Husband and knife

One minute we were cutting our wedding cake - the next I was facing the blade...

Published by: Jean Jollands
Published on: 7 February 2013

White satin strapless dress, my hair fluffed out. As I walked down the register office aisle, the place was packed with family and friends.
I'd wanted a small do with my partner Kristian, I'd even considered running off to Gretna Green. I was a 42-year-old divorcee, didn't want a big fuss. But my mum Liz was absolutely adamant. ‘I want to be there!' she chuckled. So we'd caved in and now here I was, flanked by six bridesmaids in matching dresses!
As my pageboy carried the rings to the front on a velvet cushion, I stared at Kristian, slim, 6ft tall with dark hair, and felt giddy with love. He'd always been so doting, so perfect.
‘He can't do enough for you,' my mate Sam commented just days earlier. ‘I'm so jealous!'
He'd always been the perfect gent. He'd insist on driving me everywhere, doing my mum's shopping for her, even nipping out in the middle of the night if I ran out of ciggies!
‘I love you,' he constantly told me. ‘You've said that about five times today,' I'd joke, showering him in kisses.
Kristian was 10 years younger, but it didn't matter. We were perfect for one another. Now, as we said our vows, I felt indestructible. Together, we could do absolutely anything.
‘You're finally Mrs Wheldon!' Kristian winked as we headed in a stretch limo to The Crown pub for our reception.
‘I am indeed,' I giggled.
He'd first proposed within six weeks of us meeting, but I'd been determined to take it slow. Now, 18 months on, I could hardly wait to say ‘I do'.
Just a few hours later, he was already celebrating with a few drinks too many and was hogging the karaoke mic!
‘Oi, you!' I said, taking the mic off him and rolling my eyes. ‘You're supposed to ask me to have the first dance!'
‘Oops, sorry!' he chuckled, finally placing his hand on my waist as we shimmied across the dance floor.
We hadn't had much money for a honeymoon. So I was overwhelmed when the pub regulars announced they'd clubbed together to book us a room for the night at a local hotel. ‘We've got champagne and strawberries waiting by the bed...' one regular winked saucily. At midnight, we finally drove home to grab a change of clothes. ‘I'm a bit disappointed you got so tipsy,' I admitted to Kristian as we sat in the kitchen having a quick coffee. Suddenly, his face darkened as he grabbed a knife from the side, blade glinting.
‘Kristian?' I croaked, confused. He lunged at me, grabbing my neck, holding the knife to my throat. The cold blade pressed against my skin, my body trembled in shock and fear. ‘What are you doing?' I begged.
Earlier that day, we'd tied the knot. Now this? My kind, considerate groom, who'd been nothing but a gentleman to me, had turned into a monster at the stroke of midnight.
‘You're my wife and you belong to me,' he drawled. ‘You better do as you're told.'
Terrified, I wrestled free and fled into the hallway. ‘I'm calling the police!' I screamed, grabbing my phone as Kristian fled through the doorway, still in his hired bridgegroom suit.
When the police turned up, they found me in a crumpled heap, teary mascara stains trailing my wedding dress.
‘How many brides get threatened by their husband on their wedding night?' I sobbed to a policeman as he handed me a tissue.
As I sat there, I thought back to that night that we'd first met. He'd been working behind the bar at my local pub and had looked so flustered. ‘Let me help you,' I'd grinned, jumping behind the bar. ‘Thanks,' he'd said, flashing a grateful smile. He'd looked like a lost little boy in his glasses.
So how had that kind man turned into such a monster?
The police took my statement and put out an alert on Kristian. That night, I couldn't sleep, I just stared at my wedding ring on the bedside table. But I already knew
I couldn't stay married to him.
The next morning, my mobile rang. It was Kristian.
‘I thought you were going to kill me last night,' I raged down the line. ‘I'm so sorry,' he pleaded. ‘It was the drink.'
I knew I had to stick to my guns, though. ‘I'm getting the marriage annulled,' I spat. ‘It won't be hard. After all, we never even got the chance to consummate it.'
I cringed, remembering the champagne the locals had put on ice for us.
I stayed true to my word and asked my solicitor to draw up papers to get the marriage annulled. But back home, I collapsed into tears on the sofa. My marriage was over before it had even begun... Suddenly, I heard the front door open. He still had his key!
‘If you've been to the solicitors already, then please stop it. Just give me another chance,' he said, striding into the living room. ‘What?' I yelled, stunned and frightened. ‘What you did was unforgivable.'
‘You can't end a marriage after just one day,' he sneered. ‘You'll be a laughing stock. You've already been married once before. People will think you just like the taste of wedding cake!' It was a cheap dig and it hurt. He was right though, I would be a laughing stock. So I agreed to walk into the village with him to clear our heads. As we went into a shop, we bumped into one of the pub regulars. ‘Hope it was a night to remember!' he grinned.
My face bristled with humiliation. If only he knew.
Back home, still confused, I agreed to let Kristian sleep on the sofa because he had nowhere to go. I'd barely been in bed a few minutes when I heard the bedroom door open. I felt hands creeping under the duvet.
