Jaine Blackman on a mother’s fight to save her daughter from Oxford sex traffickers

Behind all the headlines about the Bullfinch trial — in which seven members of the gang who abused girls in Oxford were jailed for a total of 95 years — were the real stories of the people whose lives were torn apart.

You Can’t Have My Daughter is one of those; written by a mother and telling what happened to the child she adopted, known as Girl 3 in the shocking Old Bailey trial which heard how the youngster was drugged, raped, tortured and sent across the country as a child prostitute.

Elizabeth McDonnell relates how she adopted Lara (names have been changed to protect anonymity), who came in to her life as a troubled 10-year-old; the ups and downs of their relationship; and what happened during the turbulent years that led to the trial.

Elizabeth’s harrowing story is not comfortable reading.

As a first-time, single mum in her 50s, Elizabeth was well-meaning but clearly out of her depth dealing with a youngster who had suffered abuse all her young life and, by the age of 12, was regularly going missing from school and from home.

Lara suffered violent mood swings and would fly into rages, kicking in door panels, throwing vases and threatening Elizabeth, who found life “like living in a war zone”.

Intelligent and articulate, she turned to Oxfordshire’s education, social services and mental health agencies but too late to make a difference. She did not, however, give up on Lara.

It would have been easy and understandable if she had walked away and left Lara in the care of social services. Instead she promised her: “I will always be there for you, whether you want me to or not.”

Thanks to that support, Lara has come through her ordeal and, now a mum-of- two, has moved away from the city and lives with Elizabeth in Wales.

You Can’t Have My Daughter
By Elizabeth McDonnell
Pan, £7.99