Chris Bywater was a handsome former soldier and entrepreneur, sweeping single mum Jodie off her feet just months after meeting.
But underneath the surface was a violent man who dominated every aspect of his wife’s life – lashing out in violent outbursts that in one attack left the young mum with a broken jaw and bleeding uncontrollably.
This month, the 35-year-old man was jailed for 11 years on two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent.
Speaking exclusively to the Sun Online, Jodie, 36, revealed the years she spent living in terror – and how she summoned the courage to give evidence to see him locked up.
Breaking down in tears, she said: “I’m ashamed I didn’t leave earlier but I was trying to keep us together.
“I always thought he loved us, and that would be enough for him to stop.
“But now I know it’s his character, and nobody can change that.
“I’ll never forgive Chris for what he has done.
“I don’t hate him though, I won’t be bitter.”
The mum said she was battered so badly that twice she thought her husband would kill her as he rained blows down on her cowering on the ground.
Both of the "horrendous" attacks left her seriously injured, including one violent battering that saw her hospitalised with a broken jaw unable to eat for weeks.
Jodie was 29-years-old when she met charming Chris on Facebook, with his account appearing as a suggested friend in 2011.
Despite not having any mutual friends, the pair started messaging.
The pair were soon talking regularly, going on their first date at the New Inn in Baschurch, Shrewsbury a month later.
Recounting their whirlwind romance, Jodie – who has three children, her two youngest with Chris – said: “He was very tall, very handsome and very charming.
“The attraction was there as soon as I met him.
“Because of my nature, I felt drawn to him. I wanted to heal any problems he had in the past, and I wanted him to feel safe, I wanted him to feel secure.”
And while Jodie said she wanted to make sure the relationship was stable – thinking of her young son from her first marriage – she found the couple had moved in and gotten married in July 2012, barely ten months after meeting.
She said: “He made me feel safe, secure, and he was an amazing stepfather.
“He seemed to love us so quickly, and take on the responsibility.”
Chris, who had joined the army around 2004 and even served in the Iraq War before leaving and working at a courier company, seemed the perfect man.
Bu just months into their relationship, Chris had already started to control Jodie.
The couple soon started to share an email account and mobile phone, while Jodie was convinced into deleting her Facebook account.
Chris was also the first one to open all the mail, and the only one with passwords to check their bank account.
Jodie said: “Very quickly, I was cut off from everybody.
“I had no way of anybody contacting me without him checking it first.
“He made it seem like a good thing, because I knew he would never cheat on me. He made it seem like he wanted to share everything with me.”
The physical abuse had also started, with Chris spitting in the mum’s face, stamping on her feet and pinching her.
But it was on a night in September 2013 that the violence escalated – Chris attacking Jodie while she was pregnant with their first child together.
The dad had gone out drinking with some friends but was unable to get inside after not taking a key with him, so he banged outside until Jodie woke up.
Jodie said: “I was woken in the early hours and as soon as I opened the door, I smelt alcohol.
“I said: ‘I can’t believe you drank again’ and he came in and grabbed me by the neck.
“He pushed me through the house and I went backwards over the sofa.
“I landed on the floor and he started punching my head, punching my back as I tried to protect my stomach.
“It was just so painful, I can’t even describe it. I thought he was going to kill me.”
After two weeks, Jodie finally went to hospital – telling doctors she had fallen off the toilet seat and that she had “thought it would heal itself”.
She underwent surgery, with the surgeon having to rebreak her finger to properly fix it.
After the attack, the control continued.
Jodie was only given pocket money to do the shopping, living in fear of another attack at their Herefordshire home.
It came on a night in August 2017, when Jodie got home late from a day at Drayton Manor Park with the children.
After putting the kids to bed, Jodie said Chris immediately started to pick a fight.
But exhausted from the day, Jodie said she instead went upstairs to get ready for bed, closing the bedroom door behind her.
A few minutes later, Chris followed her.
Jodie said: “I heard him running up the stairs and he opened the bedroom door and was yelling ‘you f***ing closed the door on me’.
“He closed the bathroom door behind him and started to punch me.
“I can’t tell you how many times he punched me, it seemed to go on forever.”
Curling up in a ball, and using the toilet to protect her head, Jodie was hit again and again.
She said: “I had never experienced pain like that in my life.
“I just started to scream ‘he’s going to kill me’. I screamed like I had never screamed before.”
Jodie eventually managed to escape – running to her neighbour’s for help before she managed to call police.
Officers took Chris away, with it the last time Jodie and the children saw him.
Jodie was left with a broken jaw, a fractured eye socket that meant her eye started to drop into her skull, nerve damage to her front teeth and needing permanent plates in her face.
And earlier this month, Chris, 35, was convicted of two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent against his wife.
He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Jodie said she had grown up around domestic violence, making it all the more important for her to break the cycle for her own children.
She said: “I’ve done this because of my children.
“I don’t want them to think it’s OK for a man to do this to you.”
And Jodie said she was still haunted by nightmares of Chris’s control.
What is domestic violence, and how do you get help?
Domestic violence is defined as a systematic pattern of behaviour by the abuser, designed to control his or her partner – according to women and children's charity Refuge.
It can happen to anyone – whatever their gender or sexuality. However, the official government definition only applies to those aged 16 and above.
UK law says that the violence can be physical, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional.
It involves coercive behaviour – where someone uses assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation to either harm, punish or frighten their victim.
While the abuser controls their victim by isolating them from sources of support, or exploiting their resources for personal gain, to deprive them of their independence.
Domestic violence is a serious crime, which should be reported to the police on 101.
Support can also be found through systems including the National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247
If it's an emergency, or you are in immediate danger, call 999 immediately.
She said it was all the more difficult as their four-year-old daughter still asks for her daddy.
Jodie said: “More than anything, I’ll never forgive him for what he’s done to the kids.
“They will grow up without a daddy.
“But that’s all I’ve done this whole way through – it’s to focus on them.”
West Mercia Police praised the sentence, as well as Jodie's bravery in speaking out.
Detective Constable Philippa Conway said: “Chris Bywater brutally attacked his wife in their family home. He has been given a prison sentence of 11 years for this horrific crime, which I hope brings some comfort and reassurance to Jodie and her family.
"I also hope this sentence sends out a clear message to perpetrators that as well as the physical, mental and emotional impact it has on their victim, they themselves face real consequences for their actions.
"We have specially trained officers working across West Mercia Police who will do everything possible to safeguard those who are vulnerable, and have been supporting the victim and her family.
"Domestic abuse remains a force priority for West Mercia Police so we hope that this conviction demonstrates our commitment to victims of domestic incidents, and encourages them to come forward to report crimes of this nature.
"You can report domestic abuse by calling 101 but if a crime is ongoing, always call 999.
"If you have been a victim, or witnessed domestic abuse and do not wish to speak to the police, please contact the freephone 24 hour Women's Aid National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247."
If you need assistance, contact Women's Aid or the National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247
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