Chrissy Handy was a divorced mother-of-three when she fell for a man called Alexander.
As the smart businessman love bombed her with flowers, romantic messages and exciting plans for their future, Chrissy became so smitten that she even had a child with him.
However, what she didn’t know was that she had actually fallen in love with a serial conman called Marc Hatton, who would go on to fleece her for £565,000 and eventually end up in jail for fraud.
Here, in Metro’s exclusive serialisation of her gripping real-life story, Seduced by a Sociopath, Chrissy describes the moment that the wife of Hatton’s brother first raised the alarm – and how her life suddenly came tumbling down.
The words Anna said made my stomach drop to the floor.
‘I hope you’re not financially involved with Alexander.’
Before I had even had a chance to answer, my sister-in-law Anna was talking, telling me that my partner Alexander was a serial fraudster who had defrauded an Italian woman called Barbara, and even swindled his brother Mason.
While she didn’t go into details, according to her, Barbara had been another victim who had discovered the truth after Alexander had fled from Italy. He had also stayed for a time with Mason and Anna in Nottingham and repaid their hospitality by stealing Mason’s identity.
Mason and Anna only discovered the ruse after realising that they had gone several weeks without receiving any post. After weeks of trying to get to the bottom of it all, they discovered that Alexander had diverted their mail in order to access his fraudulently acquired credit cards, running up a debt of several thousand pounds.
I could barely take it in. I was panic-stricken, my mind racing as I tried to keep it all in.
I remember thinking that I had to stay calm, that to lose control would achieve nothing. I can’t remember how the conversation ended; I only recall saying that as she was already due to come for coffee the next day, she could tell me more face to face.
I just wanted to get off the phone, for Anna to stop talking and filling my mind with that madness.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, but I couldn’t handle what she was saying. It was too big, too overwhelming. I spent a sleepless night tossing and turning, watching the clock go round.
Could it be true that the man with whom I had spent three years of my life, and with whom I had a son, was a fraudster? If so, had he stolen from me? I told myself it couldn’t be possible – that the father of my child couldn’t possibly do that to me.
The next day, Anna arrived with her girls. The atmosphere was peculiar – I didn’t really want to hear what she had to say, but I knew I had to, and Anna was more than willing to fill in what she saw as the gaps in my knowledge.
She told me that as well as what had happened with Barbara, Alexander had been in prison in Bournemouth for defrauding a local businessman and then sent to Finland to serve a sentence there for fraudulent activity. ‘I think he had only been out of prison a matter of months when you met him,’ she told me.
I couldn’t take it in. My brain wouldn’t let me – it was too big, too horrible. I only knew that I couldn’t be hysterical, that I needed to remain calm. I also knew that I didn’t want to share my own financial situation with Anna, who was desperately trying to work out what my circumstances were. ‘Have you given him any money, Chrissy?’ she asked me more than once.
More than anything I needed to talk to Alexander, although I didn’t know where he was. Once Anna left – begging me to look after myself – I must have picked up the phone a dozen times, only to put it down again. I needed to speak to him face to face and I couldn’t trust myself not to alert him to the fact that I wanted to confront him with something.
I spent the following day trying to wrap my head around the scale of the pit I may have fallen into, only for equally shocking news to follow: my sister Di rang to say my mum was in hospital with a suspected heart attack. It was horrible news, but it gave me one slice of clarity – I needed to park what was going on, get in the car and drive out of Cheltenham to my childhood home.
I spent the next couple of days back home in Flintshire. Thankfully Mum’s condition stabilised and as August drew to a close I headed back to Cheltenham, feeling confusion descend again as I tried to reconcile what I had been told with what I wanted to believe. I was just five miles away from home when my phone rang.
It was Alexander. I told him what Anna had said about him and asked what I was meant to make of it, at which point he started shouting. ‘For God’s sake, Chrissy, we all warned you!’ he bellowed. ‘She’s poison. She loves nothing more than to spread her lies.’
I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to believe that she was a liar. Even though it was horrible to think that someone might deliberately try to upset me, it was easier than contemplating the idea that Anna might be telling the truth. Because it couldn’t be true, what she’d said about Alexander. Could it?
I still had my doubts, of course, and decided to do my own research, googling Alexander’s names – and variations of it – several times, only to find nothing. While a few journalists had joined all the dots, the couple of newspaper articles that had been written about some of his exploits hadn’t gone online at that stage.
At the time, I found this lack of information reassuring – if he really had done all the things Anna told me he had, then surely there would have been some mention of him somewhere?
I knew I needed to speak to Alexander properly about it. I hadn’t actually seen him since Anna had dropped her bombshell, although we had spoken several times since that frantic snatched phone conversation in the car, and I had made it clear we needed to speak face to face.
