I was worried my groom was getting cold feet weeks before our wedding day. But then he made a shocking confession…
By Hannah Newcombe, 27, from Plymouth, Devon
I’ll never forget the moment PJ came into my life.
I was on a night out in September 2010, and in the middle of a furious row with my ex-boyfriend. We were coming to the end of our relationship, and as a result we are arguing all the time. PJ was out too, but as he was a friend of my ex’s I didn’t know him that well.
While my ex was hurling abuse at me, I wondered how much more I could take. PJ was hanging around awkwardly in the background, and I looked up in tears to find him looking at me with concern.
My ex stormed off, and while I scrabbled around for my phone to call a taxi home, PJ walked up to me.
‘I’ll take you home love,’ he volunteered. ‘If that’s ok with you?’
I nodded gratefully, and we started to walk slowly to my flat.
‘Just for the record,’ PJ said. ‘I think the way he speaks to you is appalling. No woman deserves to be spoken to like that. Call me old fashioned, but I’m a firm believer in treating women with a bit of respect. It’s the decent thing to do.’
During that walk home, PJ and I clicked. We had loads in common and he seemed to really understand my worries about my break-up. I had four children – Luke, 12, Dean, 10, Bailey, nine and Taylor, six, and I worried about being a single mother. I wasn’t sure I could cope on my own.
‘Any man would be lucky to have you,’ PJ told me. ‘Honestly, if he can’t see what he’s got, then more fool him.’
We swapped numbers and over the next few weeks I spoke to PJ more and more. As my relationship with my ex broke down, I started to develop strong feelings for PJ. He treated me with respect and kindness – no man had ever shown me that before.
So when I finally found the courage to break off the relationship, I found myself turning to PJ for comfort. We started spending more and more time together until eventually, PJ asked if I wanted to go out with him.
‘We’ll take it slowly,’ he suggested. ‘If we are still together in a year, we’ll move in together. A year after that, we can get married.’
I was over the moon that someone as lovely as PJ wanted to be with me, and when he met my boys, I was thrilled to find they warmed to him straight away. Suddenly, I had everything I had ever wanted – a proper family.
Just under a year had passed before we moved in together in June 2011. A month later, PJ got down on one knee in front of my friends and family. He held out a sparkling engagement ring.
‘Hannah, you are the love of my life,’ he declared. ‘I’ve asked your father for permission and he says it’s all good. So will you marry me?’
Everyone cheered as I nodded, tears filling my eyes. I was so happy I felt like I was about to explode.
I was certain I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, so we set the date for April 2012.
I threw myself into planning our big day, but instead of enjoying the “honeymoon period” most couples have, PJ started to become distant and down.
He started to go out for walks on his own, and sometimes he would be gone for hours. I’d get frantic with worry when he ignored my texts and phone calls.
‘Where have you been?’ I asked one afternoon when he came in. He had been gone for most of the day.
‘Only out for a walk, and then I stopped at the pub to see my some mates,’ he replied, shrugging off his coat.
‘Why didn’t you answer your phone?’ I asked angrily. ‘I’ve been worried sick about you.’
‘I had it on silent and I didn’t see your calls until just now.’ he said. ‘Sorry love.’
I never pushed PJ to confide what was wrong, but I was worried. Had things moved too fast? Had I done something wrong? His friends reassured me he’d never cheat on me but I was scared – and suspicious – of his odd behaviour.
Then in March 2012, just a few weeks before our wedding, PJ sat me down and uttered those four words every girl dreads.
‘We need to talk,’ he said.
My stomach lurched as PJ began pacing the living room.
He’s got cold feet, he’s calling off the wedding, I braced myself. Then the bombshell hit.
“I was abused as a young boy,” he blurted out.
I stared at him, utterly gobsmacked. I was too scared to interrupt him as he continued his confession.
‘It happened when I was 10 until I was 14,’ he said, slowly. ‘There was a man called Robert Deane, he knew my mum and my stepfather. I didn’t really get on with my stepdad so every time things got a bit heated in our house, my mum would sent me over the Bob’s house as he lived next door and had a computer I could play on.
‘I wasn’t alone, there were often other boys living on the estate who used to go around to see Bob too, as he seemed really cool and friendly. We would take turns to play on his computer and he would give us some food.
“I was going there from the age of eight but nothing happened until I was ten. I used to think Bob was brilliant, but then he started to drug me so that I would pass out. I would wake up feeling sore and not really know why. One time I woke up to find him giving me oral sex. I was petrified and was certain nobody would ever believe me.
‘It screwed me up completely. I started playing up at home and my mum didn’t know what to do with me. When I was 14, I was taken into care and my life spiralled out of control from then on. I was a complete mess – I would drink, take drugs, and nobody could handle me. I became homeless, sleeping on the sofas of my friends.’
As he relived his terrible childhood, he burst into tears. I started to cry too, and hugged him tight.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I asked. ‘I knew something was wrong. I thought you didn’t want to marry me anymore.’
PJ looked at me, shocked.
‘You’re the one thing which makes me sane,’ he said. ‘I want to marry you more than anything. I just didn’t want to start the marriage with this secret between us. I want you to know everything about me.’
PJ’s confession was so far from anything I could have expected. Suddenly his withdrawn behaviour made sense. He hadn’t told a soul for years and was only opening up to me now, because he didn’t want to marry me with this hanging over us.
After other witnesses came forward, the police found indecent photographs Robert Deane had taken of himself abusing the boys – including a picture of PJ.
Officers approached PJ and asked him to give evidence through a video link to help convict Deane of two counts of rape, one count of taking indecent photographs of a child, three counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency with a child.
Deane was jailed at Plymouth Crown Court for 20 years in 2004 for abusing PJ and the other young boys, but even though he was behind bars, PJ was still struggling to cope. He admitted to having nightmares about it regularly.
I vowed to help my groom face his demons, and together, we got the help he needed to move on. He went to the doctor, got some medication and also got signed up to see a counsellor.
The traumatic ordeal brought us closer together, and with the weight lifted from PJ’s shoulders, our wedding was the happiest day of our lives.
Since we married, we’ve had two children – Ricky, three, Ruby-Lea, one, and I’m now pregnant with our third child together. I could never have prepared myself for what PJ told me that day but I’m so glad he did. His shocking confession saved our relationship.
PJ, 36, says: ‘In the years after I was abused my life went completely off the rails. I struggled so much to deal with what had happened to me, I was a mess. Then, in 2004, my attacker – a family friend who my family trusted to babysit me – was finally jailed. He took advantage of me – and many other young boys who lived in my street – in the worst way possible. My parents would drop me over to ‘Bob’s’ house, thinking I was safe, but instead it was the opposite. Because of the long-term effects the abuse had on me, I never thought I would settle down or ever have a proper family. But then I met Hannah, and she changed my life for the better. I knew I had to tell her my secret before we got married, as I didn’t want it hanging over us. Hannah is my rock and because of her, I’m getting better all the time. With her by my side I was finally able to deal with the past, and now I want to speak out to help other male victims of sex attacks.’