A YOUNG mum has told how her controlling boyfriend handcuffed her at night and sniffed her pants when she got home from work – to check if she’d been secretly sleeping with her colleagues.
John McLaughlin, 32, also hacked into Devon Brown’s car’s black box to track her movements and had a camera fitted in their home so he could monitor her every movement.
And he set booby traps for their middle-aged and married neighbour, who he wrongly believed was having an affair with Devon, 26.
Devon has opened up about her ordeal, in a bid to raise awareness of coercive control – an offence which was only made illegal at the end of 2015.
In an exclusive interview with Fabulous she revealed that John was “a real gentleman” when she first met him but he soon turned into a possessive nightmare.
She said: “He would sit outside my office from 9am to 5pm and, when we got home, he would insist on sniffing my knickers, to check if I’d been having sex at work.
“I wasn’t allowed to take my phone with me upstairs in case I was texting another man. He would even wait for me outside the toilet.”
The couple first met in June 2017 after he rented a home through a lettings agency she was working at.
Devon explained: “At first John was lovely, a real gentleman, and so caring and affectionate.
“I have a little girl, who is seven, and he was brilliant with her, reading her bedtime stories, cooking meals and planning days out. He had a good job and he seemed like the perfect catch.”
The couple moved in together in Wigan in January this year.
But their relationship immediately showed signs of cracking with McLaughlin even quitting his job so he could spend more time with her.
Devon explained: “John insisted on meeting me every day after work which I thought was lovely at first. But if I tried to make any other arrangement, he would go mad.
“I soon realised he wanted to keep a check on me but I just thought he was a bit insecure.
“I loved him so much, and my daughter adored him so I was desperate to make things work.”
He accused me of having affairs with our friends, neighbours, and the men who worked at a factory down the road. He even accused me of having an affair with his own dad.
He soon began accusing Devon of having an affair with their neighbour.
Devon said: “Our neighbour was married and middle-aged, he was a friend of my dad’s. He was in no way flirty or inappropriate.
“But John was convinced I was having an affair with him and that we were meeting up secretly during the night.
“He started jamming paper on the top of our doors so he would know if they had been opened during the night. He would leave his phone on record all night to catch anyone sneaking into the house.
“I tried to reason with him but it was no good. I even bought a CCTV camera, to show him I had nothing to hide.
“But John set the camera up to film inside our living room. He spent hours and hours checking the tape, trying to catch me out.
“If there was any sort of glitch on the tape, he would accuse me of stopping it whilst I had sex with the neighbour.”
She continued: “I had a black box fitted to my car for the insurance and John hacked into it and followed everything I did. I couldn’t even drive to the corner shop without him demanding an explanation.
“If I went to see my mum or my sister I had to send him a selfie to prove where I was.
“My best friend Lesley asked me to her bridesmaid and he accused me of knocking off her fiance, that same day.
“He accused me of having affairs with our friends, neighbours, and the men who worked at a factory down the road. He even accused me of having an affair with his own dad.
“I had bought a pair of handcuffs for John for Valentine’s Day, just for a bit of a laugh. I was trying to make our relationship fun again.
“But, sick of his accusations, I said to him: ‘Why don’t you handcuff me? That will prove my point.’
“John took it seriously and we went to bed handcuffed to each other, so that he could monitor my movements.”
After work, he would insist on inspecting my knickers, to check if I’d been having sex at work. It was degrading. I was starting to lose my confidence and the stress was really getting to me.
“I lay there for hours and eventually it was his decision to release me because he couldn’t sleep.”
He also began to inspect Devon’s underwear when she arrived home.
“ It was degrading. I was starting to lose my confidence and the stress was really getting to me,” she explained, adding he would sit outside her office from 9am to 5pm.
“He would say ‘You’re mine and only mine.’ He refused to share me – even with my family. In the end, I gave up my job, because I just couldn’t cope.
“But even with me at home full time, he was still full of accusations.”
She added: “My family could see he was a destructive force but I was completely under his control. I had totally lost sight of the girl I had once been.
“He was never violent or aggressive. He never even raised his voice. But he controlled me completely. It was mental torture. Eventually I suffered a breakdown. I just couldn’t stand it.”
At the end of May, Devon decided to end the relationship but John refused to accept it.
Devon said: “We had a huge row and I tried to get out of the house but he wouldn’t let me go. He pushed me and he smashed me over the head with a can of lager. The police came and he was arrested.”
In June McLaughlin, 33, of Wigan, appeared at Bolton Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend and engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour between January 1 and June 9.
He will be sentenced later this month before a judge at Bolton Crown Court.
Now in a new relationship, Devon wants other women and men to know that even if a partner isn’t physically assaulting them they could still be abusing them.
“Now I can’t bear thinking about what happened for all those months,” she said. “I thought I loved him, but I didn’t. I was vulnerable at the time, having some problems, and he took advantage of me.
“He’s a monster.”
New domestic abuse laws made “coercive or controlling behaviour” a criminal offence on December 29 2015.
The Office for National Statistics said police forces recorded only 4,246 cases of coercive or controlling behaviour in the 12 months to March 2017, the most recent figures available.
“Psychological abuse comes in many forms such as financial, control but mainly it’s all about causing fear,” Lucy Hadley, campaign and public affairs officer for national domestic violence charity Women’s Aid, told Fabulous.
“Abuse of this type is about confinement and isolation as well.
“It’s about a repeated, consistent behaviour and it’s about monitoring and obsessing over every part of their life to ensure they feel scared.”
If you are being abused contact the National Domestic Abuse Violence freephone helpline on 0808 2000 247.
What constitutes controlling and coercive behaviour?
- Stopping you from seeing friends or family
- Controlling your cash
- Criticising you
- Controlling what you wear
- Spying on you
- Scaring you
- Embarrassing you
- Forcing you to do something you don’t want to do
- Monitoring your time
- Threatening to reveal your secrets