A businessman has revealed how he endured almost two years of sadistic domestic abuse at the hands of his girlfriend before a neighbour called the police.
Ian McNicholl, 55, from Hull, suffered a skull fracture, and fractures to his cheekbones, nose and ribs, as well as severe burns to his hands from an iron, and to the inside of his nose after Michelle Williamson forced a lit cigarette up his nostrils.
Williamson was jailed for seven years at Grimsby Crown Court for causing grievous bodily harm with intent in 2008, well before the law on coercive and controlling behaviour was introduced.
But before the assaults began, she employed typical psychological abuse tactics to terrify her partner – who was in his early forties and worked as a consultant to the civil service – into submission.
Mr McNicholl said Williamson managed to take control of his finances after displaying concern that friends whom he had lent money to were not paying him back quickly enough and were taking advantage.
Before long, Williamson had complete control of his debit card and had taken out several credit cards in his name, running up thousands of pounds in debt.
But her primary tactic was fear, telling Mr McNicholl her brothers were involved in organised crime and drug dealing, and would kill him if he ever tried to end their relationship.
Mr McNicholl said: ‘She was in my house. I had no way of proving it or not, so then you begin to believe it – you’ve only got one voice going into your head, which was her’s.
‘It was the seed she’d planted and she began to water it – ‘If you make any attempt to leave, you’ll be killed’.’
Williamson also began controlling his daily routine, right down to what time he ate, and began depriving him of sleep.
‘I woke up when I was told, I went to sleep when I was told – if indeed I was allowed to go to sleep,’ he said.
‘I ate when I was allowed to eat. I ate food I had no choice over. I spoke when I was spoken to – I was like a TV set and Michelle held the remote and she pressed all the buttons.’
When the physical violence began, Mr McNicholl tried to comply with all Williams’s mind games in a bid to try to avoid being assaulted.
‘The violence had absolutely no boundaries. I believed that she would kill me,’ he said.
He continued: ‘Ultimately she took over my life completely. It was like being possessed. If you’re going to sleep at different times, waking up at different times – sometimes at 3am – if your meal times are all over the place it begins to psychologically disable you.’
Williamson would regularly send him to the corner shop to buy cigarettes, but would make sure he was on the phone to her throughout the five-minute round trip so he could not speak to anyone else.
Mr McNicholl had voluntarily taken a few months off work and was isolated from both his friends and his colleagues during his relationship with Williamson, although it took his neighbours more than a year to call police.
He believes that had he been female and people noticed he was perpetually covered in bruises, they would have acted much more quickly.
It took Mr McNicholl years to get out of the debts Williamson had run up and he lost both his home and his business, ending up in accommodation run by the Salvation Army.
He still suffers from acute headaches as a result of the assaults and now works as an ambassador for men’s helpline the ManKind Initiative.
‘I take opportunities to raise awareness, whether it be with the police or members of the public – just to raise awareness so that people look out for the men in their life the way they quite rightly look after the women in their life,’ he said.