Kerry Card, 36, from Scunthorpe, thought bodybuilder Michal Kmieciakl was her knight in shining armour. Until he did the unthinkable...
My hunky date stood at my door, clutching a big bunch of red roses.
‘Thank you,’ I beamed, blushing. It was October 2013, and Michal Kmieciak, 33, was picking me up for our first date. We’d met through an app I’d joined after my divorce. Michal swept me off my feet!
‘I’m a bodybuilder,’ he explained – though that was clear from his rippling biceps! At 5ft 8in and 20st of pure muscle, he was huge! But also the perfect gentleman, and I was besotted.
‘He’s a gentle giant,’ I told my sister Natalie, 31. I thought he was my soulmate and, after six weeks, introduced him to my kids Sophie, then 16, Tyrone, 8, and Tristan, 6. They adored him, and soon Michal had moved in. But he spent two hours a day pumping iron, using muscle-boosting supplements to bulk up. He nagged me to join the gym, too.
‘You could do with toning up,’ he said. So I did, and it was fun at first. I lost weight, got fitter and we became a real power couple. Only, Michal was possessive. He didn’t like me working, got suspicious when I talked to other men.
‘Be careful, Kerry, I don’t trust him,’ Natalie warned.
‘He just cares about me,’ I said, shrugging off her worries. But Michal wore me down and, early last year, I quit my sales assistant job. Then, one day that August, with the kids visiting their dad for a week, Michal and I got glammed up for an evening in the pub. That night I got chatting to some friends, including an old war vet. Only, back home, Michal was furious.
‘You were flirting with him,’ he spat.
‘What? Are you serious?!’ I laughed.
The bloke was 82! An OAP! But Michal snapped. Lunging at me, he threw me against a glass door. At 5ft, I was no match for his bodybuilder bulk and he rained down punches, smashing his fist into my skull, kicking me in the chest. Again and again. I came to on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood.
Everything hurt, I could barely move. My face throbbed, my head was spinning. Michal carried me to the sofa. Then, panicking, he started mopping up my blood, putting my clothes in the washing machine.
‘I’m sorry,’ he wept.
‘I need to go to hospital,’ I stuttered. Michal drove me to Scunthorpe General, telling doctors that I’d drunkenly fallen out of a taxi and face-planted. Liar! But I felt embarrassed, humiliated. So I let them patch me up, and Michal took me home. I had a fractured cheek, damaged nose, cut lip, bruises all over. I didn’t leave the house and, by the time the kids came home a week later, make-up covered the worst of it. Michal grovelled.
‘You deserve much better than me,’ he sobbed.
Yes, I do, I thought. But, although I wanted to go, I felt trapped. Terrified. Michal wouldn’t leave my side – not even to go to the gym, quitting his job as a steelworker to be with me 24/7. So I hatched an escape plan for when he attacked again. Because I knew he would…
When Tristan, who has learning difficulties, had a hospital appointment – and Michal didn’t come – I secretly bought a spare pay-as-you-go mobile, hid it in the boys’ sock drawer. Sophie had gone to university but, pretending to have a clear-out, I moved the boys’ bedroom furniture around, placing their heavy, metal bunk beds by the door – hiding a baseball bat underneath.
‘What’s that for?’ asked Tyrone, spotting it.
‘In case we get burgled,’ I lied.
Since the attack, I’d not been to the gym and my weight crept up. Only, the assault had left me depressed and I had zero energy.
‘I’m not going back,’ I told Michal in October last year. He saw red.
‘You’ll get fat. Throw away all that hard work,’ he raged, charging at me like a raging bull. My body slammed into the floor, where I curled into the foetal position. Michal dragged me down the hallway by my hair, punching my breasts, arms, stomach.
He’s going to kill me! I thought. Michal had taken my regular mobile, ripped the house phone plug out of the wall. No escape! Screaming, I pleaded with him… and then suddenly, he stopped. Tyrone, 11, had come racing from his bedroom clutching the baseball bat.
‘Mum, Mum!’ he cried.
With Michal distracted, I leapt up, grabbed Tyrone and ran to the boys’ bedroom. Slamming the door, Tyrone helped me heave the bunk beds in front of it. Just in time. Like something from a horror film, Michal threw himself at the door, banging, kicking. Fumbling for the hidden phone, I dialled 999. Michal kept pounding at the door, the wood splitting.
‘Help,’ I screamed. Both Tyrone and Tristan were crying. Minutes later, the police piled in, arrested Michal. Sobbing with relief, I gave a statement – told officers about the August attack, too. This time, I suffered severe bruising. A lucky escape.
In June 2016, Michal Kmieciak appeared at Grimsby Crown Court and pleaded guilty to two charges of assault by beating. But he was only jailed for six months – suspended for two years.
‘What a joke!’ I fumed to Natalie and my mum Pauline, 59. He has to pay me £1,000 compensation and was given a 10-year restraining order against me – but deserves to be locked up. We’re still suffering. I’ve been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the boys needed counselling. I couldn’t leave the house at first, kept breaking down.
Now I’m speaking out to warn other women about Kmieciak. Look at the photos. Look at what that scumbag is capable of.
If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 2000 247 or visit www.refuge.org.uk