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His sadists stripped me, tied me down then gave me electric shock torture.

STRIPPED naked, blindfolded and strapped to the springs of an iron bunk bed, Sheila Cassidy was tortured and abused by General Pinochet's sadistic henchmen.

The brave British doctor suffered three sessions of electric shock torment at the notorious Villa Grimaldi interrogation centre in the Chilean capital Santiago.

The screams of other prisoners echoed through the grim corridors.

Now Dr Cassidy believes 82-year-old Pinochet, under arrest in a private London hospital, should finally face justice.

She told The Mirror last night: "He should be kept in prison for the rest of his life. It is only right and just.

"I just wish this had happened a long time ago and that Pinochet was a younger man."

Dr Cassidy, 61, recalled her nightmare in an exclusive interview at her Plymouth home.

She said: "As I lay bound I was given a violent electric shock and I realised to my horror that my sadistic torturers had attached electrodes to my body. The pain was excruciating.

"During the three torture sessions I was frequently fondled and asked if I enjoyed it, threatened with rape, whipping and being molested by rats."

Secret police also threatened her with an alsatian dog trained to assault women who were bound to beds.

She said: "I spoke personally to two girls who had been subjected to this treatment. They were incredibly brave and restrained having been through such a hideous ordeal."

Dr Cassidy fell foul of the Chilean dictator's bloody regime in 1975 when she was 38 and working at a hospital in Santiago.

She was asked by a priest to treat a man who had been shot and was on the run from Pinochet's thugs.

"I treated him as a doctor seeing a sick person - it was not a political act," she said. But the doctor was arrested and tortured with electric wires attached to her genitals in an attempt to discover the gunshot victim's hideout.

She was kept in solitary confinement for three weeks, imprisoned for another five and then expelled from the country. The torturers gagged her with a towel to muffle her screams.

One shouted repeatedly: "Give it to her, give it to her."

Dr Cassidy was lashed to the bed by the wrists and ankles and by wide straps across her stomach and shoulders to constrain the violent convulsions brought on by electric shocks.

Finally, she offered to show the secret police the address they wanted.

But the house she picked at random was occupied by a terrified elderly couple so she admitted being mistaken.

She was driven back to the prison and the agony began again.

The bruises around the top of her body took two weeks to fade.

Later, she was forced to sign a statement saying she had not been tortured.

But she explained: "It would have been suicidal to refuse with a machine- gun in my ribs."

Dr Cassidy was held with 25 other women. "I shall never forget the people who were tortured and imprisoned with me," she said. "I was among 80 women and 400 men who were arrested and jailed and I was appalled by some of the stories they told me, including how some people just disappeared.

"People were tortured in the cell next to me. I used to hear their screams coming through the walls. I remember one man being taken away and tortured. The guards brought his blood-stained shirt back to our cell and ordered one of the girls to wash it.

"Before I left jail I wrote the names of all the girls being held prisoner on the inside of the waistband of my jeans.

"When I got home I went charging up to the Foreign Office to make sure they knew of them. Then I went to Geneva to campaign for their release."

Dr Cassidy's terrible ordeal strengthened her Catholic faith and led indirectly to the work with the terminally ill which has won her international acclaim.

She became medical director of Plymouth's St Luke's Hospice, and also works at the city's Derriford Hospital.

Dr Cassidy told The Mirror: "I do not harbour any hatred for my tormentors."

And she said of the ex-dictator's arrest: "My only concern now is that I don't want to see any destabilisation in Chile which is still recovering from the Pinochet years. I do not want people to see this as just wreaking revenge on a sick and old man, however wicked he was, although his people showed no mercy to pregnant woman and old and sick persons.

"It is right and proper that he should now experience the fear and loss of liberty that his victims went through."

Pinochet seized power in 1973 and is held responsible for the deaths of 3,197 innocent people with another 1,000 unaccounted for. He ruled for 17 years until 1990.

Chilean exiles in Britain also told last night of their suffering at the hands of the Pinochet regime.

One was hung from a helicopter by his feet and and still can't walk properly 20 years later.

An imprisoned college lecturer had to sleep on bare floorboards and saw two fellow prisoners taken out and shot.

Former union leader Pedro Fuentes, now a community worker in Sheffield, spent two years in jail before escaping Chile.

"I was one of the lucky ones," he said.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Lakeman, Geoffrey
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 19, 1998
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