A COUNCILLOR quit the Conservative party after claiming she was “made to feel like an embarrassment” after being kidnapped and raped.
Peterborough City Council Cllr Fran Benton made the shocking announcement at the start of yesterday’s full council meeting.
The room of elected councillors and members of the public watched her bravely stand and waive her right to anonymity as a rape victim to describe her ordeal in public.
Cllr Benton claimed the resulting “trauma” was one of the reasons she was denied the chance to be on the Conservative ticket at the upcoming May Council elections.
Cllr Benton said in her statement:“I stood as a Fletton and Woodston ward councillor to represent the ward where I have lived for 33 years and the city where I was born and brought up.
“I have enjoyed helping the residents of my ward and tried to make a difference to the city.
“In May of last year, I had a horrific experience which was the end of a five-month long terrifying relationship.
“It ended with me being held prisoner in a cottage in Norfolk for nearly 24 hours.
“After being beaten, threatened with a knife and raped, my only recourse was to jump from a first floor window, which resulted in a broken back.
“I immediately informed the council leader and my fellow ward councillors, who offered me no support and I was made to feel like an embarrassment.
“Since the attack I have attended as many council meetings as possible and carried on with my council work with pride and professionalism.
“This morning, I was deselected with the reason being my trauma and new business ventures.
“It is with deep regret I cannot support this administration and I feel my hand has been forced to carry out my council duties to represent my ward as an Independent.”
Speaking to The ET in a break during last night’s meeting, Cllr Marco Cereste expressed his disappointment at her decision to leave and claimed he had tried to support her after being told of the rape.
Cllr Cereste said: “I am terribly disappointed.
“I always had a great deal of respect for her. I always tried to help her and if she thinks about it, she will know that.
“I was also disappointed to hear she will not be contesting the election for the Conservative party. That was not my decision, I do not sit on the selection panel.”
Fellow ward councillors for Fletton and Woodston Matthew Lee and Lucia Serluca declined to comment.
They were both identified by Cllr Benton as people who allegedly “offered no support” after she told them of her ordeal.
After completing the speech, Cllr Benton was applauded as she walked across the council chamber to sit with the Peterborough Independent Forum, who she will join until the May elections.
She joined fellow former Conservative party members Cllr Mick Fletcher and Cllr Pat Nash as a new recruit to the Peterborough Independents.
All three have defected from the Conservative party in recent weeks.
Cllr John Fox stood in as leader of Peterborough Independents last night due to Cllr Keith Sharp’s absence due to illness.
Cllr Fox said: “What she did in the meeting took not only courage, it showed her true character and bearing.
“I am not only proud to welcome her on board as an Independent, I am even more proud to call her my friend.”