I kissed the photograph of my four-month-old son Louie and placed it inside an envelope. On the front I wrote the words: ‘Miss you daddy.’ Then I slipped it into my fiancée John’s suitcase.
John was off to Middlesbrough for the weekend for an old work mate’s stag party. It was the first time he’d been away since Louie was born. As I zipped up his case, John, 28, wrapped his arms around my waist and asked: ‘What are you up to?
‘Just packing your freshly-ironed shirt,’ I lied. John leaned in to kiss me and said: ‘I’m going to miss you.’ John and I were childhood sweethearts. I’d met him through friends when we were both 15, and was attracted to his sweet nature. But we’d had our ups and downs.
When John drank too much he became jealous and paranoid. One day in December 2012, I saw a side of John I’d never seen before. ‘Who have you been sleeping with?’ he screeched, threatening me with scissors. ‘I can’t take this any more. We’re finished!’ I sobbed uncontrollably.
After reporting John to the police, he eventually served five months in prison. I geared myself up to walk away. Then just a few weeks later, I realised I’d missed a period. When the line turned blue on my pregnancy test, I was terrified. I wanted to be a Mum but I didn’t want to bring a child up alone. A few days later, John’s mum called. She said: ‘John wants to know if he can call you?’ I took a deep breath and said: ‘Yeah, I need to talk to him.’
When John called from prison, my heart was pounding. My lip trembling, I said: ‘John, I’m pregnant.’ There was a moment of silence at the end of the line. Finally, John said: ‘I can change Tracey. I want to be a family.’ ‘I’ve heard it all before John,’ I replied. ‘No more drinking.’ For the next couple of days his words rang in my ears.
I didn’t want Louie to grow up without a father, so I caved in and gave John a second chance. When I told John he said: ‘I love you. I promise I won’t mess this up.’ As I pushed Louie into the world in October 2013 John was by my side. With tears welling in his eyes he said: ‘He’s beautiful. I can’t believe I’m a dad’.
Back home on Brooke Street in Doncaster, John was a doting hands-on father. In November, we were sat in the living room, and John got down on one knee. He said: “I want to be a proper family. Will you marry me?” Through nervous giggles, I said: ‘Of course.’
It was nothing romantic, but I didn’t need it to be. The fact he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me was enough. By the time the stag party came around, John had to force himself to leave.
Waving him off at the door, I shouted after him: “It will be our turn soon.’ ‘I can’t wait.’ he winked. Later that night, my friend Nikki came over for a takeaway and a bottle of wine. After a couple of hours of girlie catchup, I checked on Louie, and switched off
the light. It was around 4am when I was woken by a text message and John’s name flashed up on the screen. Through blurry eyes, I read: ‘Miss you babe.’
Smiling to myself I felt loved as I drifted back off to sleep. At 8am I was woken again by a loud banging on the front door. I walked downstairs, still half asleep, trying to figure out who it could be. As I unlocked the door, I was shocked to find John standing on the doorstep. His eyes were glazed and red, and his breath stank of booze. I said: ‘What are you doing here John? You’re meant to be in Middlesbrough.’ Saying nothing, he barged past me into the house. Walking around the living room, John began rummaging through drawers and lifting up furniture.
Tired and irritated, I said: ‘What are you looking for John?’ As he prodded the empty pizza boxes, John said: ‘Have you been anywhere?’ ‘No, I stayed in with Nikki.’ I replied, shaking. ‘You’re scaring me.’ John moved his search upstairs while I followed him into the bedroom. I picked Louie out of his cot and crept back downstairs. With Louie on my lap, I reached for my phone and dialled 999. John’s voice boomed: ‘Tracey, where’s that viagra?’
We’d been in the pub a few week’s earlier and he’d bought a packet from a vending machine as a joke. When the operator answered I stammered: ‘I’ve got a four-month-old baby and my partner is acting strange.’ ‘We’ll get someone over to you,’ he replied. Suddenly, the phone was snatched from my hand as John towered over me. He glared at me in fury and spat: ‘Who have you been sleeping with?’ He was holding something in his hand, but I couldn’t see what it was. Before I had chance to reply, John’s fist smashed into my face.
My head flew back as Louie rolled from my lap onto the sofa beside me. I tried to reach over and grab him, but John hit me again. ‘John! Please no!’ I gargled, as the taste of blood filled my mouth. He ignored my cries, pummelling me with his fist. Then he grabbed me by the hair and dragged me towards the kitchen. Behind me I could hear Louie screaming.
Sobbing hysterically, I pleaded: ‘John, let me go. I need to get to Louie.’ With a tremendous force, John backhanded me down to the kitchen floor. As I lay in a bloody mess, barely able to move, John pushed his knee onto my chest. Next, I watched in horror as he fumbled in the cutlery drawer, before pulling out a knife. As John held the silver blade across my neck I pleaded for my life. Furious, he yelled again: ‘Tell me who you’ve been with.’
I tried to wriggle free but John’s weight pinned me in place. Hysterically, I pleaded: ‘Stop John. I swear, I haven’t been with anyone.’ I felt myself go faint and when I tried to scream he stuffed a tea towel in my mouth. The air drained from my lungs. Then, I heard a male voice in the distance: ‘Police. Open up.’ With the knife still held against my throat, John’s froze. Spitting out the tea towel, I spluttered: ‘We have to let them in John.’ ‘They’ll only kick the door in otherwise.’ John released his grip so I shot towards the door and fumbled with the lock.
Through my swollen eyes, I could barely see, but I heard both officers gasp. One of them asked: ‘Has he done that to you?’ I opened my mouth to speak, but could barely croak, so nodded instead. As I turned round to look at John, I gasped in horror. He was holding Louie, with the knife still in his hand. Turning on his heels, he ran upstairs. I begged: ‘No John!’
The police ran after him, but he barricaded himself in the bedroom. As they tried to talk John out, I sat sobbing on the sofa downstairs. He’d turned into a monster. Within a few minutes, the house was surrounded by police. Then I spotted something on the floor. It was a packet of fake blood capsules from Halloween, and there were a couple missing.
Suddenly, it dawned on me – John had mistaken the capsules for his viagra. Grabbing the packet, I handed them to the officer who was negotiating with John. I said: ‘John thinks these blood capsules are Viagra. Tell him to check his underwear drawer.’ It sounded crazy but as he placed the capsules by the door it creaked open. Realising his mistake John gave himself up.
They took John out the back door and I raced upstairs to get Louie. When I found him sleeping soundly in his cot, I cried out with relief. Picking him up, I hugged him tight and said: ‘I love you my beautiful boy.’
Louie and I were taken to Doncaster hospital to be checked over. My face was bruised and swollen and it was weeks before the swelling eased. I looked a mess.
In June 2014 John pleaded guilty to ABH at Doncaster Crown Court and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. The guilty plea meant I didn’t have to face him in court. Now I’m trying to move on but my life has been turned upside down. I was foolish to think that becoming a Dad would change John and I made a huge mistake taking him back. They say a leopard can’t change its spots and he’s proof.
I’ve now moved house, and I hope to make a fresh start. Just me, and little Louie who’s now nine months old. There’s only room in my life for him.