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Caroline, 40, and her husband Alan, 39, had been together for 21 years and had two young children, aged nine and four, together. But rather than the kind and caring man, Caroline married, Alan became moody and violent.
One evening Alan flipped and headbutted Caroline after ordering her to go and buy him some chips and mushy peas from the chip shop. When she got home and realised he’d forgotten to get the salt and vinegar out of the cupboard, she muttered under her breath that she’d do it. He then attacked her with cutlery – stabbing her with a fork behind her ear, causing four puncture wounds, and using a knife to cut the top of her head when she dropped to her knees, resulting in two cuts to her scalp, one of which was 3cm long.
At court, Alan admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm and also pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.
While in custody he ‘used the mobile phone of a police officer’ to make a routine call, but secretly managed to send a message to his brother requesting that his wife drop the charges. Alan was jailed for two years.
As I walked through the doors at the pub at midday to start my shift, I spotted Alan Brownhill, then 18, sat on the other side of the bar. He had become quite the regular and would always sit and chat to me as I poured pints.
‘Does your number not come on the back?’ Alan said cheekily, winking as I handed him his receipt. I scowled at him jokingly. He was a natural charmer and had been pestering me for weeks. ‘If you come back this evening, you might just be in luck,’ I teased, keen to have some company.
When Alan appeared later that night and ordered a lager, I handed it to him and he asked: ‘Where’s that piece of paper with digits on?’ Smiling, I caved in and scribbled down my number. Within a couple of days Alan called and convinced me to go on a date to the cinema with him.
Confident, funny chatty, I loved his friendly Yorkshire accent and was instantly smitten. Before long, he asked me out again and we went clubbing and popped along to gigs where his dad sang and played the keyboard. Alan and I quickly became a couple. But just a few weeks into our relationship, while we were at his house, he lost his temper and pushed me over and on to the bed.
Shocked, I was lost for words. ‘I’m sorry,’ Alan gasped instantly. ‘I’m really sorry. Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me,’ he repeated, over and over again.’
‘It’s ok,’ I soothed. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’
I hoped it was a one off. Alan vowed it wouldn’t happen again. We put the episode behind us and tried to move on. Alan went back to his usual kind and caring self. Six months down the line, in March 1994, I was parked outside the hotel where Alan worked as an assistant, waiting to pick him up. He walked out, got into the passenger seat, slamming the car door behind him, and before I could say a word he pulled out a sparkling ring. ‘Will you marry me, Caroline?’ he asked.
It might not have been the most romantic of proposals, but that didn’t stop me from squealing ‘yes’. A couple of weeks later we moved into our own flat in Torquay, Devon. While we saved for our wedding, we talked about our hopes for the future and decided we’d like to start a family. But I had noticed Alan becoming moody and distant. I told him I wouldn’t have children until he had proven he was the same man I had met.
He made a real effort to get back on track and went back to being his happy self. For a couple of years, things between us were great and I eventually told him: ‘I’m ready to try for a baby now.’ But as I had polycystic ovaries, we were told that conceiving naturally might not be an option. Instead we started fertility treatment in 2003.
Before the next stage, Alan and I went to the seafront to play a game of pitch and putt golf. I winced as I swung the club. ‘My boobs are a little sore,’ I told him. I’d felt bloated and a bit queasy too. ‘Maybe you should do a pregnancy test,’ Alan suggested. I didn’t think it was possible to conceive naturally, but did one just to be on the safe side. I almost fainted when it came back as positive.
‘This is amazing news,’ Alan said, beaming from ear to ear, when I told him. We had already suffered the heartbreak of a miscarriage and Alan was so excited to become a dad.
While I recovered from the surgery, Alan was a doting dad – getting up to feed the baby in the night, changing dirty nappies and soothing our little boy’s cries without a fuss. But before long, his attitude changed and he stopped being so hands-on and helping out as much.
He had always been a drinker and now there wasn’t a day that didn’t pass without him having a pint or two after work. When he’d had a few cans, he became snappy. Soon he started to lash out and was violent and aggressive. By the time I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, Ellie, now four, in June 2010, the cracks were beginning to show.
When she arrived in February 2011, Alan failed to bond with her straight away. He’d just lost his mum suddenly at the age of 56 to lung and liver cancer and was very low. I hoped the new addition to our family would improve his mood, but Alan continued to slump – guzzling away £60 worth of booze each week.
We were struggling for money as it was. I had gone back to my job in a bistro while Alan was unemployed, but stayed at home to look after the kids. I wouldn’t have dared uttered a word about him frittering away money on alcohol, knowing he’d flip, but it meant we couldn’t go out for days out and the children went without. It put strain on our marriage and we were constantly arguing.
Eventually, as Ellie grew older and started nursery, Alan landed himself a new job as a chef at a local hotel. I hoped being employed would mean his drinking would calm down and he’d go back to being positive and upbeat. But after picking him up one morning at 9.30am – after the breakfast shift – as soon as he got through the front door, he cracked open a can of lager and flopped on the sofa, flicking on the TV.
The children dashed out into the back garden and I said to Alan: ‘Are you coming outside?’ They would have loved him to chase after them and play, but he just grunted and said: ‘I’m watching the football.’ We never did anything as a family anymore and it was frustrating.
Then one day in January this year, Alan asked: ‘Will you pick me up some chips?’ Nodding, I said: ‘We’ll all have chips and mushy peas for tea. I’ll go to the shop later on.’ A few hours later, while he was still plonked on the couch, I asked Alan: ‘Are you hungry enough for tea yet?’ He shook his head, so I went off to the bedroom to play with Ellie and left him to watch Storage Hunters in peace.
