Hid­ing in plain sight

My man’s past held the clues to who he re­ally was

Chat - - CONTENTS - Jenna God­dard, 34, Old­ham

Read­ing the name that’d just popped up in my Face­book in­box, I ac­tu­ally gasped. That’s a blast from the past,

I thought. It was an evening in March 2018, and I’d not given Richard Wil­son a sec­ond thought in years!

We’d dated briefly 10 years ear­lier, be­fore it’d fiz­zled out. How are you? Richard had asked.

A lot had hap­pened since we’d last spo­ken.

I’d had five kids for a start! I was a sin­gle mum to Ella,16, Co­bie, 14, An­to­nia, 10, Anya, 7, and Gino, 3. Long time, no speak, I typed back.

As the mes­sages flew back and forth be­tween us, I re­mem­bered what I’d liked about Richard, 31.

He was charm­ing, funny, re­ally easy to talk to.

A few weeks later, the kids stayed with my mum Jan­ice, 46, while Richard came over to mine.

As we chat­ted, my nerves evap­o­rated and it felt like old times.

Soon, we were an item again. We had a laugh to­gether, go­ing to reg­gae nights and bars.

He made an ef­fort with my kids, too – trips to Le­goland and to the cin­ema.

I fell for him even more. But, af­ter a cou­ple of months, I no­ticed a dif­fer­ent side to Richard…

He be­gan ques­tion­ing me, mon­i­tor­ing my so­cial me­dia.

‘You had four more Face­book friends yes­ter­day,’ he said one night.

He de­manded to know who I’d deleted, what I was hid­ing.

As a hair­dresser, I used Face­book to book clients, gen­er­ate busi­ness and had over 2,000 friends. I didn’t keep track of them.

‘Don’t be ridicu­lous,’ I said, try­ing to calm him down. But it made things worse. As time went on, Richard would be rude about my fam­ily and friends, un­til it be­came eas­ier for me not to see them.

I can­celled plans, barely used so­cial me­dia. Bet­ter than another ar­gu­ment,

I’d think.

Yet it seemed noth­ing

I did was enough for him.

In Fe­bru­ary 2019, as we walked back from drop­ping my youngest at Mum’s, I sensed Richard bristling with anger.

Walk­ing down the al­ley be­side my house, he turned.

‘You’ve got a dif­fer­ent What­sApp pic­ture,’ he said through grit­ted teeth.

‘I just fan­cied a change,’ I replied.

As I reached the front door, I was aware of Richard’s bub­bling tem­per, my stom­ach in knots.

Then sud­denly he punched me in the face, send­ing me sprawl­ing to the ground.

As he started kick­ing me, I screamed. ‘Please stop!’ I begged. But he stamped on my head, his feet hit­ting my face.

Thank­fully, a neigh­bour and my el­dest daugh­ter Ella heard my cries and swooped to my res­cue.

Richard fled as we called the po­lice, and an am­bu­lance took me to Royal Old­ham Hos­pi­tal.

See­ing my blood­shot eye, and swollen and bruised face, I broke down.

I couldn’t even recog­nise my­self.

Thank­fully, I had no bro­ken bones, so the doc­tors pre­scribed me painkiller­s and told me to rest.

Soon af­ter, the po­lice vis­ited me.

They sug­gested I use Clare’s Law to find out about Richard’s his­tory.

I could ap­ply for in­for­ma­tion on any pre­vi­ous do­mes­tic-abuse of­fences he might have com­mit­ted. ‘I don’t need to,’ I de­clared. I planned on press­ing charges, and then never see­ing him again.

But, be­fore the of­fi­cers could find him to ar­rest him, Richard was mes­sag­ing me, beg­ging for for­give­ness. It’ll never hap­pen again, he texted.

I still loved him – so I con­vinced my­self that he was telling the truth. And I took him back. My fam­ily and friends were an­gry, and I didn’t con­tact the of­fi­cers deal­ing with my case.

‘I’ll al­ways stand by you,

He was charm­ing, funny, re­ally easy to talk to... I fell for him

but this is a big mis­take,’ Mum warned me.

But I thought I knew best. Then, one evening in spring, as I got out of the shower, Richard burst into the bath­room.

Rag­ing about Face­book – again.

‘You deleted some friends. You’re hid­ing some­thing!’ he fumed.

Be­fore I could re­ply, he grabbed me, punch­ing and kick­ing.

The kids were at Mum’s, and I was alone as he threw me around the house.

Some­how, I ended up sprawled on Ella’s bed­room floor, naked and ter­ri­fied. Then I watched Richard pick up a dumb­bell weight and storm to­wards me. Lift­ing the weight over his head, he brought it crash­ing down on my leg. Scream­ing in pain, I could only lay help­less as the blows came thick and fast. I’m go­ing to die here, I thought, ter­ri­fied.

For the next two hours, Richard beat me to a pulp as I cow­ered.

At some point, I man­aged to pull on some un­der­wear.

Fi­nally, while Richard left the room for a cou­ple of min­utes,

I ran for it, drag­ging my left leg be­hind me.

Bat­tered and wear­ing just my bra and knick­ers, I banged on a neigh­bour’s door.

She let me in, and called the po­lice as Richard fled.

Back at the hos­pi­tal, the doc­tors ban­daged my head.

Luck­ily my leg wasn’t bro­ken, but there was a huge bruise on my right thigh, and my arms were black and blue.

Soon af­ter, Richard was ar­rested and of­fi­cers vis­ited me, hand­ing me a pile of doc­u­ments. While I’d taken him back, they’d been look­ing into Richard’s his­tory. ‘We’ve un­cov­ered th­ese us­ing Clare’s Law,’ one said to me. Flick­ing through, my jaw dropped. Richard Wil­son had count­less con­vic­tions of vi­o­lence against women. He’d even served time for it. I’m such a fool, I thought.

I’d put my­self in dan­ger, in­tro­duced him into my kids’ lives. In Au­gust 2019, Richard Wil­son,

32, ap­peared at Manch­ester Min­shull Street Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to two counts of ac­tual bod­ily harm.

The court heard that he had 19 pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions – many of them for vi­o­lence. He was jailed for two years and 9 months, will serve a fur­ther two on li­cence, and was handed an in­def­i­nite res­train­ing or­der against me. It wasn’t enough. I was the third women he’d bat­tered. ‘He’s a risk to women ev­ery­where!’ I cried.

So now I’m shar­ing my story, to warn ev­ery­one about Richard Wil­son and men like him.

If you have any sus­pi­cions about your part­ner, please con­tact the po­lice.

Use Clare’s Law – don’t be blinded by love, like I was.

For the next two hours, Richard beat me to a pulp as I cow­ered

I was bat­tered black and blue

There were two sides to Richard…

Shar­ing my story to help oth­ers

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