I nailed the beast stran­gling me

Deb­ora lay dy­ing, throt­tled by her evil lover’s hands. Yet sal­va­tion was at her own fin­ger­tips...

Real People - - THIS WEEK IN YOUR FAB VALUE -

Manspread­ing shame­lessly in the back of the taxi, my date flexed his bulging bi­ceps. ‘It would take me years to grow mus­cles that big!’ I gig­gled ner­vously, as hulk­ing Vin­cent Cun­ning­ham, 45, chuck­led.

I was a di­vorced mum-of-three who hadn’t dated for years, but the body of this 17st hunk off Plenty of Fish was such a work of art, and he’d sounded so charm­ing, that I’d been per­suaded to meet up with him.

Now, though, as we headed off to a Chi­nese restau­rant, my heart sank.

‘Oy!’ Vin­cent was yelling at the poor taxi driver. ‘I know what your game is! You’re tak­ing us the long way.’

I was cring­ing. This guy struck me as rude and

ob­nox­ious. There wasn’t go­ing to be a sec­ond date…

I’d been on the dat­ing site barely a week when Vince had first emailed, How is a girl like you still sin­gle?

It made me laugh, and his mus­cly physique was an­other big tick. He was a sales rep and body­builder, into fit­ness like I was.

We’d swapped num­bers and, in Septem­ber 2013, I’d agreed to that Chi­nese, de­spite my mum, Kath­leen, 55, warn­ing me off. It seemed she’d been right. Not only was I not at­tracted to Vince phys­i­cally – he was barely 5ft 5in, with a big, bul­bous nose that had clearly been punched a lot – but I’d also seen a side of him I re­ally didn’t like.

‘What are you do­ing with him, love?’ the taxi driver frowned. Good ques­tion, I thought. But, in the fol­low­ing days, Vince must have called 50 times, leav­ing umpteen voice­mails, emails and texts, un­til I fi­nally picked up to ask him to stop.

‘I just wanted to apol­o­gise,’ he sighed. ‘I don’t know what came over me – prob­a­bly nerves. We all make mis­takes.’

I felt sorry for him. What was the harm in giv­ing him an­other chance?

The sec­ond date was much bet­ter. Vince was charm­ing, funny and at­ten­tive. I was fall­ing un­der his spell…

We saw each other as of­ten as pos­si­ble, spend­ing a lot of time at his beau­ti­ful big bun­ga­low. He’d done well for him­self. But, be­hind closed doors, he was in­creas­ingly moody. ‘Is this OK?’ I’d ask, serv­ing him up a meal.

‘Do you have to f***ing ask that?’ he’d bark.

Soon, the tantrums started. Any­thing could trig­ger them.

One day, I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. With­out warn­ing, Vince came up be­hind me, put his hands around my neck and started squeez­ing.

I couldn’t breathe… I was black­ing out… then he let go.

‘Sorry, I was drunk. I’ll never do that again,’ he promised the next morn­ing, say­ing he was dis­gusted with him­self.

I could barely talk for two weeks. My GP asked ques­tions, but Vince was out­side in the wait­ing room, so I said noth­ing.

Af­ter that, he throt­tled me reg­u­larly. I’d wear scarves to hide the bruises.

My daugh­ter, Kath­leen,

12, liked Vince at first, but grad­u­ally took against him.

‘The Hulk’s al­ways up­set­ting you, Mum,’ she com­plained. ‘I don’t like him!’

My mum was still con­cerned, too. ‘There’s some­thing not right about him,’ she warned, urg­ing me to end things.

I’d yell at her, in­sist­ing I loved him. But I was fu­ri­ous that she couldn’t see through my lies.

Why didn’t she re­alise how trapped and scared I felt?

I wanted out…

Af­ter a few months, my daugh­ter – un­able to bear be­ing around Vince any longer – moved away to live with her grand­mother.

I was dis­traught. I didn’t know where to turn. To cope, I started tak­ing an­tide­pres­sants and strong painkillers.

Soon, I was like a zom­bie. One night, I was rushed to hos­pi­tal from Vince’s place with sud­den, in­tense stom­ach pain. It was a burst ovar­ian cyst.

‘The poor thing’s in agony,’ Vince told my mum.

But, the mo­ment Mum left… ‘Just stop moan­ing!’ Vince snapped. ‘I don’t want to hear it.’

In Fe­bru­ary 2014, we moved into a coun­cil flat to­gether.

Vince’s beau­ti­ful bun­ga­low was be­ing re­pos­sessed – the bailiffs were af­ter him.

He had to­tal con­trol over me now, tak­ing over my fi­nances and en­sur­ing I was in­creas­ingly iso­lated from friends and fam­ily.

We got two pup­pies. Vince chose Ger­man shep­herds, af­ter I ad­mit­ted I was pet­ri­fied of them.

But he was fu­ri­ous as I grew to adore them, and his vi­o­lent out­bursts in­creased.

He flipped if his din­ner wasn’t cooked right, if an­other man so much as looked at me.

‘A woman’s place is in the kitchen,’ he’d rant.

But he never went to work, so, on top of my long shifts as a care worker, I got a sec­ond job at a ware­house. How had it come to this?

