‘Go on then,’ I smiled, giving in as a chap I’d met through work asked me out on a date for the hundredth time.
Tom, 36, and I got to know each other when I worked at a recruitment company and I interviewed him for a lorry driver position.
He’d got the job and kept pestering me to meet up, but I refused until he’d moved on to a different company.
After taking him up on his offer, we met for lunch and the conversation flowed freely.
Tom was just as cheeky and charming as I remembered.
We quickly became a couple and I introduced him to my son from a previous relationship, Adam, 15.
The pair of them getting on was a deal-breaker and I needn’t have worried about it as they hit it off straight away.
Within two months, Tom moved from Wrexham, North Wales, into our home in Salford, Greater Manchester.
At first things were great – he was funny and thoughtful.
We had one hiccup after a silly row when Tom stormed out and disappeared for the whole weekend.
I thought he was gone for good, but when he came back in floods of tears, begging for forgiveness and promising it would never happen again I believed him and welcomed him with open arms.
In December 2017, I got home from work and found Tom in the kitchen.
Before I could realise what he was up to, he dropped to one knee.
‘I could have done this at a restaurant or on holiday,’ he said. ‘But I wanted to do it here at our home.’
He pulled out a sparkling engagement ring.
‘Veronika, will you marry me?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ I squealed, jumping into his arms.
Tom told me how he’d asked Adam’s permission before popping the question and the three of us celebrated together.
Tom vowed to be there for us both and to step in as the father figure Adam needed.
I was blissfully happy, but it wasn’t long before the cracks in our relationship began to show and Tom became moody and jealous.
If I was at work and called Adam – before ringing Tom – he would snap and ask why I hadn’t phoned him first.
‘My son is my priority,’ I reminded him, but he didn’t like it and would get green-eyed.
He’d take it out on Adam – calling him names and nastily saying: ‘Like mother, like son’.
Tom also didn’t like me talking to any men.
One evening, when he got home, he found me in the garden – chatting to a male neighbour over the fence.
Bounding over, Tom demanded to know what was going on.
Mortified, we’d only been making small talk – but I quickly hurried inside to stop Tom making even more of a scene.
The final straw came when Tom instructed Adam to go and take a shower.
In a strop, when he hadn’t gone to the bathroom as soon as he demanded, Tom unplugged the internet to spite Adam.
Turning it back on, I told Tom: ‘He’s old enough to decide when to shower himself. You don’t need to baby him.’
But he snapped at me and said: ‘You’re undermining me.’
‘Enough is enough,’ I sighed.
I called time on our relationship in March 2018.
Tom didn’t take the break up well, but I hoped he’d move on and that he’d be out of my life for good.
I wanted to speak to his parents to understand where his erratic behaviour came from.
I went over to talk, but when Tom found out I’d been there he came over and went berserk.
Terrified, I called the police.
A non-molestation order was placed on Tom by a judge in June.
But in July, I decided to go to a charity boxing match in Stoke with some former colleagues.
As I hadn’t seen them in a few years, I booked a hotel to stay over to make a night of it.
Adam forwarded me a text he’d received from an anonymous number which read: ‘Looks like you might be getting another dad soon. Mum’s enjoying spending night with another guy. Meet men for sex and hope of a relationship, leave teenage son at home, just the same old script for the last few years. Police on the way.’
Worried, I raced straight home to check Adam was OK.
I was scared Tom was watching the house.
At 2am, I got emails from an account registered to a man called ‘Jason’, accusing me of being with another man.
One read: ‘How you can fall out of love for someone so soon is unbelievable, obviously your new man has not just happened recently it’s been going on a while’.
That same week I received a text from a ‘Kev’ accusing me of infidelity.
It was so creepy, Adam and I changed our numbers and blocked Tom’s number from our phones.
At work, I received a bouquet of flowers from an anonymous admirer – I knew it was Tom, continuing to mess with me and instantly burst into tears.
I was so distracted at work that I was eventually dismissed and could only apply for short term jobs for fear of Tom finding out where I would be and continuing to bombard me.
I became so paranoid that I set up CCTV and even changed the locks on my doors.
My car was damaged so I called police and a switched on officer checked underneath my vehicle.
When I spotted him putting on blue gloves on to remove something.
‘It’s a tracking device,’ he explained.
The contraption had been attached to my car by a magnet.
It all started to make sense.
Police began an investigation and managed to trace the purchase of the device to Tom.
Thomas Forret was arrested and in April pleaded guilty to stalking and breaching a non-molestation order at Manchester Magistrates’ Court.
He was sentenced at Crown Court on May 28th, and handed a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, plus 200 hours of unpaid work and therapy.
But despite the outcome, I still can’t get over what Tom’s put both Adam and I through.
I’m sick with terror at the thought that he’s not gone straight to jail.
He’d broken the non-molestation order – though he’d be stupid to break the restraining order in place against him, he could easily break that too.
He’s so intimidating.
When I went to court to hear the sentencing, I was in the same room as him – but I couldn’t look at him, he had that power over me.
I’ve not been able to hold down a steady job since all this began a year ago – in part because I don’t want to be anywhere long-term so he can’t track me as easily at work.
I don’t want to leave the house either.
There are times when I am scared to step outside – even in daylight
I do all of my shopping online so I don’t have to go out.
I feel like I’m back to square one – poor, worried, and everything in arrears.
I’m having difficulty sleeping and eating and I’m constantly anxious.
I’m constantly checking on Adam when he’s at school, but his attendance and concentration levels have deteriorated.
This has hit him hard, because Tom was his best friend for a time.
Worse than that, I don’t know if I can ever enter a relationship or trust a man again.
Tom said he’d not stop until I had nothing. He’s doing everything to make that the case.
Tom won’t ever quit – not until he’s won.