My hubby had a secret wife

Yvonne thought her marriage was strong enough to overcome anything. Then she discovered the truth
Cavendish Press (Manchester) LTD

Yvonne Gibney, 55, Merseyside, UK

With his looks and sense of humour, I fell for Maurice at first sight. I was working as a nurse in Nigeria when we met at a club. Maurice had a job as an oil contractor there. Just 11 weeks later, in 1995, we married. My son Joshua and Maurice’s daughter were the same age and when our baby Sebastian was born three years later, our family was complete.

Maurice continued to work overseas but regularly came back to our family home in the UK, armed with endless presents, hugs and kisses. It was an arrangement that suited us. Even when, in July 2011, Maurice got a new job working in Oman, more than 8000km away, I knew our love was strong enough to keep us together.

We were together for our 16th wedding anniversary a month later and Sebastian and I went to Oman to spend the festive season with Maurice. Sadly he was called in to work Christmas and Boxing Day. Poor Maurice, I thought. He didn’t return until the 27th.

In 2012, Maurice’s absences grew longer. I began wondering if something was wrong. Maurice confessed one night that he’d been feeling down and, just a few weeks later, he flew back for a visit. I noticed he was very quiet as we walked along a beach. Then he said something shocking. ‘I think we should get a divorce,’ he announced. ‘Living so far from you, I feel like I’ve been a bad father and husband. We could still be together, we just wouldn’t be married anymore,’ he reasoned.

I began wondering if something was wrong.

I was dumbstruck. Why talk about divorce if he wanted us to stay together? I thought maybe it was his downcast mood making him say things. He didn’t bring up the topic again and I soon put the idea of divorce to the back of my mind. After all, every couple had rocky patches.

That year, I looked forward to my hubby coming home for Christmas. But then he announced he was going to stay in Oman, saying he felt too down to come home. I was disappointed but dropped the subject, not wanting to cause a fuss. When he next returned, he greeted us with his usual hugs.

‘We really missed you,’ I told him, unable to stop myself.
‘I’m here now, that’s what matters,’ Maurice shrugged.
‘But you’ve hardly been home all year,’ I cried.
‘Just leave me alone,’ he snapped. We argued and he packed up and left.

Maurice and Yvonne
Me and Maurice Cavendish Press (Manchester) LTD

Furious, I realised the time had come to admit it was over. Contacting a solicitor, we started divorce proceedings. But, just weeks later, we were emailing again. Later he sent me a bottle of the champagne we drank at our wedding, along with a note. I hope we can drink this together soon, it read.

While we didn’t call off the divorce, I wondered if things would be okay after all. A few months later, I was browsing on Facebook when I saw a picture of my sister-in-law Sheila, 51. I recognised the scenery as Oman and, flicking through her snaps, I saw other family members there too.

You didn’t tell me your family were visiting, I typed into an email for Maurice.

They were on holiday, he wrote back.

Time passed and I started going through old bank statements for the divorce. Then I spotted something odd – Maurice had used his credit card in the UK when he was meant to be in Oman. What? I wondered, confused. And during the Christmas that he’d been too down to come home, it seemed he’d been just 25km down the road at his mother’s house! My head was reeling. Was Maurice having an affair?

My head was reeling. Was Maurice having an affair?

I saw that he’d used a car hire company when he was in the UK so I called them and they gave me an address that Maurice had visited. Online, I found a number matching the address and I rang it, pretending to be from the car company.

A man confirmed Maurice’s name, occupation and contact details. ‘Great,’ I said. ‘And who can I say I have spoken to?’
‘I’m Maurice’s brother-in-law,’ the man told me.

My stomach dropped. Over the next week I was like a dog with a bone, until I had a breakthrough. I opened up the Facebook profile of a blonde woman called Suzanne Prudhoe, a teacher. In one photo a man in a suit smiled lovingly at her. She was wearing a wedding dress. But it wasn’t just any man. The groom was my husband.

She was wearing a wedding dress. But it wasn’t just any man. The groom was my husband. Cavendish Press (Manchester) LTD

On Suzanne’s timeline, I saw she’d got engaged in May 2012 – a month before Maurice and I had been walking on the beach together. Finding the wedding photographer’s website, there was a whole album. My step-daughter and mother-in-law were there celebrating their ‘marriage’. What a sham!

Immediately, I called my solicitor, who got in touch with Maurice’s solicitor. ‘He’s saying it wasn’t a wedding, it was a ceremony of commitment,’ he reported back. But I didn’t believe it, so I called the police. In October 2014, at Wirral Magistrates’ Court, Maurice Gibney, then 49, pleaded guilty to bigamy.

The court heard how Maurice had been ‘married’ to Suzanne Prudhoe for 11 months before I discovered his betrayal. He’d spun a web of lies, claiming he had divorced me – duping Suzanne and his family by saying we’d kept it secret for the sake of the kids.

He’d spun a web of lies.

In court, I shook as I read my victim impact statement. ‘I simply don’t have the words to effectively convey the pain and hurt and sense of betrayal. I have to accept that my husband was unfaithful emotionally, physically and morally for a prolonged period of time,’ I said.

He was a handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. Maurice hasn’t apologised for what he’s done but I’m just glad he’s out of our lives. At least now he can’t cause any more hurt.

Originally published in that’s life! issue 39 2015, cover date 1 October 2015

Related stories