A DAUGHTER blasted in the stomach FIVE times by her controlling foster father has told how she is at last able to move on with her life after training as a nurse in honour of medics that saved her life and getting married.
Only now after finding happiness has brave Jennifer Brooklyn been able to talk about the day her obsessive and violent foster father left her for dead after trying to kidnap her at gunpoint from a British pub.
She has now launched a support site to help other victims of domestic violence after spending years battling to come to terms with the terrifying attack.
She said: ‘ I will never really get over what he did to me, but I can say that I am happy now and that is something I thought I might never feel again.
‘Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, not just wives or girlfriends.
‘I survived his bullets for a reason and I want to use that to help people whether that be by nursing or supporting other victims of domestic violence through my site.
Jennifer, now 33, was just 12 when family friend Drosos Saroukos took her in after she was given up by her mother.
The well liked family man was married with a young son and well respected on the Greek island where the family lived.
But behind closed doors he was violent and controlling.
Jennifer said: ‘ The family lived on egg shells. He ordered me to have no friends, no boyfriends, and no make up and if I protested I was beaten.
‘I considered running away but had no where to go and he threatened to kill me if I tried.’
The island had no support for victims of domestic violence so Jennifer knew her only way to escape him was through her education.
She continued to suffer at his hands but studied hard and won a place at university in England to escape him.
She said: ‘ I knew it would be the only way to get away from him and I was so happy to be leaving. I felt free at last.’
But after living in England for a few months, she one day opened her door to Drosos – he had been following her for days and beat her to a pulp for having a boyfriend.
She said: ‘ I was so shocked to see him. I knew then I would never be free of him and had been foolish to think it I could escape him that easily.’
One month on he demanded she return home to her family for Easter and terrified she agreed. But as soon as she saw him at the airport she knew it was a mistake.
Once on the boat to the island he threatened her with a gun – shooting it into the water and telling her: ‘ Next time it will be you if you disobey me again.’
She said: ‘ I was so frightened. I really thought I would die. I told myself if I escaped alive I would never ever return home again.’
But over the next few days crazed Drosos told Jennifer he planned to sell his tourist boat to move to England to be with her for good.
She said: ‘ I realised that unless I did something I would spend my life being controlled by this lunatic.’
Back at university in the UK she rang the Samaritans and told them everything.
Jennifer was moved to a refuge and given help to change her name from Maria. She said: ‘ The support was amazing, I was so relived and grateful for all the help Women’s’ Aid’ gave me.
Legal letters were sent to her foster parents telling them not to contact her again but that didn’t stop her living in fear.
A few weeks later she sensed she was being watched and to her horror spotted Drosos hiding in the bushes as she walked home.
She ran to the safety of the refuge and called police while he banged on the window demanding to be let it – but as he had not harmed her he was simply asked to move on.
She said: ‘ I knew it wouldn’t be the end of it. But that’s all the police could do.’
Jennifer learned her foster father had found her by faxing all the local taxi companies her photo saying she was ‘ missing’ and appealing for information.
She said: ‘They thought they had been helping a concerned dad but they had led my abuser straight to me.’
She feared he would never let her go but after moving to a different refuge she finally felt safe enough to get a place with friends.
But one afternoon she was working behind the bar at the Iron Duke pub in High Wymcombe when he walked in.
He demanded terrified Jennifer leave with him and began dragging her by her hair.
When she spotted the gun in his jacket she feared he was going to kill her.
So Jennifer smashed him over the head with a beer bottle and tried to run.
That’s when he shot her point blank range five times. Three bullets lodged in her stomach, one in her hand, the other in her chest.
‘I could see blood and I thought I was taking my last breaths.’
She was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery to save her life. She had a collapsed lung and a bullet lodged in her bowel.
When she woke she couldn’t believe she was alive.
She said: ‘ I was told a football team had been in the pub and their medic performed CPR which had kept me alive. Police said he had handed himself in and been arrested.’
Jennifer spent one month in hospital recovering.
She later learned he had tracked her down using her exam results which had been sent to his address in error but contained her new address.
Despite handing himself in he pleaded not guilty meaning she had to give evidence.
Jennifer was offered a screen but decided to face her sick foster dad in court.
Reading Crown Court heard how after his arrest police had found knives, a cord, masking tape and handcuffs in the boot of his car.
She said: ‘ It wasn’t hard to imagine what he had planned for me.’
He claimed he had simply come to find her because she had stolen from him- but the jury saw through it.
In March 2003 her foster father was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 10 years and eight years to run concurrently for possessing the firearm and using it to try and kidnap her.
He served half of his sentence in the UK and was then deported to Greece but Jennifer still suffered flashbacks and PTSD.
She said: ‘ I felt like my life was over. I was finally free of him but the emotional scars were hard to heal.’
The following years she struggled to move forward, crippled by depression and anxiety.
But eventually Jennifer decided to retrain as a nurse – inspired by the medics who had save her after she was shot.
She says: ‘ I had to believe that I had survived for a reason and that was to help people like the medics that had helped me.’ She qualified in 2014.
She also found love on the nursing course and in November 2015 married her supportive boyfriend Imran.
Now she loves her job as a registered nurse and the couple hope her injuries – part her fallopian tube was blasted away – won’t stop them having a family.
Last year she launched a platform to give help and advice to other victims of domestic violence and is also writing a book about her ordeal and how she got her life back.
She said: ‘ Domestic violence is a terrifying crime and it’s not just wives that are affected.
‘I owe my life to the medical staff that saved me and am proud to have trained as nurse to give something back.
‘I refuse to let Drosos ruin my life anymore. I am a free woman and I want to let people know he didn’t beat me.
‘ I have survived his bullets and I am here and ready to help others.’