‘No, Kristian!' I begged, as he pored at me. ‘I don't want this.'
He gave me a cold look again. ‘You're my wife,' he insisted, climbing on top of me. I tried to scream but no sounds came out as he sexually assaulted me.
I was so stunned, so frightened, that I just lay there paralysed. After he'd had his sick way with me, he turned to whisper in my ear.
‘Now we've consummated it,' he sneered. ‘You can forget your annulment.'
With those chilling words, something crumbled in me forever. I felt sickened to the core, but helpless too. How could I tell the world what my own husband had done to me?
‘I'm sorry,' Kristian pleaded the next morning. ‘I've been hurt by women before and I've got so much anger in me. But I'm going to get help, I promise.' As he held out his hand to me, there was that little boy lost look again.
Desperate to believe him, I contacted the police and withdrew my complaint about him brandishing the knife. And when Mum asked me how I was finding married life,
I gritted my teeth. ‘It's fine,' I smiled. But the shame and humiliation of the assault ate away at me. When the wedding photos came back, I looked at my smiling face, so full of hope, and felt sick.
All my dreams of happily ever after were in shreds. Just 10 weeks later, I sat Kristian down. ‘I can't go on like this anymore,' I said. ‘I want a divorce.'
‘No,' he pleaded. ‘I'll make this up to you. I've phoned the Trisha show and I'm going to go on there to make a public apology to you.'
‘Are you mad?' I spluttered, shocked. ‘I don't want to lose you,' he whispered. ‘This way I might get the help I need.'
It was crazy, but the fight had already drained out of me and I agreed.
But when we finally went on the show a few weeks later, the laugh was on me. Kristian confessed to the studio audience that he'd held a knife to me and sexually assaulted me. But then an image flashed up on a screen of him surrounded by women's clothing. ‘I'm a cross dresser, too!' Kristian announced to the stunned audience. The episode was never shown, but even after his latest bombshell, I couldn't break free.
As the months, then years, rolled by, Kristian continued to abuse me physically and sexually. It didn't take much to set him off.
‘I saw you flirting with that so-called mate of yours,' he raged one day. He'd throw me over a glass table, bang my head against the wall or give me a black eye.
I'd once been the bubbly, life and soul of the party, but now I was drained of confidence, ashamed and suffering in silence.
I'd go back and forth to the police, but Kristian's pleadings would wear me down and I'd withdraw all charges against him.
We'd break up for weeks, months even, but then I'd hear a gentle tap on the window or an ‘I love you' whispered through the letterbox at 2am. Terrified of what would happen if I shut him out, I'd open the door and let him back into my life.
Two years later, Kristian insisted we move across the country from North Yorkshire to Essex and I lost touch with Mum, my family and all my friends.
In those next years, we moved 13 times - Kristian insisted we moved each time I made new friends. Yet, there were still glimpses of the man I'd fallen in love with. ‘Let me run a bath for you,' he hushed one day when I complained of tummy pains. Carrying me to the bathroom, he gently placed me in the tub. But I knew I'd lost the man I once loved.
After 10 years of marriage, we moved back to North Yorkshire. I'd had enough and wanted a break. He agreed that we should find our own places to rent. But my new-found independence was punctured when Kristian sexually assaulted me again. In despair, I headed to the local train station, I wanted to throw myself on the tracks. Somehow, I managed to find the strength to press charges against Kristian. But just days later, released on bail, he barged through my front door.
‘You're not supposed to come near me,' I said, trembling. ‘I'm going to call the police.' I grabbed my mobile. But far from the cold-eyed monster he'd been, he seemed weaker. ‘I'm going to go away for a long time,' he said. ‘Whatever happens, please wait for me.'
I knew he thought he could talk his way out, break my nerve. But I'd had enough. I dialled 999. ‘My husband's on bail. He shouldn't be here,' I said down the line.
Kristian snatched the phone. ‘I'm not here to hurt her,' he said to the police operator. ‘I've assaulted my wife and I've abused her. I'm just here to say sorry.'
Those next moments were a blur - police officers burst through the front door and Kristian was taken away.
He bombarded me with letters from prison. We're both damaged goods and we belong together, he wrote. But he couldn't break me now and I filed for divorce. Supported by the police and the Northallerton branch of the Independent Domestic Abuse Services, this time I didn't withdraw the charges.
Kristian Wheldon appeared at Teesside Crown Court and admitted two charges of sexual assault against me. He was jailed for two years and four months and placed on the sex offenders register.
On the day he was sent down, Kristian finally agreed to sign the divorce papers.
With time taken off for being on remand, Kristian was freed on licence in October. He's not allowed to contact me.
I've spoken out to help other victims and I'm rebuilding my life. I lost 10 wasted years, but I won't lose another day.
Christine Wheldon, 53, Northallerton, North Yorkshire