I thought I was being killed ...and imagined the headlines; Steve tells of his years of torment after escape.
WHEN Middlesbrough teenager Steve Billon was brutally raped the assault only lasted a short time.
But now, years on, he tells Gazette reporter LINDSAY BRUCE the full story and the lasting impact of the torture he sustained at the hands of a depraved lorry driver.
"THE minute I got picked up I wanted to go home."
When soft-hearted Middlesbrough teenager Steve Billon made a spur of the moment decision to run away, he almost immediately regretted it.
But he couldn't have known the years of torment that would follow.
For during just a few days away from home the Teesside teenager was brutally raped.
Yesterday the Evening Gazette exclusively revealed police are now investigating whether the evil Scottish paedophile and serial child killer Robert Black could be behind the attack.
The incident took place in April 1982, after Steve believed he was in a "bit of bother" over a CB radio. He packed his bag and hitchhiked away from his home.
The Gazette reported he left on the morning of Wednesday, April 21 and was found on Saturday, April 24 in Bridgend, Wales.
But it is the harrowing events which took place on the days in between which have caused irreparable damage to Steve.
Describing himself as a "childish" 15-year-old steelworker's son, he decided to flea rather than "face the music".
The dad-of-four, now 45, said: "It was the smallest of things but I was really immature and ran away on a whim.
"I got to Doncaster then I got in his cab."
Steve was picked up by a Scottish lorry driver. He told Steve he was heading past Middlesbrough on his way home.
But it was after the pair had a break at a truck stop that the horror would really unfold.
"He said he'd driven as much as he could and I could sleep on the floor of the wagon and he'd drop me off the next day.
"He sent me on first so when he got back a few minutes later I was already lying on the floor and that's when it happened."
Due to the graphic nature of the brutal and persistent attack, the Gazette cannot reveal the full details.
But Steve said: "I thought I was being murdered. I had no idea what was happening.
"It was so shocking that I was able to separate myself from it but I kept imagining the front page of the Gazette saying 'schoolboy murdered'.
"I honestly thought I would wind up dead in a ditch."
Throughout the assault his attacker was speaking to him leaving Steve with an indelible memory of his Scots accent.
Afterwards he settled down to sleep and ordered the youngster to do the same - but instead Steve waited in fearful silence to escape.
"All I could think was 'get away fast' - I wasn't thinking straight so hitched another lift.
"He dropped me off in Bridgend before police found me and kept me in the cells. Nobody checked me over, or even asked what happened. Then my parents came to collect me."
Steve was unable to tell his family of the horrendous ordeal. He said: "I didn't have the words to say. It was the early Eighties - I'm from a working class family in Boro - I didn't know men did things to other males - I literally didn't have the vocabulary to describe what had happened." And it wasn't until Steve had an accident while working as a postman in his thirties that the nightmare would begin again.
"It had never left me but I had buried it. Then I slipped doing my rounds and hit my head. I got a concussion and started having flashbacks.
"That was almost worse - the initial attack happened and then it was over. But after the fall I was reliving it daily. It was a living hell."
What followed for Steve was years of counselling, soul searching and questioning before eventually being able to tell police. "I found it incredibly difficult to get the help I needed. There is some help around - but not so much if you deal with it as an adult. And the paths I was sent down left me with more questions than answers," he said.
Steve, now single, admits that he has questioned his own sexuality because of the assault and even tried to hurt himself.
He added: "I once tried to drink bleach and at the time I genuinely thought I was trying to kill myself. I now realise I was trying to clean myself."
As a result of the trauma he suffered and in a bid to provide the kind of support he felt was missing, Steve founded Teesside Survivors at the end of 2003.
But the enormity of dealing with his and other abuse victims' issues was too much for Steve at the time. In December 2011 he relaunched his support services as Middlesbrough Survivors.
Funded entirely by himself, he also runs a helpline for adult survivors of abuse - and has plans to develop his charity and services. "I'm in a much better place mentally and have so much strength thanks to great networks of help," he said. "It's hard going. I do need more funding and any help would be appreciated but I'm passionate about keeping this going."
And he wants to encourage adults to come forward for help.
He said: "Until you step out of the shadows and deal with it you can end up in a cycle of dysfunction, trapped in your own mind. Abuse never leaves you - support needs to be ongoing."
In October last year he he heard the voice of Robert Black on the news. It was then he returned to police.
Black, from Grangemouth, Scotland, had just been convicted of killing Jennifer Cardy, nine, from Northern Ireland in 1981. He was already guilty of killing three other girls - Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg and Susan Harper - between 1981 and 1986.
Greater Manchester Police said: "We can confirm a report of an alleged historic sexual assault has been received. Inquiries are ongoing."
* If you have been affected by this or any other issues relating to this article visit www.middlesbroughsurvivors.co.uk or call the helpline between 6-8pm from Saturday to Wednesday on 01642 649881. Or see www.supportline.org.uk
FACE OF A KILLER: Robert Black pictured in jail in Scotland SEARCH: The Gazette's story in 1982 after Steve disappeared INQUIRY: Our front page story yesterday when we told of the new investigation into the 1982 attack on Steve Billon, right, and the allegation of a link to child killer Robert Black