When Maureen Lewis, 58, was swept off her feet by her romantic toyboy lover John Lewis nee Hospkins,48. But little did she know that her dream life was about to become a living nightmare…
“It was my first night out in ages when I first saw John. He had a brilliant tan and a sparkle in his eyes,” Maureen says.
“I was at a bar in my hometown of Minehead, Somerset when he strolled over and asked for my number. I couldn’t believe my luck.”
They met the next day at a harbour side cafe and Maureen was won over by John’s heroic life stories.
“He said he had been a paratrooper in the Falkland’s War,” says Maureen.
“But on his first jump his parachute failed to open. He landed in a tree and had been left stranded, writhing in agony, when he was shot in the leg by an Argentinean.
“His voice broke as he recounted being told he would never walk again.
“He managed to regain his upper body strength from doing daily pull ups until he could walk on two feet with the help of a stick.
“My heart melted. This man was a true survivor.”
Within weeks of meeting Maureen John was texting and calling her several times a day.
“I was flattered when he moved in with me after a couple of months,” Maureen recalls.
“John told me he worked for a wealthy Arab named Fizer, buying properties around the world for his financial portfolio.
“He always surprised me with nice meals in restaurants and trips away”
That New Year’s Eve, just nine months after they’d first met, John surprised Maureen.
“We were in a restaurant when John suddenly got down on one knee,” remembers Maureen.
“He presented me with a beautiful six diamond gold ring and asked me to marry him. I was carried away in the romance and said yes,” she recalls.
Maureen thought she’d have a long engagement but John had other ideas.
“Within weeks, John was nagging me about what kind of wedding I wanted. I told him a beach wedding and he immediately starting planning our Sri Lankan wedding.
“Everything he did seemed spontaneous and romantic. When John told me he wanted to change his surname to Lewis, I didn’t think anything of it,” says Maureen.
In October 2007 Maureen and John married in a lavish ceremony, complete with dancers and an elephant.
“It was on a beautiful beach with a river running alongside and palm trees everywhere. It took my breath away,” Maureen remembers
As the months passed, John told Maureen that his arthritic joints – a result of the gunshot – fared better in the sunshine and he planned for them to move abroad.
Before Maureen knew it John had sent away their CVs for a job vacancy in Tuscany manning a mansion while the owners were away.
“When we arrived I couldn’t believe it,” says Maureen. “The house was gorgeous, with a swimming pool and a beautiful rose garden. We stayed in a cottage on the grounds of the house,” she says.
Maureen threw herself into her new role and left John to take over their finances.
“I’d rented my flat in Minehead and John told me that everything was fine,” she says.
Maureen booked a holiday back to England in February 2009.
“When I returned home I decided to check up on my flat and that’s when I started to find out the unbelievable truth,” she sobs.
“I collected my mail and what I saw horrified me. There were hundreds of letters from loan companies and even a County Court Judgement demanding money back on a list of loans in my name.
“I started to violently shake. John had forged my signature and applied for two loans for £10,000 and £23,000 that he’d wired into our joint account.
“My heart was racing as I ran towards my bank. They told me that the loans had been paid into our joint bank account. My lavish life had been a lie. I’d been paying for it without even realising.
“Frantically I called John ‘What are all these loans?’ I demanded.
“‘I have no idea what you’re talking about’ he replied and the receiver went dead.”
But her horror worsened when weeks later she found out that John had been living another lie.
“I looked into why he’d changed his surname,” she says.
“I looked online and found out that he hadn’t divorced his last wife. It was the final nail in the coffin.
“Not only had I been defrauded but I’d naively married a bigamist
“Reporting him to the police I told them everything I knew. They arrested and charged John with bigamy, making a false statement under oath and fraud at Taunton Crown Court.”
But the nightmare for Maureen continues whose world has been turned upside down.
“I am lucky that my family have been really supportive. With their help and support I can start moving on.
“Looking back I remember thinking it was too good to be true and turns out it was. He’s a liar through and through and I hope that by telling my story that I will save some other poor woman being duped.