Funny and attentive, Daniel Bell appeared to be a devoted boyfriend. But that devotion soon turned into obsession, emotional bullying and paranoia over his girlfriend. Handed a restraining order and banged up for assault, Daniel Bell wasn’t going to let the law get in his way... Laura Duncan, 26, Hebburn, Tyne and Wear shares her story...
Checking my Facebook one night, a message flashed up.
‘You’re a little darling, aren’t you?’
I’d never met Daniel Bell, then 32, but we had mutual mates on Facebook.
A labourer, with rugged good looks, he was hot.
It was March 2014, and I’d been single a while.
I was flattered by the attention and we exchanged flirty messages.
Two weeks on, we agreed to meet at Jarrow Metro station.
As our eyes met, I felt giddy – and he had the biggest grin.
Chatting, we discovered we were both originally from Sunderland.
‘My Mackam lass!’ he said.
Laughing together, I felt as if I’d known Daniel ages. He came home with me that night and never left!
Soon, I decided to introduce him to some friends. That was the night I saw a different side to Daniel.
After a few cans, he grew paranoid, and suddenly flipped.
Bringing his face close to mine, he started yelling accusations.
‘You’ve messaged my brother,’ he said.
‘I don’t know your brother,’ I insisted.
Before long, my friends left, and so did Daniel.
Upset, I went to bed.
Next morning, I found Daniel on my sofa.
‘I didn’t want to wake you,’ he explained.
I shrugged it off.
But, after that, the charming Daniel I’d fallen for disappeared.
His emotional bullying escalated.
One night, on 3 October 2014, another row erupted. Eyes dark with rage, Daniel grabbed a metal herb grinder and forced it into my face, puncturing my cheek.
I ran outside to call the police, but Daniel knocked me to the floor.
The next month, at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, he pleaded guilty to assault and was handed a restraining order.
But it turns out that was just the beginning.
Daniel wrote to me, begging me to take him back.
Beaten down mentally and physically, I agreed.
Weeks later, Daniel went berserk one night, beating me.
I don’t remember much – I’ve blanked it out.
In May 2015, he was jailed for 16 weeks after admitting assault and breach of a restraining order.
He was off the streets, but my nightmare wasn’t over.
From his prison cell, he bombarded me with phone calls.
I put blocks on my phones, but that didn’t stop the letters and I love you cards. Clever, he never admitted anything, just filled pages with loving words.
‘I’m gonna win you back’, he wrote.
Even locked up, he was still messing with my head.
When Daniel was banned from writing to me, he wrote to my neighbour’s or Mum’s house instead.
Trying to forget, I ripped many up.
But I was a mess, signed off sick. I rebuilt my confidence through intensive cognitive behavioural therapy.
Yet his shadow hung over me.
Every letter was a reminder that he was there. Waiting.
On 21 July 2015, Daniel was released. Ten days later, the inevitable happened and I bumped into him in town.
‘Have dinner at mine,’ he said.
That hold he had over me was still strong…
‘OK,’ I said, hoping we could be friends.
We’d a pleasant evening, talking about the rehabilitation work he’d done in prison.
We went out for lunch the next day but, after drinking some vodka together that night, around 9pm, Daniel started singing the same old tune.
‘How’s my brother?’ he sneered.
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ I said.
Only, as I tried to leave, he blocked my exit.
Pushing me back into the living room, he punched me and ripped off my T-shirt – part of how he’d stop me from leaving.
Then, he locked the door.
‘Calm down!’ I yelled.
He grabbed my hair, slammed my head into a cabinet.
Blood poured down my face.
I couldn’t fight back as he threw me against the wall and to the floor.
I tried to scramble to the window, but he threw my phone outside, smashing it.
Bleeding profusely, I couldn’t get up.
This is the end…
Only, suddenly, Daniel fled. Numb with shock, I managed to crawl outside, down the fire escape and into a shop.
‘Help,’ I sobbed.
Someone called 999 as police and an ambulance arrived, taking me to Royal Victoria Infirmary.
I needed four stitches in my leg and six stitches in my head.
Later, I heard that police had arrested Daniel and he was remanded in custody.
Only, several weeks on, as I recovered, a letter arrived at my mum’s house.
I won’t give up on you, it read.
I felt sick. Daniel had bent the system at every turn.
In January 2016, at Newcastle Crown Court, Daniel Bell, 33, admitted assault, criminal damage and breach of a restraining order.
Jailed for two years, he got a three-year restraining order banning him from contacting me.
Once, I’d hoped he’d change – but that animal had no right to assault me.
I still suffer from flashbacks and nightmares. Now, I’m trying to move on.
I never want to see Daniel Bell again. I don’t want his so-called love notes.
I hope he reads that message loud and clear.
It can be hard to understand why a woman would continue a relationship with a physically or emotionally abusive man. She may still love him, hope that he’s changed or be financially dependant on him. Often domestic abusers place the blame on their victims, which they come to believe. To help a loved one in an abusive relationship or get help yourself, visit www.womensaid.org.uk