Gill Hopes, 62, had been happily married to Paul, 58, for 23 years and thought everything was perfect – until she found out that he had swindled £3.7 million and spent it on a sex-fuelled double life…
Gill met the love of her life Paul in 1971 at an amateur football match when she was 24 and he was 20.
Two years later they married and Gill gave up her job as a shop assistant to raise their children mark, now 29, and Carrie, now 27.
Over time the passion had diminished but their marriage had developed into a deeper respectful companionship.
Paul worked as an accountant at the Toys R Us head office.
He had only taken three days off sick in the whole 23 years he had worked there and had a second job as the financial director of a local football association.
Like many marriages theirs involved routine: weekly takeaways, gardening at the weekend, watching the football with Carrie, 27 and going to the local pub quiz with Mark.
Their life together wasn’t one of extravagance or luxury but they were comfortable.
Gill thought she knew her steadfast predictable husband better than anyone, but after 23 years of marriage she got the biggest shock of her life.
A few days before Christmas 2009 Paul went to watch his local football team play, while his family stayed at home.
That morning two policemen knocked on the door asking to speak to Paul.
Gill said: “They were dressed in plain clothes but something told me they were policemen.”
Later that day, when Mark and Carrie had returned home, two uniformed policemen returned to her house explaining that her husband had been arrested.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it, all the police told me was that he had stolen a lot of money.
“When Paul came home that evening at 8 o’clock he collapsed on the floor and broke into tears in front of me, Mark and Carrie.
“He kept saying he was innocent and it wasn’t true, he said he’d been set up and would get a solicitor and clear his name.”
Being a loyal wife and believing that she had no reason to doubt the man she had known and loved for 36 years, she stood by him.
Paul had been arrested on suspicion of theft. He was accused of stealing from his bosses Toys R Us and he was sacked, his car was taken away and his bank account was frozen.
The family continued with their lives as normal until Paul was due at Reading Crown Court to enter his plea.
But he disappeared to Guernsey – breaking the conditions of his bail, and then going on to Poole.
“I was so worried about him, it was so out of character and he wouldn’t answer the phone. Finally he text Carrie to say he felt ill and Mark picked him up and took him to hospital” Gill says.
Police rearrested Paul at his bedside, remanded him in prison, and his family were left to go home without him.
Then four days later Gill got a call from Paul’s solicitor – he had made his statement and was pleading guilty.
Carrie broke down in tears as they sat together reading Paul’s statement in the solicitor’s office. Paul had created a false client account and transferred millions of pounds from Toys R Us using bogus invoices.
He siphoned off sums ranging from £101,000 to £350,000 at a time- amounting to £3.7 million between 2006 and 2008.
But even worse, Paul had spent the money on a sex fuelled double life.
Paul’s solicitor thought Gill had a right to know he had spent the money on two prostitutes at a local massage parlour. He bought a house and a Bentley, paid a mortgage and gave one of them £1,000 a month.
He was also giving money to one of their mothers.
He had taken them to £500-a-night hotels, treated them to expensive meals and gave them cash to spend.
“I couldn’t cry or speak, I was in too much shock and completely numb.” Gill remembers.
“I felt so betrayed, one of the women was married and he had been seeing her since 2005.”
One of the prostitute’s neighbours had become suspicious seeing several cars outside the house and called the police.
The house was raided and cheques which Paul had written paying a fake company were discovered.
The revelations turned Paul’s family’s lives upside down. Gill filed for divorced and was left with the task of telling his 80-year-old parents the devastating news.
Paul pleaded guilty to 14 counts of theft and four charges of money laundering at Reading Crown Court.
He was jailed for seven years and ordered to pay back £3.36 million pounds or serve a further ten years in prison.
To Gill, Paul seemed happy with the life they had and she couldn’t understand why he would steal to satisfy other women with a lavish lifestyle he never craved with his own wife.
A week later Gill went to prison to confront her cheating husband, with her daughter and Paul’s father.
“He wouldn’t give me an explanation, I just wanted to know why but all he said was ‘I’ve made my bed, I’ll lie in it, I’ve ruined all your lives.’
“He’s thrown it all away, a loving marriage, a family, his career, friends and his good name – he’s been completely stupid,” Gill says with sadness.
Carrie, 27, believes her dad is going through a mid-life crisis or a breakdown.
She said: “It’s almost as if he has died, but we can’t really grieve.
“I think he assumes everything goes back to normal when he gets out of jail, but it won’t.”
Once the predictable, ever so ordinary, greying portly middle manager, Paul Hopes now leaves a legacy of a swindler hooked on illicit sex and the high life.
Leaving his wife Gill to pick up the pieces of his financial mess and trying to come to terms with the fact that her life will never be the same again.