I was an in­de­pen­dent, feisty, opin­ion­ated woman. The last per­son you’d ex­pect to be in a re­la­tion­ship like this one. Yet here I was, trapped… He showed me no af­fec­tion. We hadn’t had sex for months. Still, he ex­pected me to look nice. So, in early De­cem­ber 2015, I treated my­self to a trip to the nail salon. ‘Fan­tas­tic!’ I grinned, as the tech­ni­cian ap­plied a £30 set of hot-pink acrylic talons. Pre­dictably, when I got home, Vince didn’t even no­tice them.

A few days later, I came home at 10pm, ex­hausted af­ter a late shift at the ware­house. Vince was sat on the couch in a foul mood, take­away boxes and empty cans scat­tered around him. ‘Where’ve you been?’ he said. ‘At work,’ I thought, ‘while you laze about and spend my money.’

Fi­nally, some­thing snapped. I wasn’t do­ing this any more…

‘Please leave,’ I blurted out. Know­ing he’d erupt, I had my phone ready, my hand hov­er­ing over 999.

But he charged at me in­stantly and, al­though I pressed dial, my phone fell to the floor as he pushed me against the wall then on to the floor. Pin­ning me to the ground, hands around my neck, he squeezed and squeezed. Even­tu­ally he stopped.

I tried to sit up. But then Vince was on me again, crush­ing me un­der his full 17st weight.

‘I’m go­ing to take you to the dark side,’ he snarled, kneel­ing across my chest and chok­ing me a sec­ond time.

His eyes went jet-black as his hands squeezed tighter.

He was chant­ing about the devil, in some sort of trance. I felt my­self black out… Open­ing my eyes again, I saw Vince stood over me, smok­ing a roll-up. He wasn’t even look­ing at me! Did he think I was dead? Just then, he glanced down, and knelt on my chest.

‘This is the end,’ I thought, as he throt­tled me a third time.

I felt peace­ful. Af­ter 20 min­utes fight­ing to breathe, I knew he was stran­gling me to death. But

I felt calm, even as I wet my­self.

‘Just get it over with,’ I thought, ac­cept­ing I was go­ing to die.

‘I hope he gives my body back to my fam­ily,’ was my last thought, just be­fore I passed out…

Who knows where it came from, the sud­den elec­tri­cal jolt that shot across my chest?

Pow­ered by the adren­a­line surge, I thrust my hands through the gap in his arms.

And grab­bing his face, I pushed the false nails on my thumbs into his eyes and gouged them as hard as I could.

‘AAARRGH!’ screamed Vince, jump­ing away, blood stream­ing down his cheeks.

I jumped up, grabbed my phone and car keys, and bolted out of the door. I could barely see – he’d knocked my glasses off – but I man­aged to get into the car and lock it be­fore a blood­spat­tered Vince emerged and flung him­self on the bon­net.

Putting the car in re­verse,

I hit the ac­cel­er­a­tor and shook him off. Then, lift­ing my phone to call 999, I heard a voice.

‘Stay in your car,’ said the op­er­a­tor. ‘The of­fi­cers are on their way.’

My ear­lier call hadn’t been cut off af­ter all. They’d heard – and recorded – ev­ery­thing!

I sped half a mile up the road and waited for the po­lice.

Then I in­sisted on re­turn­ing to the house with them, to get the pup­pies.

The po­lice found Vince cow­er­ing in bed, his wounds cov­ered in my make-up.

He was ar­rested and charged with as­sault to in­jury.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016, at

Kil­marnock Sher­iff Court, he pleaded guilty and was jailed for nine months for the as­sault, plus two years for a sep­a­rate at­tack on a man in a night­club.

Un­able to shake the hold he had over me, I vis­ited him in prison.

I was pet­ri­fied at first, even with the prison warder there. But, with each visit, I grew stronger.

Fi­nally, on my fourth visit, the spell lifted.

I could see he wasn’t sorry. He blamed me for ev­ery­thing. ‘I’ve got to go,’ I said. ‘What­ever. Chee­rio,’ he replied. That’s the last I ever want to hear from him.

Un­for­tu­nately, he was re­leased from prison in May 2017. I’ve moved four times since –

I no longer feel safe.

Now, I want to warn oth­ers about him. He’s clever, charm­ing ma­nip­u­la­tive… and I’m con­vinced he’ll kill some­body next time. If it wasn’t for my nails, I’d be dead now.

I’m fight­ing to get back to the per­son I was. I’m hav­ing coun­selling but, since my brain was starved of oxy­gen, it takes me longer to process things.

I’m happy, though. I’ve got my fam­ily back. My daugh­ter lives with me again. And my dar­ling pup­pies are big now… who needs false nails when you’ve got them!

Deb­ora Col­man, 42, Kil­marnock, East Ayr­shire

‘This is the end,’ I thought, pass­ing out

Vince had a stran­gle­hold on my life till I fought back

No Prince Charm­ing… but I fell for him

With­out my sharp talons, I’d be dead

I’ve got my big dogs to pro­tect me

My girl moved out to avoid ‘The Hulk’

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