I vowed to nurse my boyfriend Gary when he was struck down by a deadly disease. But was he hiding something from me?
By Laura King, 28, from Dundee
I opened my eyes wearily as I heard a thumping noise at my front door. Pulling my dressing gown round me, I nervously made my way downstairs.
“Laura!” my boyfriend, Gary Montana, shouted, from behind the door. “Let me in!”
“Gary, what are you doing here?” I asked, yawning, as I turned the key. “It’s 2am!”
We’d only been together a few months and Gary hadn’t planned to stay the night. I was annoyed he had woken me up but I didn’t have time to protest.
“Hurry up and let me in!” he barked. “Or I’m going to get a gun and shoot you!”
I trembled as he barged through the hallway and into the living room.
How had my life become like this?
I’d met Gary through friends a few years previously but in the last few months we’d got close and romance had blossomed.
At first, things had been great. Gary would come round most nights and we’d snuggle on the sofa watching a film.
But, while I fancied a rom com, Gary always wanted to watch films about gangsters.
“This one’s my favourite,” he grinned one day. “It’s called Scarface and it’s got Al Pacino in it.”
“You’re mad,” I teased. “You’re obsessed with gangsters!”
Soon, though, Gary started acting strangely. He would go on benders for days and then turn up in the middle of the night, plastered.
If I asked him to leave, he’d call me horrible names and threaten to hurt me. He always made me feel like it was my fault.
“If we’re going to be together you have to do as I say,” he told me. “You’re my property now.”
Maybe this is his way of showing he cares, I thought.
But, as he paced my floor like a madman, I suddenly realised it wasn’t working out. Still, I didn’t want to wake the neighbours so I told him he could sleep on the sofa.
“When you’ve sobered up we have to chat,” I said. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”
I went back to bed and tried to doze off, but I could hear Gary’s footsteps. It sounded like he was walking in circles around my living room.
He was talking to himself, too. I couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying – but it sounded like he was talking about killing someone.
Remembering his earlier threat to shoot me, I jumped out of bed, my heart hammering in my throat.
“Gary -” I began.
“Laura,” he said. His face had turned white. “I’m so sorry for the way I’ve been acting. I’ve just had some awful news.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’ve got cancer,” he sobbed, head in his hands. “It’s not looking good.”
I felt my anger melt away as I rushed to his side and placed my arms around him. He looked so pale and sick, it made perfect sense.
“You poor thing!” I exclaimed. “I’m here for you. We’ll fight this together.”
I consoled Gary as he told me he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier that week. Doctors were performing tests to see what treatment he’d need.
But weeks passed and he never appeared to attend any hospital appointments.
“You need to call your doctor,” I said. “You have to start treatment or the cancer will spread.”
But Gary wasn’t interested. All he wanted to do was go out drinking with his mates, then turn up blind drunk at my house in the early hours.
Eventually, I’d had enough.
“I’ll support you through this as a friend,” I told him. “But I don’t think we should be together.”
Gary burst into tears, again.
“I’m so sorry,” he wept. “I haven’t got long left. The cancer has spread to my lungs. I haven’t been going to the hospital because there’s nothing more they can do.”
I clapped my hand to my mouth in shock. I’d had no idea Gary’s illness was so bad.
“Oh, Gary,” I sobbed. “We’ll try and make the most of the time you have.”
We went to bed and the next morning, I decided to cook Gary a slap up meal to take his mind off things. We went to the supermarket and I bought mince and loads of veg for a big spag bol.
Then, we went back to Gary’s so we could let his Rottweiler, Tyson, out.
When I opened the front door, though, I was disgusted. The place was a state and Tyson had made a horrendous mess everywhere. It looked like he hadn’t been out for days.
“Sorry about the mess,” Gary mumbled. “I’ve just had things on my mind.”
“I understand,” I replied. I let Tyson out and cleaned up as best I could before I started to chop the veg. I’d just begun to stir the mince, when I heard a deafening yelp.
I ran into the living room and fear coursed through me as I caught sight of Gary thumping poor Tyson with his metal dog lead.
Still, instinct told me not to let Gary show how scared I was, so I calmly asked him to stop. But he had a crazed look in his eyes.
“Shut up or you’ll be next!” he bellowed.
I could feel panic rising in my throat but I hoped it didn’t show.
“Okay, I’m just popping to the shops,” I said. “I’ll be back soon.”
Gary said nothing as I left. As soon as I closed the back door, I began running and didn’t stop until I got home.
All I could think about was poor Tyson, whimpering in pain as Gary attacked him. Sweat trickling down my back, I logged onto Facebook and I began to type.
Does anyone know the number for the RSPCA? I know an animal in danger…
Thankfully, one of my friends replied within seconds. My hands shook as I gave the operator all the information I had about Gary and Tyson.
“Please hurry,” I said.
Days passed and I heard nothing from Gary. Despite everything, it was hard to stop caring and I wondered if I’d soon hear that he had passed away.
But soon, I got a knock at the door and I was stunned to see two police officers on my doorstep. They told me they’d got my details from the RSPCA.
“We’re here to ask you a few questions,” the first officer said. “It’s in connection with your ex partner, Gary Hill.”
“I don’t know a Gary Hill,” I replied. “My ex is called Gary Montana.”
“I’m afraid Gary Montana isn’t his real name,” the second officer explained. “It’s a fake name he’s been giving to women.”
Suddenly, everything fell into place. Gary’s favourite film was Scarface and the main character was called Tony Montana. Perhaps his obsession with gangsters hadn’t been so harmless after all…
I wept as I told the officers how Gary often turned up in the middle of the night and how he’d even threatened to shoot me.
“I only stayed because he’s dying of cancer,” I sobbed.
The officers exchanged a look.
“Gary’s not dying of cancer,” the first officer said, gently. “He’s been lying to you.”
“What?” I replied, stunned. “What kind of sick person lies about having cancer?”
The officers explained that Gary had also been accused of abusing another ex girlfriend, Lori. In time, he was charged with stalking, breach of the peace and acting in a threatening and abusive manner.
In January 2015, he appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court. The police had so much evidence against him that he had no choice but to admit everything.
I watched from the public gallery as the court heard he’d also lied to Lori about having cancer when she tried to dump him.
When that didn’t work, he bombarded her with dozens of voicemails in which he did nothing but play gangster rap music.
He was jailed for 22 months and banned from contacting Lori and me for five years.
I’m glad he’s behind bars but I don’t think he’ll ever stop lying and I worry that he’ll prey on other women when he gets out.
I can’t believe I fell for Gary’s cruel cancer con, but at least I know I’m not alone. That monster wasn’t dying – he was lying.