Written by Caroline Iggulden
Featured in Pick Me Up magazine
BEATEN, STRIPPED, STARVED… BIZARRE NIGHTMARE OF A BETRAYED HUSBAND
FRAIL Martin Harris suffered a year-long ordeal of sadistic torture at the hands of his wife and her lover. The vulnerable 52-year-old was beaten, stabbed, starved and made to sleep naked outside by Christine and her boyfriend Graham Dimmer. When he was finally rescued he weighed just 6 1/2st and “looked like a concentration camp victim.” Last week Christine and Dimmer were jailed for a total of 14 years much to the relief of Martin, who is still suffering the after-effects of his horrifying ordeal.
Talking about his trauma for the first time since the trial, Martin says the nightmare began in 1998 when he was made redundant and took a new job as a dustman. His 24-year marriage to Christine was in trouble at the time -and the change was to lead to disaster for both of them.
Martin’s new job introduced him to dustcart driver Dimmer who was to become Christine’s lover -and he quickly befriended the 51-year-old as they chatted on their daily round.
Flirt Martin recalls: “I liked Graham. He was chatty and full of hopes and dreams. In a lot of ways I looked up to him. He’d come over to our house and we’d go to the pub together.” “But Christine would openly flirt with him. She began wearing more make-up and dressing in sexy, short skirts. “She’d never made such an effort for me. But I didn’t care because our marriage was suffering so badly.”
Financial pressures were also putting a strain on the couple. When they lost their house in Basingstoke, Hampshire it was smooth-talking Dimmer who stepped in with a solution. Martin says: “Graham suggested we make a fresh start and move to Cornwall to set up a furniture restoration business. I thought it was a great idea. “I remember thinking that the change of scenery might give my marriage the second chance it needed.” In October 2002 the three of them set up home in Dimmer’s touring caravan at the Ivy Leaf campsite near Bude. But within a fortnight Dimmer had seduced Christine and unleashed his violent streak on her husband.
Martin says: “They’d go to bed together each night. When I confronted them, Graham turned on me. That was when the beatings started. “One night, just two weeks after our move, they threw me out. “They’d arranged for me to sleep in another van. It was small, barely habitable, and had no heating. The only furniture was a clapped-out bed. But at least we were at opposite ends of the field. I was just glad to be away from them.”
Martin had nowhere else to go, and whenever he did think about leaving, Dimmer would step up his threats and the violence would get even worse. Gradually he would begin to control his terrified victim, while his wife stood by and watched.
Martin says: “He held me like a prisoner and Christine joined in, taunting me with abuse. He took my car and my mobile phone so I couldn’t go anywhere or talk to anyone without him knowing. “And anyway, I was so ashamed that another man was doing this to me. I was always desperate to tell the truth but I was petrified.”
The abuse continued for the next year. Martin says: “When Graham and Christine were canoodling on the sofa they would force me to kneel on my hands and knees while they put their feet on me, like a human footstool.
“When I got tired and tried to move they would kick me and dig their heels in, demanding that I stay still. “Sometimes they would even put food on me as though I was a table.” After his spell in the van, the couple forced him to sleep outside their caravan in a tent in all weathers, sometimes naked. While Dimmer stayed in bed all day, Christine and Martin worked at an egg factory in nearby Holsworthy and were made to give him all their wages.
Martin says: “They would ration my food and watch me starve. I tried to keep going by eating scraps I found at work or rummaging in bins. “But the weaker I became, the more I began losing my mind. “During Graham’s tempers he’d throw things at me. Most times I’d be black and blue, my face a mass of cuts.”
Finally, Martin’s body could take no more abuse and on October 1, 2003, a fellow camper found him collapsed outside the caravan. The former farm worker had lost 30 per cent of his body weight and weighed just 6 1/2st. He was rushed to North Devon District Hospital, where he fought for his life for three weeks. Martin says: “When I came around much later I was embarrassed that I’d let things go this far. “But that man’s fists had been controlling me. I had stayed loyal to that monster through fear alone.” Martin spent another six months recovering and now lives in sheltered accommodation in Hampshire.
Concealed During the trial, Truro Crown Court heard how Martin looked as if he had come out of a “concentration camp” when he was rescued. He had had cuts sealed with Superglue, was daubed in fake tan to conceal his beatings, had been stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver and made to sit on a tiny stool for hours by his wife’s evil lover. At the final hearing last week, Christine and Dimmer were convicted of 12 counts of grievous bodily harm and assault. Dimmer was jailed for ten years and Christine for four. Sentencing the couple, Judge Nicholas Vincent said of Martin: “This was a man of limited intelligence susceptible to being controlled and bullied.”
Martin himself says: “I’ll never forgive them for what they’ve done to me. “Dimmer had been my trusted friend but he was a sick parasite who preyed on weak people like us. “My wife and I took him into our lives. He repaid me by leaving me brainwashed, confused and on the edge of death. In the end, I was too frightened and weak to help myself.”