“Look at me, I'm Debbie Dee
Little girls want to be me
I’m a star on TV, films and I’ve done Glee
Because I'm Debbie Dee…”
Sitting in my bedroom, I could not help myself from singing the wrong lyrics as I watched Grease for the umpty-something time. After all, everybody knows Debbie Dee, the star of television and films, the lead in Debbie Knows It All.
Or at least, they think they do. Do they know, for example, that my real name is Deborah Abigail De Witt, the granddaughter of the Earl of Moulton, the son of the Honourable Benjamin De Witt, one of a family of two. I have an older brother, someone your parents may have heard of – Roger De Witt, the Oxford Millionaire. Money is something our family does not want for – and I guess as a result, I’ve always been a little bit spoiled.
Okay – make that a lot spoiled. Roger is ten years older than me, and made his own fortune trading and advising on stocks and shares when he was an undergraduate in Oxford. So from as long as I can remember, I’ve had the run of this mansion we live in. Mummy and Daddy gave me everything I wanted.
So now here I am in my room, looking at myself in the mirror on my walk in wardrobe door. I’ve pulled my red hair back and put it into a ponytail, and I’m wearing sweat pants and an old sweatshirt – a far cry from the Debbie Dee most people see on the television.
I had my break when I was eight – I always did amateur dramatics at school and afterwards, and a talent scout saw me. Next thing I knew, I was in a BBC adaptation of Five Children and It, and my career snowballed from there. Turned out I was very good at it, and I enjoy acting. Don’t get me wrong – I really do enjoy it, but sometimes, I just want to be anyone but me.
I’d love to be able to go out with other girls, go to the park or the cinema, go to school even – but I can’t even leave home without being mobbed. Mummy and Daddy hired a tutor for me, so that I did my school – but the idea of just been able to go to a school, it sounds so good.
So look at me, I’m Debbie Dee…
Nope – not going to start that again! So I’ve become this famous, talented, rich actress, and I ended up having to do this tour, signing books in bookshops that were based on Debbie Knows It All. Which is when it all started.
We were in Lincoln, and I needed to take a break between signing sessions. So I went to the toilet, finished, watched my hands, stepped out – and was grabbed by a man, who put his hand over my mouth before picking me up and carrying me out of the back door of the bookshop.
I was put in the back of a van where two other men were waiting, all three with black balaclavas covering their heads. They also had leather gloves on, as they stuck a length of tape over my mouth, mad me lie face down, and tied my hands behind my back with rope. Another length of rope went round my ankles, and that was it – one of them got into the front of the van and drove off, while the other two watched me.
And that was my life for the next few days – I would wake up on a bed, tied and tape gagged, then they would untie me, let me wash, and give me some breakfast. I was then retied, gagged, put in the back if the van and driven somewhere. Then they would tie me to a chair, leave me until it was the evening, let me eat, tie and gag me again…
I had no idea people were looking for me, or the reward my family, the TV studio, and the film studios were offering – until they left me in an old farmhouse, tied to a chair in the room – and to my surprise, two girls wearing glasses came into the room, both even more tightly tied than I was, with something round their heads and covering their mouths, came in and stared at me!
At first, I thought they had been kidnapped as well, but then they left the room – only to be marched back in by my kidnappers. From the way they were talking, I gathered that they had not kidnapped the girls, but they knew who had tied them like them – someone called Jay Edwards. Mummy and Daddy told me about him later – he’s a bank robber who takes over the homes of the people he is robbing, holds them hostage in their own homes, and forces the mum or dad to rob their own businesses.
I wonder if they would make an episode of Debbie Knows It All based on that…
Okay – anyway, they untied the girls, removed several gags, and they said their names were Patty and Rachel. The men who kidnapped me gave us all some food, then tied us all up and tape gagged us before they left us on a bed. I had tried to escape, but had no luck, so I thought all three of us were stuck there…
Until Patty got up, jumped to a window and watched them leave, before Rachel joined her and they were free a minute later! They untied me, and we managed to get out of the house – and straight into a handsome young man called Charlie. I could see he and Rachel were cute for each other, but right then he made a suggestion – RUN!
Which we did – through some woods by the farmhouse, until we finally had to stop while I caught my breath. I managed to thank them all, before we went back to the house Patty lives in. It was a nice little house, but her mother was out, so I watched as they told me about some of the games they played – and Rachel and Charlie tied Patty so tightly she really could not move or speak.
Her mum came home then, and asked if I wanted something to eat. I said yes, she went into the kitchen – and then came back in, kneeling down and looking at me as she asked if I was all right. She then called someone, before she made us all fish fingers, chips and peas.
It was the most delicious meal I had eaten for the time I had been away.
