I was flattered when toyboy Ian took an interest in me. But our romance came at a price…
By Mel Langwade, 48, from Barnsley
Pulling a pint behind the bar where I worked, I couldn’t take my eyes off the handsome stranger in the corner of the room. He was years younger than me, but I could tell he was looking at me, too.
“Hi, I’m Ian,” he beamed. As he shook my hand, I thought actual sparks might fly!
Ian’s mum Teresa worked in the pub, too, so soon we were chatting every day. I had quite a long drive to work each day, so when a spare room became available in their house, they suggested I move in.
As the three of us laughed and chatted over a cuppa each night, I could feel Ian’s eyes on me. It felt a bit wrong, as he was only 21, but the chemistry was off the scale.
One night, Teresa popped out. We were left together on the couch, watching telly, when Ian grabbed me and kissed me.
“I’ve wanted to do that for ages,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.
Soon, we became a proper couple and Ian showered me with compliments and showed me off to his friends.
“You’re gorgeous,” he said, over and over again. “I’m so lucky.”
I’d seen Ian as a bit of a fling at first. After all, he was the same age as my son! But soon I started to wonder if I had a future with him.
That’s not to say he didn’t have a temper. He’d always accuse me of seeing other men, even though I only had eyes for him.
One night, after a blazing row, I packed my bags and went to stay with my sister in London. But soon, Ian was grovelling.
“I miss you,” he texted. “Please come back.”
But I’d just found a job and a flat and I was reluctant to leave, so I told Ian he could come and live with me in London.
At first, things were great and I was so glad Ian had given up his life in Leeds to be with me. I loved nothing better than snuggling up with him on the couch watching a film.
Soon, though, we started to get under each other’s feet. Ian didn’t have a job, so he spent most of the day moping around the house.
“You made me leave my family,” he said. “I hate it here.”
I felt a surge of guilt and I suggested inviting his family down for a holiday, but he just grunted. Over the next few days, he became even more moody and withdrawn.
I was walking on eggshells as he’d blow up at the slightest thing – but somehow I convinced myself it was my fault.
One day, I was driving when Ian called me an old witch. I was so stunned, I almost crashed the car.
“You’ve ruined my life,” he hissed. “I hate London.”
I could feel tears forming in my eyes, but I bit my lip. As soon as we got home, Ian was his usual, charming self.
“You look beautiful tonight,” he smiled, as we cuddled in bed.
But the next thing I knew, he was lying on top of me. I wasn’t in the mood for sex and I opened my mouth to protest but he pinned me down and forced himself inside me.
I was so numb, all I could do was lie and stare at the ceiling, waiting for it to be over. He was so rough I was left with bruises everywhere – but I was in so deep, I didn’t realise I’d been raped.
Once he had finished, he started punching and kicking me.
“Ian, please stop!” I wailed.
“Shut up,” he hissed. Then, he got a knife and slashed my arm.
The next week was a living nightmare. Ian punched and kicked me at every opportunity and he wouldn’t let me leave the house.
He was so twisted he’d sometimes pretend he was asleep and I’d try to sneak out the front door – but before I could make my escape he opened his eyes and started raining punches down on me.
After a few days, I stopped fighting.
I was sure Ian would kill me, so I prayed it would happen quickly.
How had it come to this?
A few months ago, I’d been a strong, independent woman with a good job and loads of mates.
Now, I was a quivering wreck, as the man I loved held me hostage in my own home.
But then, something strange happened. Ian started to act normally again.
“Why don’t we have an early night and watch a film?” he said, putting his arm around me. I was so black and blue that I winced in pain when he touched me, but I tried my best to smile.
“Okay,” I agreed.
But I’d barely turned the TV on when Ian lost interest and fell asleep. I continued to watch the film on my own and when it was finished, I turned it off.
Suddenly, Ian was bolt upright.
“Why the hell did you turn the film off?” he thundered.
“It was finished!” I protested, but he’d already kicked me out of the bed. I cowered on the floor, desperately trying to protect myself from the blows.
Eventually, Ian got bored and went to bed again. Hearing him snoring, I sensed he’d dozed off for real.
I knew I had to seize my chance. I was in agony from all of my injuries, but I grabbed my car keys and limped out of the front door.
Somehow, I managed to drive to my niece Joni’s house. It was only five minutes away, but I was in so much pain it took all the strength I had to concentrate on the road.
Joni gasped when she saw me.
“Did Ian do this to you?” she asked.
I nodded weakly. Joni insisted on taking me to hospital. I needed stitches on my arms where Ian had attacked me with the knife.
I also had a broken nose, two black eyes, a blood clot behind my ear and lots of lumps and
scratches all over my body.
“What has he done to you?” Joni said, fighting back tears as the doctors examined me.
I knew it was only a matter of time before Ian noticed I was gone. Soon, my phone began to buzz.
“Where are you?” his voice boomed down the line.
“I’ve left,” I replied, hoarsely.
“Well I’ll find you,” he said. “And I’ll finish what I started.”
Ian’s words chilled me to the bone. There was no mistaking what he meant.
He wanted to find me and kill me.
My family persuaded me to speak to the police, who tracked Ian down and arrested him. I was terrified, but it seemed like the only way of getting him off the streets.
In time, Ian Mark Harrington appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court, charged with rape and actual bodily harm.
He denied everything, which meant I had to give evidence against him. I couldn’t face him, so the judge let me give my testimony from behind a screen.
After three long weeks, the jury returned its verdict. I couldn’t bear to be in court so I stayed in a witness room while Joni sat in the public gallery.
When she burst through the door, the relief was written all over her face.
“He’s been found guilty!” she said. I collapsed in her arms as tears rolled down my cheeks.
The judge called Ian a “violent bully”. Ian was sentenced to eight years in prison but he was given an indeterminate sentence – meaning it’s up to a parole board when he gets out.
In other words, the judge thought he was such a big risk to the public that he shouldn’t be released automatically when his jail term ends.
This summer, it will be eight years since Ian was locked up. As yet, I have no idea whether or not he’ll be getting out.
I can only hope the parole board see him for what he is: a sick monster.
Every day, his words ring in my ears and I’m terrified he’ll hunt me down and finish the job he started.
I don’t want to live in fear but sometimes it feels like I have no choice. I know better than anyone what Ian is capable of.
And I’m not just worried about myself. What if another woman falls for his charms? I refuse to believe he wouldn’t do the same to her.
But I’ve got to stay strong. Ian has already stolen enough of my past – he’s not getting my future, too.