Cristie Stunell, 30, from Truro could never have predicted what her fella was capable of. Here she bravely shares her story...

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My heart leapt and butterflies fluttered as the car pulled up outside. It was October 2014 and Kerry Williams, then 42, was picking me up for our first date.

Kerry was a regular at the pub where I worked. He’d pop in after work and we’d get chatting. Kerry was friendly, cheeky. It’d taken him a while to pluck up the courage to ask me out, but our date was worth the wait!

Kerry opened doors for me, paid for dinner, gave me a lift home and kissed me goodnight. The perfect gent, I thought.

We were both smitten and soon head over heels in love. We met each other’s families, friends, and everyone was so happy for us…

By February last year, we had our own place. Kerry was so loving and attentive. He’d take me to lunch between my shifts, spoil me, and I had no doubt he was The One.

In May 2016, we enjoyed a holiday in Spain – and, back home, we were still in our happy relationship bubble.

One evening in June I met an old mate for a few drinks. I’d not seen him for a couple of years, so it was great to catch up.

I showed him snaps from our holiday on my phone. ‘You look happy together,’ he smiled.

Next evening, Kerry and I went for a few drinks. I told him about my night, how my mate said we looked happy in our holiday pics. ‘I’m glad you had fun,’ Kerry smiled. We had a lovely evening, before picking up a takeaway on the way home.

Only, Kerry suddenly flew into a drunken rage. ‘What right do you have to show him pictures of us?’ he shouted.

‘What?’ I cried, confused. ‘You’re making a mug out of me,’ he suddenly raged.

I stared at Kerry in horror – he’d never screamed at me before. I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong – plus, he knew my mate was gay, so couldn’t be jealous.

‘No, I’m not,’ I stuttered. But Kerry launched himself across the sofa and slapped me hard.

Terror and anger tore through me. How dare he hit me?!

I could never have predicted what my fella was capable of

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‘What have you just done?!’ I cried, picking up an ashtray and flinging it at his chest.

Kerry’s eyes darkened, pure rage filled his face. He threw himself at me again, pinning me to the sofa and punching me repeatedly.

‘Stop!’ I screamed, fighting back.

But Kerry was too strong – I was trapped.

Then, he just stopped, stormed off upstairs to bed. I stared after him, frozen in horror.

What had just happened? And why?

Shaking, I called my brother Tom, 27. ‘Please, come and pick me up,’ I sobbed.

Hearing my voice, Tom agreed, no questions asked.

Desperate to leave, I crept upstairs, sneaking into the bedroom to grab some things.

Kerry was still awake.

‘Yeah, get your friend to pick you up,’ he shouted. Ignoring him, I grabbed my stuff, went downstairs. But, as I shut the living room window and turned to leave, Kerry was stood right behind me.

My heart thumped, my body tingling with fear.

Kerry lunged, wrapping his hands around my throat, squeezing hard. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream.

‘You’re making a mug out of me,’ he fumed again. Then, he let go and punched me in the face.

My nose exploded, blood pouring out into my hands. Total shock stopped any pain, but I was terrified.

Kerry disappeared, came back with some kitchen towel. ‘Clean yourself up,’ he growled, throwing it at me.

Grabbing my bag, I fled, running out of the house in tears.

Moments later, Tom’s girlfriend Shelley pulled up outside. ‘Just drive,’ I sobbed hysterically, jumping in the car.

I arrived at Tom’s black and blue, covered in blood. ‘What has he done to you?’ my brother raged.

Sobbing, I told him about Kerry’s unprovoked, vicious attack. I was in shock – it’d come totally out of the blue. Kerry had never been controlling or abusive during our 18 months together. He’d always been a gentleman. Until now…

We called the police, officers came to get a statement and Kerry was arrested.

At the Royal Cornwall Hospital, I was checked out, given strong painkillers. My face and body were covered in bruises, I could hardly swallow and had a thumb print on my neck. Horrific.

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My brother helped me collect my stuff, cancel our bills and joint account. Kerry tried to get in touch, but I ignored him. Nothing he said could excuse his behaviour – he’d beaten me senseless.

My whole family were shocked, devastated. I was heartbroken, too – I thought I’d met the perfect guy, but the love of my life turned out to be a violent thug.

In July this year, at Truro Magistrates’ Court, Kerry Williams, 44, pleaded guilty to assault by beating.

He received a 12-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, plus a two-year restraining order, and was ordered to take part in a Building Better Relationships programme.

In other words, he walked free. I’m disgusted. My mum Sam, 50, and brother

Tom have kept me strong, but I still suffer anxiety and nightmares. I hardly go out, petrified I’ll see Kerry around town…

That brute took everything from me – even my freedom. Yet he was allowed to keep his.