Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Husband's Secret Wedding Makes Me Look A Trusting Fool: The Devastated Wife Who Discovered Partner's Bigamy After Seeing Facebook Asks: 'Why Isn't He In Jail?'

  • Yvonne Gibney was duped by her husband of 17 years Maurice Gibney
  • He spent £45,000 on a lavish wedding in Oman marrying another woman
  • Last week he was convicted of bigamy and given a suspended sentence
  • But she says he should be jailed for the heartache he caused
It bears all the signs of a wonderfully romantic wedding – a proud groom, a beaming bride in figure-hugging white lace gown, and an idyllic setting on a sun-drenched beach. Vows were exchanged beneath a white gazebo as proud friends and family, including the groom’s elderly mother, gathered around.

Yvonne Gibney knows all about this touching ceremony in the Gulf state of Oman because she has the pictures – lots of them, and impressive they are, too. It seems no expense was spared.

But when she first saw the images on her computer screen at home in the Wirral, thousands of miles away from this glamorous beachside party, Yvonne’s throat tightened, her mouth went dry and her hands began to shake.

Because she knew that the man in the photographs exchanging looks of what seems to be pure adoration was already married. To her.

Indeed, the pictures came as shocking proof that 49-year-old Maurice, the man she called her husband, had woven an extraordinary web of lies, deceiving not only his wife of 17 years, but lying to his son and duping his own family into taking part in what she now describes as a ‘pantomime’.

Last week, Maurice Gibney was convicted as a bigamist by a court in the Wirral and given a six-month suspended sentence. But it came as cold comfort to a woman who, for a while at least, was left an emotional wreck by his behaviour.

Yvonne, a 55-year-old senior nurse-practitioner, she is devastated not just at the betrayal, but at the extent of the cold-hearted deception which forced her to turn detective in an attempt to get behind his lies. And she is disappointed he was not put in prison for the damage he has caused, not least to their son, 16-year-old Sebastian, and to her older child from a previous marriage, Joshua, who grew up with Gibney.

It hardly helped Yvonne’s mood to learn that her ex-husband (the two are now divorced), who earns £85,000 tax-free as an oil contractor in Oman, lavished a jaw-dropping £45,000 on his wedding ceremony.

Yvonne, meanwhile, was left in the North West dealing with an endless stream of patients at the GP surgery where she works. ‘I had wanted him to be jailed because he broke the law and deserved to be punished. He has made me look like a trusting fool,’ she says.

‘He has never once apologised or shown any remorse or contrition. He has never asked after the children or tried to contact them.

‘But I also wanted people to know the truth about his crimes against the moral values and expectations of marriage and parenthood. Time in jail would have forced him to face what he did and recognise the trail of devastation he has wreaked on people he’s supposed to love.

‘Maurice is cruel, cold and narcissistic. He convinced me he was depressed, made excuses not to visit his son, claimed he was broke and having problems at work – and all the while he was already engaged to another woman.’

That ‘other’ woman was 46-year-old Suzanne Prudhoe, a teacher, who probably met Maurice in Oman, according to Yvonne, around November 2011. The couple married in March last year.

‘Seeing him in court was horribly traumatic,’ Yvonne says. ‘There was no sign of the warm compassionate man I once knew.’

Certainly, her former spouse’s duplicity has taken a toll on her health. There are bags under her eyes and she faces a £20,000 legal bill for her divorce.

‘I wonder how Suzanne feels now, knowing that from the moment they met their relationship was a lie and that her marriage was a sham, based on broken vows,’ says Yvonne.

It was in February this year that Yvonne finally discovered the pictures of her husband on the Facebook site – and the final pieces of the jigsaw of deceit she had been assembling now fell into place. Yet she is still grappling with questions about how it went wrong. On the face of it, theirs seemed a good partnership.

In 1995, Yvonne accepted a posting as nursing officer the British High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria. By coincidence, Maurice arrived in the bustling West African city the very same week to work for an Italian construction company. They met at the Canadian Embassy club, a social hub for Western expats on a Friday nights. It was, says Yvonne, ‘love at first sight’, and after a whirlwind courtship of just 11 weeks, they were married. At 35 and already mother to a young son, Yvonne believed Maurice was perfect. ‘He was fun to be with, he was attractive. I felt very comfortable with him. I was head over heels in love.’ He was also very good with her son, Joshua. They were married by torchlight in a castle in Scotland. ‘It was very romantic,’ Yvonne says. ‘We stopped in London to tell my family, who were a little anxious at first, but were quickly reassured by Maurice, who said that he only wanted to make me happy.’

And, by her account, the first few years of the marriage were great and life in Lagos was good. They lived in a huge, colonial-style house, complete with servants and a nanny. They enjoyed luxury holidays to Cape Town, Mauritius and Kenya. Maurice’s daughter from an earlier relationship usually joined them.

In 2001, three years after the couple’s son Sebastian was born, the family bought a house on the Wirral. But within a year they returned to work in a different part of Nigeria until 2006, when Yvonne and the boys returned to Britain for Joshua’s GCSE exams.

