MY EXCLUSIVE STORY - NEWS OF THE WORLD- AUGUST 2008

Shevaun Pennington was international news six years ago when, at the age of 12, she was abducted by US Marine Toby Studabaker.

Now 17, Shevaun felt it was time she told her story of what really happened.

We set Shevaun up with a deal with the News of the World newspaper who paid her a large fee for her exclusive story.

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Paedophile victim reveals terrifying life on the run with evil American abductor

SHE was just an innocent child of 12 when she was whisked abroad and sexually violated by evil US Marine Toby Studabaker—sparking an international manhunt.

And only now, five years later, does pretty Shevaun Pennington, feel strong enough to talk of her terrifying ordeal for the first time.

In an exclusive interview with the News of the World she told how vile paedophile Studabaker, now 36:

  • GROOMED her for a year via an internet chat room
  • DRAGGED her from one sordid hotel room to the next
  • PLIED her with vodka and
  • PUSHED her into sex.

Bravely waiving her right to anonymity, Shevaun, 17, said: "It began as an adventure and for a long time I felt I was to blame. Now I realise what an evil pervert he truly is.

"If I ever saw him again I'd shake his hand and thank him for making me the strong resilient person I am today.

"Then I'd turn around and knee him where it truly hurts—so he'd feel what it's like to trust someone and then have it all ripped apart and abused."

Widower Studabaker, who was with US forces in Afghanistan, is now serving 11 years in America for abduction, child sex and possessing kiddy porn, after completing a 4-year sentence in Britain.

Cartoon

But, recalling how the ordeal started, Shevaun told us: "I think he should NEVER be released. I was easy prey for him—I was a loner getting bullied at school because of the music I liked. Kids would shout 'Goth!' as I walked past. I always felt an outsider.

"I hated school and I hated life at home too. I didn't get on with my parents. We clashed over my loud music, the mess I made and my homework. I was so miserable."

But Shevaun's family had a computer in the dining room of their house in Warrington, Cheshire, and the internet became her escape. She began playing on a virtual kids' game called Neopets and one day got a message from another player saying: "Do you want to be my friend and start chatting?"

Shevaun told us: "He said he was called Toby and after a few days he told me he was 27, so I said I was 17. We exchanged email addresses. He told me he lived in America and was in the Marines, it sounded really interesting.

"I realised he was old to be playing on a kids' game but I never thought there was anything wrong with him. We both liked punk and chatted on the internet every day.

"After a week I told Toby my real age and he admitted he was really 31. That didn't worry me, by then he was my friend who I shared all my problems with."

While her parents Stephen and Joanna, were at work Shevaun and Studabaker spent hours emailing each other. Chillingly, the scheming American was slowly worming his way into their daughter's trust and affection.

Shevaun said: "After three months we exchanged pictures. He became my closest friend. He always made me feel better by saying he'd look after me.

"He told me how his wife Jenny had died of cancer and revealed he was self harming because he was sad and lonely like me. I felt sorry for him. It was like we were on the same level."

After Shevaun sent her photograph, fiendish Studabaker's grooming moved up a gear.

"He told me he loved me and wanted to marry me one day," she said. "He said I was pretty which nobody had done before."

Then Studabaker began phoning. The innocent child would sit in her room—decorated with blue dolphins—watching her favourite cartoon Clifford The Big Red Dog and wait for his call.

"He rang my mobile at night or lunch breaks," said Shevaun. "We talked by webcam too, with the volume down so my parents didn't realise I was talking to a man.

"I thought he cared. He sent me a card with a spaceship on the front which read 'I wish I could abduct you.' I hid it in my room.

"After 10 months Toby said he planned to leave the Marines and live in the UK. He said he'd help me escape from my troubles and we could go away together. I thought it would be brilliant.

"I knew he was serious when he asked for my passport number. I just thought he was kind and was going to rescue me."

On July 12 2003, Studabaker put his evil plan in action and flew into Manchester from his Michigan home. Shevaun said: "I told Mum I was going shopping with friends. But I'd saved over £20 in pocket money for a taxi to the airport. I was shaking with nerves. I packed a bag with three sets of clothes, a brush, a notebook to write my poetry, a phone charger, a CD player and CDs by The Cure.

"Toby walked towards me through the airport wearing a T-shirt with GBH on the front. GBH were one of my favourite bands and I thought that was cool.

"He hugged me and took me for coffee. He'd booked us on a flight to Paris and it felt like a mad adventure. He said we'd have to be careful and keep on the move."

Their three-star hotel room had single beds, old-fashioned wallpaper and a balcony. Shevaun said: "Toby sat next to me on the bed and kissed me on the lips. Not a snog, but a proper kiss. I was shocked. But when he said, 'I AM going to look after you.' I felt he really cared."

Next day Studabaker bought purple hair dye and they both used it. Blonde Shevaun said: "I just thought it was fun. I never for a second thought this was to hide my identity.

"In the afternoon, I asked if I could have a drink and Toby got me a litre bottle of vodka."

Back at the hotel Studabaker watched as his prey downed most of the bottle listening to The Cure. Then he made his move to get what he REALLY wanted.

"I was tipsy," said Shevaun. "I was sat on the bed and he came towards me and said he loved me.

"I started to feel scared. He was touching me and said, 'Do you want to?' I didn't answer, I didn't know how to say no.

"I kept my top on but he took off my bottoms and had sex with me. I didn't like it but I had to switch off and let him do it. He used a condom and kept telling me how he loved me and I was beautiful.

"It was then I remember thinking, 'This shouldn't be happening.'

"Afterwards I just blocked it out, I didn't want to talk about it."

They never had sex again. They then moved on by train to Strasbourg. "That day I should have been on a school trip to Camelot theme park," said Shevaun. "But it was cool travelling to another city."

In the next hotel room Shevaun flicked on TV and was astonished to see their pictures on the CNN news, with a tearful come-home plea from her parents. She said; "Toby laughed and didn't seem concerned, it was like a game to him. So I laughed about it too."

But after another move to Stuttgart, Germany, the news bulletins were getting through and they began to realise the end was near.

Shevaun recalled: "Toby said I had to ring home. My mum was upset on the phone and said, 'Come home, we love you. Everything will be fine, Toby won't go to prison.'

Angry

"It was then I realised that he WAS going to prison. I got angry and put the phone down."

But now the 'adventure' was falling apart and looking like the sleazy abduction it really was.

Shevaun said: "Eventually we both realised Toby had to give himself up and I had to go home."

But incredibly as tearful Shevaun flew back to Manchester she was now thinking SHE was the one at fault. She recalled: "Back home I didn't want to talk to the police. I felt like I was betraying Toby.

"But I told Mum he'd made me have sex with him—and she made me tell the police."

Nevertheless the paedophile's spell worked on and, although he was jailed, for two years Shevaun still believed it was HER fault. And she was in a mess—depressed, bulimic, and still bullied.

"But slowly I realised it was all because of Toby," she said. "Then it dawned on me he was an evil b****** who ruined my childhood."

Finally last year Shevaun agreed to have counselling and began to see the reality.

Now, with new confidence, a wonderful new boyfriend in her life and plans for a return to college, she says: "I can't feel sorry for myself. I see what's happened as an 'achievement'—I've coped with a horrible experience which has made me a stronger person.

"But I can never forgive that man for abusing me—he deserves to be behind bars until he dies."



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