Growing up, Pauline Dakin always knew there was something strange about her family.

They were constantly moving from town to town with seemingly no reason, and when Pauline questioned it, her queries were pushed aside by her mother.

It wasn't until she was 23 did she find out the terrifying reason behind her peculiar childhood, when her mother finally told her she had been on the run from the mafia her whole life.

Pauline grew up in Canada in the 1970s with her mum, dad and brother. Her life on the run started when she was just seven years old, two years after her parents, Warren and Ruth, separated.

Advertisement

When she was seven, Pauline's mum took her and her brother on a holiday to Winnipeg, more than 2300km from their home in Vancouver.

What they didn't know until after they arrived was that Ruth never planned on returning, news.com.au reported.

The children were never given the opportunity to say goodbye to their father, with Pauline telling the BBC that whenever she asked her mother why she did it she would respond: "I'm sorry, I can't tell you — when you're older I will tell you."

And so that would become the line that she would hear for the next 16 years of her life every time they would suddenly move house or something strange would happen.

There was the time Pauline and her brother came home to find their mum throwing all the food out of the fridge even though none of it had gone bad.

Or when they were pulled out of school in the middle of the week for a hiking trip to a cabin in the mountains.

All of these odd little events had sinister reasons behind them.

Over the years Pauline lost touch with her father but a new male figure had come into her family's life.

Stan Sears was a church minister and a counsellor for a support group for families of alcoholics, a group that Ruth frequented when she was still with Warren, who was known to be a heavy drinker.

Though Pauline didn't know her family's secret yet, she knew that whatever it was, Stan was somehow involved, because he and his family always moved whenever theirs did.

Even though she knew something wasn't quite right, she learned to move on with her life, graduating from university and securing a job as a journalist.

But any sense of normality she had built came crashing down in 1988 when she received an unexpected call from her mum.

"She said, 'OK, I'm ready to explain all of these strange things that have happened throughout your life,'" Pauline recalled.

She was instructed by her mother to meet at a motel and when she arrived Ruth silently handed her a note telling her: "Don't say anything. Take your jewellery off. Put it in the envelope. I'll explain, just don't talk."

Despite being confused Pauline did as she was told before her mum took her up to a hotel room where Stan was waiting for them.

It was here that they told Pauline they had all been on the run from the mafia due to her father's involvement in organised crime.

Stan had also become a target after the mafia found out that one of their members had opened up to him about wanting to leave behind his life of crime during a counselling session.

Ruth explained that Pauline's jewellery had to be checked for bugs because for 16 years each of them had been followed.

She was told that throughout her life there had been multiple attempts to kidnap and kill her but there were government agents involved that kept her safe.

"It was unbelievable," Pauline said.

"But I remember a feeling of terror coming over me that this might be something we could never escape."

Pauline was 23 when she found out her family's terrifying secret. Photo / Twitter
Pauline was 23 when she found out her family's terrifying secret. Photo / Twitter

As if that wasn't already enough to take in, Pauline was also told that there were secret communities across the country, known as the "weird world" where people like them could hide from the mafia.

Stan said he was already living in one of these towns and Ruth planned to join him. They both urged Pauline to "go inside" with them for protection.

As crazy as what she was being told seemed, these were two of the people she trusted most in the world - what reason would they have to lie to her?

"As unbelievable as it sounds, there were all these explanations that made pieces that had been so troubling fall into some kind of a pattern, a narrative," Pauline said.

She eventually made the decision to go into hiding with them so she quit her job, sold her house and broke up with her boyfriend.

Pauline and her mother were told they had to wait until it was safe for them to move into the "weird world".

Five years later they were still waiting, there was always some reason why the timing wasn't right. During that time Pauline had married and her husband Kevin had been let in on the secret.

"I was at war with myself and I wanted to find some definitive way to prove it right or wrong," she said.

While Stan was visiting her mother, Pauline decided to call her and lie and tell her that her house had been broken into.

She was told that Stan would find out what happened and to meet them in person immediately.

Pauline's heart sank as Stan told her that two people had been picked up down the street from her house and they had pictures of her. That was the moment that she knew everything she had been told was a lie.

When Pauline confronted her mother a week later there was nothing she could say to get Ruth to believe the accusations that Stan had made everything up.

Stan didn't stray from his story either, claiming there must have been a mistake in the report about the two men.

Pauline's relationship with her mother never fully recovered and she died from cancer in 2010, still believing Stan's story.