Maurice continued to work abroad – in Nigeria, Japan, France and Norway – flying home whenever he could. Yvonne had no cause to question his fidelity. ‘We were used to spending time apart. It suited us. We’re both pretty independent people and I trusted him.’

Things started to change, however, after her husband took the job in Oman in July 2011. Initially, Maurice would return home regularly, and Yvonne went out there in the August to celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary. ‘He was working most of the time but I was happy on the beach and looking around the souks. We went for dinners and he bought me a beautiful diamante Islamic veil as a gift.’

But when she and Sebastian flew out for Christmas that year, Maurice disappeared unexpectedly ‘to work in the desert’, only returning late on December 27. Little did Yvonne know that he had actually flown 3,700 miles back to the UK to spend the festive season with Suzanne and her family in Stourbridge, Worcestershire.

For unbeknown to Yvonne, her husband had already embarked on his double life.

‘He systematically lied and lied. He tried to manipulate me by pretending to be depressed, and suggested that if we got divorced but remained together he would be a ‘‘better father and a better husband’’,’ she says.

‘With hindsight I now know they had got engaged a month earlier.’

Yvonne’s first inkling that ‘something was not quite right’ was when she saw a picture of his eldest’s sister Sheila on Facebook, wearing a fascinator while on holiday in 2013 in Muscat, the capital of Oman.

‘I had no idea she had visited him. It made me start searching the pages of other family members and found several of them had been in there at the same time. All dressed for a wedding. I had a gut feeling, but it seemed so crazy I dismissed it.’

When she tackled Maurice, he denied they had ever visited. But Yvonne could not shake the feeling that he was up to something. Indeed, he had failed to come home the previous Christmas, in 2012, blaming his depression and volatile mood.

‘When he eventually came home in January, we had a huge row and he stormed off in his hired car. I became worried after not hearing from him for two days and called the car company. They let slip that he had used them a month earlier, at Christmas, but the address he gave did not make any sense to me.

‘I later discovered that it was the home of Michelle Mann, Suzanne’s sister.’

Yvonne was convinced her husband was having an affair, but after checking internet sites she concluded that Michelle was living with her husband Philip.

By now Yvonne had started divorce proceedings, and during the process uncovered that Maurice had submitted doctored bank statements to a solicitor. ‘He was trying to conceal the hotel and restaurant bills for his secret trips back to the UK with Suzanne,’ she says. ‘What he didn’t know was that I already had some of the original statements, which had been sent to the house. The Stourbridge connection kept popping up.

‘I went back though all our emails and began to notice discrepancies in the times they were sent. I went to the local computer shop and the owner taught me how to track IP addresses which gives you the location a message has been sent from.’

Armed with this knowledge, Yvonne worked out that not only had he been slipping in and out of Britain, but he had also been on holiday to India and South Africa with Suzanne, all while pretending to be in Oman. ‘I could see that he had made three trips back to the UK that I didn’t know about. I couldn’t believe how he lied to us. How could he have called us pretending to be in Oman when he was here?

‘Once I could hear the sea over the phone – he must have been at his sister’s house in Crosby, Merseyside, celebrating Christmas. He also visited his brother and mum in Liverpool because I could track him from his cash machine transactions.

‘In July 2012, he arrived two days after my birthday, and yet he sent me an iPad and a huge bouquet of white lilies and a note which said, “I’m so sorry I can’t be with you on your birthday, yet another birthday apart. I promise I will make up for it soon, I love you so much.”’

As it got closer to the final stages of the divorce in 2013, Yvonne still had a niggling sense there was more to be revealed. Pretending to be from the car hire company, she phoned the house in Stourbridge and during the conversation, Philip Mann announced that he was Maurice’s brother-in-law.

Later that day, she called back and spoke to Michelle. ‘I told her the hire company had been in touch and I needed to understand why some man had said he was Maurice’s brother-in-law. She told me, “Because he’s married to my sister.” ’

Holding her face in her hands Yvonne exhales loudly. ‘I can’t tell you how many times I have relived that conversation – especially in the middle of the night. It makes me feel a deep, searing sense of betrayal.’

Suddenly, the image of the fascinator flashed though through Yvonne’s mind. ‘Had he actually gone and committed bigamy? It was too unbelievable. I went to my mother-in-law’s to ask her what she knew,’ says Yvonne. ‘But she said she didn’t know what I was talking about.’

Yvonne now had to find out the identity of Michelle’s sister, and when her Facebook page popped on screen, there was Maurice, holding her tightly around the waist, in a wedding photograph.

Other pictures garnered from the site of an Oman-based photographer provided further hurtful truth. Her worst fears had become a reality.

But she was still left with one outstanding question: ‘Why on earth didn’t he just divorce me?’

In the end, on the advice of her legal team, Yvonne reported the crime to Merseyside CID. ‘While I find it humiliating that my personal life has been exposed in this, it was important for me get the story out.’

Ironically, it is the internet that has been the means for revenge. It is, she says, the only potent weapon she has left. 

‘The story has gone viral. I’ve had people get in contact me from all over the world, some who don’t even know me. At least he’s been publicly shamed and everyone now knows what kind of heartless person he really is.’


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