you know he drugged me?".
Elly: "Because he tells me. He buys Travacalm tablets and crushes them up in your drink.
"That's the white stuff in your drink."
Rachel asks again about the sexual assaults. Elly responds, "he's been assaulting me, he never leaves me alone, he's been at me for years".
When Rachel asks about the extent of the sexual assault, Elly replies that her stepfather started off "by touching me" but that it had escalated to "full sex" in her bedroom.
"I didn't know what to do," Elly says. "I've been scared out of my mind to say anything."
Since that day, Rachel and her family have been through many phases.
After she called the police, Roberts was found in his car at Katoomba and taken in for questioning.
Elly was taken to the NSW police joint investigative response team, JIRT, and Rachel gathered her other five children together to tell them that "Daddy is in jail because he's hurt someone".
The kids cried for fifteen minutes and then Rachel took Sophie aside and asked her if she, too, had been "hurt".
Sophie told Rachel of the two occasions on which Roberts had touched her, and that she had written a letter to them both about it, but Roberts had found the letter and made her promise to stay silent.
In the ensuing months, Rachel tried her best to "manage six children, all their feelings, all different ages"
"I had my little two-year-old who would innocently run around the house saying 'Daddy, Daddy'.
"How do you respond? I'd say he'd gone on a plane somewhere, and [the little boy]
he would look up at every plane.
"I was careful not to react with my feelings towards his father. Eventually he forgot.
"He doesn't even know who [Roberts] is now."
An older boy, seven when his father went to prison, would wake up every night screaming.
"He would say, 'I'm so scared daddy is going to be looked after in jail, will they feed him or give him a blanket?'.
"I was heartbroken.
"You can't tell your son how you really feel about him. He was only seven, it wasn't his fault."
While preparing for the trial, Rachel had gone through a property settlement with Roberts, but was shocked when another man launched a lawsuit for $100,000 of her money.
Neither a builder or licensed tradesman, he claimed he had carried out renovation works on Rachel's house.
The case, which has been heard in the lower courts, is marked by some bizarre and ludicrous events.
Under the Home Building Act, a person cannot sue for more than $20,000 unless they are a licensed tradesman or builder.
And Rachel has receipts from tradesmen for 80 per cent of the work done.
"It's an abuse of process, but the magistrate has just refused to have it thrown out.
"I've complained to (politicians) Gabrielle Upton, Pru Goward, Derryn Hinch, Pauline Hanson and the NSW Law Society.
"No-one wanted to help me while the [child sexual abuse trial of Roberts] was going on.
"But now it's just killing me, and stopping me moving on with my life."
Rachel has issued a plea for someone to step forward and help her fight this final battle.
She hopes that her story about the years of abuse can make other women aware that there can be a "monster" in your home.
In a heartfelt statement issued with the help of crime victims advocate Howard Brown following the guilty verdict,
Rachel described her family's ordeal as "the darkest time of our lives".
She said they had "a long period of recovery ahead and their battle is not over".
"The outcome today is exactly what we expected and we are profoundly moved to see justice finally served.
"We are fortunate that despite the offender's ugly tactics in the lead up to the trial and sickening lies throughout the trial that the jury was able to see through this, to the truth, and find him guilty.
"The mother in this case is immensely proud of her children for the way their strength, honesty and courage has shone throughout the darkest time of their lives."
"We pray that this monster never has the opportunity to hurt another child and ruin another family's future."
*All names have been changed to comply with an order of the NSW District Court to suppress the identities of the children who were the victims of the sexual assault.