A woman busted her mum having sex with her boyfriend when she was just 15.
Concise News reports that, however, it was years before she would discover the pair had a stillborn baby whose little body her mum hid away in a wardrobe for decades.
Joanne Lee, 47, speaks about the disturbing revelation as she opened up about her mum Bernadette Quirk’s dark secrets.
She tells Liverpool Echo how she later learnt her boyfriend had actually fathered one of the four stillborn babies. The baby girl was later discovered to have been hidden by her mum in a wardrobe and bag beside her bed for over 20 years.
The woman only found out much later that her boyfriend of 19 years had gotten her mum pregnant, making her both the half-sister’s baby and step mum, many years later.
Joanne says of the grisly discovery: “We had a massive row and broke up, but then got back together again. I never actually blamed him.
“I knew what my mother was like – I blamed her. He was 17 and she was in her 30s.”
Her mum had hidden three of her four stillborn babies in a bin inside her wardrobe for 20 years. The fourth was in a canvas bag beside her bed.
A court heard how Quirk had given birth to the babies- including one set of twins- during a chaotic period of her life when she had been drinking heavily and having casual sex.
She claimed to have given birth at home alone on her own to the babies, which she said did not move or make any noise, so she wrapped them up and put them in the bin, Merseyside Police said.
Joanne, who discovered her mum’s horrific secret, says: “I couldn’t stand the woman – and what she put us all through. But I wouldn’t go back and change any of it.
“It’s made me a better mother and person.”
Quirk had since been sentenced in court, however, she died aged 64 in February.
She was spared jail for concealing the births – instead of receiving a two-year community order, subject to supervision.
Also, she was ordered to take part in a women’s intervention project.
Forensic evidence suggested all Quirk’s babies had congenital disorders, and each had a different father.
Her daughter, mum-of-three Joanne, has now written Silent Sisters, which tells the whole harrowing story.
Joanne was just 26 when she and her sister Cath discovered their mother’s grisly secret.
Following one of her mum’s frequent house moves, Joanne and Cath, full of suspicion, confided in their brother, Chris, who looked inside the plastic bin and saw bin bags and air fresheners.
Joanne, her mum and her brother – who was living with his mum – were all arrested.
The grandmother-to-four continues: “If I had known then what I know now I would have gone to the police there and then.
“I knew I was doing wrong and I could have gone to jail but I think a lot of it was to do with me losing my own child, and I felt sorry for her. I thought she was grieving.
“I just felt I had to do it. I knew she wouldn’t talk to anyone, and she was a compulsive liar anyway so I thought if I went behind her back there was no guarantee she would admit anything.”
Quirk used to claim Freddie Mercury had given her ballet lessons and that she had “got off” with Michael Jackson.
Joanne adds: “It’s sad, really, because she clearly had a mental illness.”
After a seven-month wait, Joanne was told she would not be facing charges.
She is currently going through a divorce and has had her third child, Alex.
He is profoundly deaf, and this has led to his mum working at Happy Hands Deafness Resource Centre in St Helens.
“It is so rewarding and has definitely been part of my recovery – Alex has totally changed my life.”
Joanne says she wrote Silent Sisters because her life was like a “jigsaw puzzle which I wanted to piece together.
“But I will never know the whole truth. I will never know how she hid those babies all those years.
“Where were they in between her moving houses? How do you hide the smell of a dead body? The smell is indescribable. It clings to you and you can taste it.”
After the court case, Joanne organised a funeral service for the babies – Katie Anne, Angela Sheila, Elizabeth Julia and Helen (now named Angelica Helen).
Before their ashes were scattered, Joanne gave a reading which includes the words: “This shouldn’t be a sad day. Our four sisters are at peace. They are now free.”