Jack was playing on his X-box in our bedroom. Later, Ellie and I moved in the living room and quietly did some colouring-in in a ‘count by numbers’ book. ‘Are you ready for your chips?’ I asked Alan again. ‘Soon,’ he said. A few minutes later, he turned to me and said: ‘I want my chips.’
‘Ok,’ I replied. ‘I’ve nearly finished this colouring. I’ll go in a minute.’ Impatient, he shouted: ‘I’m hungry now.’ I could sense he was becoming angry and his mood had changed. ‘I asked for them ten minutes ago,’ he fumed. ‘It was ten seconds,’ I sighed, getting up to find my purse, while Alan ranted and raged. Ellie already had her shoes on so I picked up her coat from the back of the sofa and ushered her out of the flat.
‘You caused this row,’ I told Alan. ‘It’s your drinking.’
‘That’s my problem, what’s yours?’ he snapped, childishly.
‘Marrying you,’ I huffed, shutting the front door behind me.
As I walked to the chippy, my mobile beeped with a nasty message from Alan which read: ‘That is the last time you tell me your problem is marrying me. You’ve been a c*** for a while now.. If you want out that’s fine with me. You’re always the victim it’s never your fault.’
Strolling back, with a bag of hot chips and mushy peas, I replied to tell him I was on the way home, hoping his attitude would have changed. But as soon as I got through the door, I heard Alan crashing about, yelling and swearing. I headed straight to the kitchen and started to dish up dinner, keeping my head down.
Alan had got the cutlery out of the draw and the plates ready, but I noticed he forgot the salt and vinegar and muttered: ‘I’ll just go and get the salt and vinegar.’
‘Of course, I forgot it. I’ve done it to p*** you off,’ he snarled.
Sighing, I went to the cupboard to get the condiments, passing them to Jack as he came up behind me. Before I could realise what was happening, Alan followed and head-butted me in the face so hard my tooth pierced his forehead and blood trickled down his nose.
Jack stared in shock, while Ellie ran over and shouted: ‘Daddy, what have you done?’
‘Mummy threw ketchup at me,’ he said. Stunned, I turned to the children and told them both: ‘It’s ok. Go and eat your dinner.’ But then I felt a sharp stabbing pain on my scalp, behind my ear. He’d plunged something metal into my head!
‘Ouch!’ I cried, in agony, clutching my head as blood poured out of a gaping wound. Alan had armed himself with a fork and a knife and stabbed me, causing four puncture wounds. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him slam the cutlery down on the side. I ran to the bathroom to clean myself up and could hear Alan continue to storm about.
I walked back into the kitchen and stood by the sink as he started to barge into me, pushing me around and laughing. Then Alan started picking up our plates of food and launching them across the flat. They smashed into pieces, while chips and mushy peas splattered all over the ceiling and walls. ‘Please don’t,’ I begged. ‘The kids are here.’ Ellie and Jack were both in tears, pleading with their dad to stop.
‘Clean this mess up,’ Alan spat, ordering me to tidy up. I got the dust pan and brush out of the cupboard and knelt down to sweep up. But as I bent over I felt cold metal on my head again as Alan sunk a sharp kitchen knife into my scalp once more.
‘Oh my god,’ I screamed in pain, gripping my head as my hands turned red with blood. Alan had caused two cuts to my head, one was 3cm long.
Jack had witnessed what he’d done. I told the kids to go to their bedrooms. I knew I had to get out of the property. ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ I whispered. We’d been together for 21 years and I’d put up with him for the sake of the kids, but I couldn’t cope any longer. I stumbled towards the front door. As I opened it, Alan called behind me: ‘Don’t you dare call the police.’
I walked around the side of the flat and stuck my head through the bedroom window to quietly talk to Jack. I wanted to get them both out, but he said Ellie had gone into the lounge.
‘I’ll be back as soon as I can,’ I promised.
A primary school was opposite our flat, so I ran across and took shelter in the doorway, before moving to crouch behind a tree. Shaking, I dialled 999 on my mobile, but in my confused and distressed state I told the phone operator my husband had stabbed me with a pen instead of a knife. I worried Alan would come out and try to find me.
Officers took 20 minutes to respond and when the operator called to let me know police were on their way, I said: ‘He used a knife on me. I’m covered in blood.’
‘You didn’t say that before,’ the woman on the other end of the line said, sounding alarmed. ‘I did,’ I insisted, but they insisted I’d mentioned him attacking me with a pen. ‘Stay in safety. Don’t go back inside,’ the operator advised.
Within minutes police cars arrived were at the scene. Alan was arrested and led away.
An ambulance turned up and I arranged for our friends and neighbours to look after Ellie and Jack, while I was taken to Torbay Hospital, Devon. I had my head glued back together. After three hours, I was discharged and allowed home at 10pm. As I walked in, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Alan had trashed the place. It was a tip. Knives were scattered all over the floor and sides, while chips and mushy peas were plastered over the walls and ceiling. Blood was everywhere too. It looked like a murder scene…
Officers came to speak to Jack and I and take our statements. Alan was interviewed at the station and denied what he’d done until they said: ‘We’ve got your children here to take a statement from. Your son saw everything.’
‘Ok, I did it,’ he finally admitted.
At Exeter Crown Court, in February this year, Alan pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm. He also admitted perverting the course of justice, as while he in custody he asked to use the mobile phone of a police officer to make a routine call. Instead he secretly managed send a message to his brother requesting that I drop the charges. But I knew it was now or never and went ahead.
Alan was jailed for two years. Now he’s out of our lives, Ellie, Jack and I are all so much happier and far more relaxed. We used to love fish and chips, but I think we’ll stick to Chinese takeaways from now on!
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