|Donna and Rachel Cave|
Donna and Rachel Cave do not want to be associated with the man they say abandoned them when they were teenagers.
Donna, a 27-year-old law graduate, said: ‘It’s a terrible thing to carry through life, the feeling of being dumped by your father, made worse now that he’s become a national hate figure. I try not to tell people my name in case they make the connection.’
John Cave, a local councillor, was elected deputy mayor of Padiham, near Burnley in Lancashire, earlier this month and will step up to the role of mayor next year. The position is largely symbolic but his election has been seen as a coup for the far-Right British National Party while being ¬condemned by community leaders.
Last night Donna and her sister Rachel, 25 – who also have two other sisters Victoria, 40, and Katie, 26 – said his character made him entirely unsuitable for the office.
Donna claimed he walked out on the four of them and their mother Marlene 12 years ago when she was having chemotherapy for cancer.
She said: ‘It’s unbelievable that this man who abandoned my mother when she had cancer, as well as his four daughters, and who holds such repugnant political beliefs, could ever be considered fit to hold such a position of responsibility.
‘He cut all ties with us, never called or even sent us a birthday card.
‘Our early attempts to keep in contact were either ignored or rebuffed. It’s as if we had never been part of his life. He has two grandchildren who he hasn’t seen.’
Donna added: ‘I’m speaking out as I’ve had enough of being quiet about the appalling way he’s behaved. It’s amusing to hear someone say they want to make a difference to the community when he can’t even look after his own children.’
Rachel said: ‘It’s the principle of it. He’s representing the town and I think they should have someone with better morals and family values. We’re like a secret family. It’s not right.’
Mr Cave is now married to shopkeeper Sharon Wilkinson, a BNP Lancashire county councillor, who has three sons from a previous marriage. The girls claim he was having an affair with her while their mother was ill.
Donna said: ‘He insisted they were just friends but no one believed him. I think she was the cause of rows between Mum and Dad. He was at her shop frequently and did the cash-and-carry buys for her.
‘I noticed that usually at 10pm when she closed up, he would conveniently walk the dog. I wasn’t stupid. I knew what was going on.
‘And I had watched Mum get more depressed because people were whispering behind her back.’ In 1999, the girls returned from school one night to find their father gone. Rachel said: ‘He didn’t stick around to explain anything. Mum said he was gone for good and, in a way, I was relieved because we could all see that he was hurting her. After he left, she finished the treatment and was given the all-clear. She has been OK since then.’
Mr Cave, a landscape gardener, then joined the BNP. He and Ms Wilkinson rented neighbouring houses while still insisting they were just friends. The girls believe she was responsible for their father’s political conversion from working-class Tory voter to bigot.
Donna said: ‘Before this, Dad never talked about race as an issue. He had Asian friends and he’d take us to some of the Asian shops to see the different foods on sale. I don’t remember any racist talk at home.’
Rachel thinks Ms Wilkinson first embraced the BNP after her off-licence lost out to competition from an Asian shop that opened across the road in 1999.
She said: ‘They were bigger and cheaper. They were always busier than her. That’s when I think she changed. She was very upset.’
The last time all the girls saw their father was at their grandmother’s funeral four years ago. Donna said: ‘Dad spoke to Katie once in passing, but didn’t say a word to the rest of us. Lots of his BNP friends were there strutting around with their badges on, which upset me as Nanna was not racist.’
When their grandfather subsequently died only Donna and Katie attended the funeral. Now, with the change of their names, their estrangement is complete. Donna said: ‘He rejected us so we’re rejecting him.’
Last night Mr Cave told The Mail on Sunday: ‘What my daughters want to say is up to them. My divorce from their mother was not at all amicable and they seem to have taken her version of events. I did not abandon them or “disappear”. That would be impossible in Burnley.
‘Really, I’ve absolutely no comment to make about what those people say.