As we finished, the doorbell rang, and a man with a nice smile came in. He said he was a policeman, and after he talked to me, Patty and Rachel he said he was going to take me to Mummy and Daddy. I waved goodbye to them and he drove me to a hotel – where Mummy, Daddy and Roger were waiting. There were tears, and lots of hugs.
That was when they told me they had put up a reward – and they were going to split it between the three families. And just how big a reward it was! I was glad they were going to get a reward, and I tried not to think of how long I would have been held captive if they had not found me…
But there was something that just did not feel quite right. I went back to work, and I did my job, but somehow I felt even lonelier than before. I talked to a therapist, told her most of how I felt, but it also wasn’t everything, because I had realised what was wrong.
I wanted to be tied up and gagged by my friends – and I mean REALLY tied up and gagged. Sure, I’d been ‘tied up’ on camera, but that was more a couple of turns of rope because I was ‘too young’. I was scared when the kidnappers tied me up, and I found I could not get free, but seeing the way Patty and Rachel got free so easily with each other’s help showed me I was wrong.
Then I saw the way they tied Patty so that she could not move or speak – and I wanted to experience that for myself! It looked so different, so exciting, but I never got the chance. If only…
“Debbie? Dinner is ready.”
“Coming,” I said as I stood up and walked down to the dining room, where Mummy and Daddy were already sitting at the table. As I sat down, our housekeeper brought the dinner through, but I sat there, playing with it as I pushed the peas around with my fork.
“Is something wrong Debbie,” Mummy said as she looked at me.
“Not really Mummy,” I said quietly, “I was just thinking about something?”
“Oh,” Daddy said, “and what would that be?”
“Well – promise you will not laugh?”
“Now have we ever laughed at something you said,” Daddy said as he looked at me.
“Well… I was just wondering how much I would enjoy just having someone my own age to play with – another girl who wanted to know me as me, not as Debbie Dee.”
I looked at my parents, as Mummy said “well, how many girls you age do you know that you could play with.”
“Well, there are two… Patty and Rachel. They were really friendly, and I didn’t really get the chance to get to know them that well…”
“I see,” Daddy said as he wiped his chin. “Well – I know you need some time away from everything, Debbie, and we were thinking of taking you off to Vermont for the Halloween weekend, somewhere the press and the fans would not bother you.”
I nodded and put some fish in my mouth, as Mummy said “I think your father and I will still go – but what if you were not to come with us, but to stay with an old friend of your grandfather.”
Daddy smiled as he said “Lord Desmond Holderness.”
“Holderness? That’s where Patty and Rachel… Where I…”
“Precisely,” Mummy said, “so if he and his wife were willing to have you stay, I happen to know the Pickerings and the Riggs are friends of theirs, so perhaps Patty and Rachel could come over and stay as well…”
“And we could collect you on the Tuesday when we come back,” Daddy said. “Of course, if you still want to come to the middle of nowhere with us?”
“Oh no – thank you, thank you thank YOU!” I jumped off my chair, ran over and hugged both of them, before I sat back down and ate as if I hadn’t eaten in days. It took a few minutes for the problem to come to me.
“So how are you going to make the press think I’ve gone with you, and then get me to Holderness Manor?”
“I’ll talk to my father,” Daddy said, “he’ll talk to Lord Holderness, and we’ll work something out…”
And so it was, at 11 am on Friday the 30th of October, the three of us were driven to the First Class check in for British Airways at Terminal Five. I was wearing a black leather jacket over a jumper, jeans and ankle boots, while Mummy was wearing a brown jacket over a dress, and Daddy a jacket, jumper and slacks. We checked the bags in, and then walked through to the lounge. As we walked in, an announcement came over “would Mister de Witt and family please come to the Concierge desk. Mister de Witt and family to the Concierge desk.”
As we walked over, the steward smiled as he looked at our passports. “Would you come with me please,” he said as he came round, and we walked into a small room. As we came in, a grey haired woman in a mustard coloured twin set, a tweed skirt, dark tights and brown brogues stood up.
“Benjamin, Abigail, it is good to see you again,” she said as she kissed both of them, “and you must be young Debbie. I’m Lucinda Holderness – it’s a very great pleasure to meet you.”
“Thank you Your Ladyship,” I said as I made a small curtsey.
“Now – to business. They will hold your bags here for your flight later today, but they have very kindly given your bag, Debbie, to Mister Bridges, who is even now placing it in the car. Shall we?”
She led is through another door to outside the building, where a man in a suit opened the door to a Bentley and we climbed inside. The windows were blackened, so that we could see out, but nobody could see in as we drove onto the M25.
An hour later, we drove up a tree lined avenue and I saw the red bricks of Holderness Manor for the first time. As we pulled up to the front door, I saw Lord Holderness standing there, smiling as we got out.
“Welcome,” he said as we walked up the stairs, “come in, come in. Mister Bridges will take your bag to the room, Debbie, while you and your parents come and have a drink. The others should be here in about an hour…”