The opportunity came a couple of days later, when Alexander came for dinner. By then he had already been laying the groundwork for more excuses. He claimed he was under tremendous pressure because a business deal had gone wrong, and that he now had reason to suspect that an ex had accessed his bank account and had been stealing his money.
‘I don’t want you to worry, Chrissy – your money is safe – but I have got a million things going on at the moment; I am just trying so hard to keep so many plates spinning.’ I quizzed him as hard as I could. Why, I asked him, would Anna tell me these things? Were any of them remotely true?
‘Chrissy,’ he told me, holding my hands. ‘I know we’ve had some tricky times, but do you honestly think I could lie to the mother of my son about this? I don’t know why Anna is behaving like this, other than because she is jealous.’
Even as our relationship – and his lies – were starting to unravel, the gaslighting was still apparently working.
Nonetheless, one thing was becoming abundantly clear: I needed money, and fast. My once-healthy bank account was down to the last few thousand, and with my rent amounting to nearly £2,000 a month it wasn’t going to last long. Christmas was coming too, and while I never went overboard on presents, I had four kids to buy for and it all mounted up.
‘I’ve been patient, Alexander, and I’ve had enough of your excuses,’ I told him
Things came to a head on a bleak, rainy November morning. I’d woken up with a terrible headache, and with a sick feeling in my stomach. I don’t know what made me do it, but I decided I needed to catch Alexander on the hop.
I got in my car and drove to his house where, after knocking on the door and seeing his surprised face at finding me on his doorstep, I asked him for partial repayment of my money.
‘I’ve been patient, Alexander, and I’ve had enough of your excuses,’ I told him. ‘There must be some way you can get access to my investments.’
What he said in reply took my breath away.
‘F*** off, b*tch,’ he said, before slamming the door in my face. I couldn’t believe it. The veneer had slipped for the first time, and in the most horrible way. This was an entirely different side to the man I loved, and I could barely stomach it. I drove home, my mind a whirlwind and my stomach churning.
By the time I arrived home, an email was waiting for me, addressed to ‘Darling Chrissy’. He said that he was too embarrassed to call me, but he needed to say how sorry he was.
‘It is no excuse,’ he wrote. ‘But I am under so much pressure and to have more piled on me by the woman I love was too much.’ He asked if I could forgive him, but I wasn’t ready to reply to him yet.
I had no idea that this would be the last time Marcus would see his father
I sat in the kitchen, my head in my hands, until the key turned in the lock and he came in carrying a huge bouquet of flowers. ‘Chrissy, I am so very sorry,’ he said, wrapping his arms around me from behind as I sat at the kitchen table. ‘I promise you that before the month is out you will have your money.’
What followed can only be described as endless days of buying time. He came over to the house with his laptop, pulling up graphs that showed my investments were climbing. ‘If we give it one more week, then that could literally make a difference of £10,000 in terms of what we can get out,’ he told me.
On 13 November he came over for a cup of tea, and as he sat with our son Marcus on his lap, he announced that he was flying to Switzerland the next day to get my money sorted. ‘In a couple of days, you will have nothing to worry about, Chrissy – and remember, this is only the tip of the iceberg.’
I had no idea that this would be the last time Marcus would see his father other than on a photograph or via a newspaper report. It was also the last time Alexander would be in my house. A week later, after days of ignoring my increasingly frantic phone calls asking where he – and my money – was, he arrived unannounced on my doorstep, but he didn’t come in.
After backing his car onto the drive he came to the side door, and what he said made me realise once and for all that we no longer had a relationship of any kind.
‘I’ve got a lot of problems, Chrissy,’ he said. ‘I think it might be a good idea if you stop renting and go and live with Clive for a while until I sort all this out.’
I was flabbergasted, because those words told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t care for me at all: there he was, asking the mother of his son, the woman to whom he had pledged his eternal devotion, to move back in, not with her mum, or a sister, but with her ex-husband.
Now I wonder why he said it at all and didn’t just disappear altogether without a goodbye. Was it a tiny last-minute prick of conscience? A bid to help me extricate myself from my rental obligations? I can only speculate.
What was clear was that I was being dumped. ‘What about my money?’ I asked as he walked back to the car. ‘You’ll get your money,’ he said, without even glancing back. I shouted at him, asking where he was going as he climbed into the driver’s seat, but he didn’t reply. Seconds later he was gone.
I went back into the house and sat down, stunned beyond belief. The last three and a half years had been an emotional rollercoaster, which had given me both a beautiful son and dreams of a new life, but also more drama and upset than I could ever have envisaged – and it had all come to this: a doorstep exchange in which the man I had once loved passionately had suggested I go back to my former husband.
It was clear this was the end, but what did this mean for my future? Anna’s words were now once more ringing in my ears.
The next day, I walked into Cheltenham Police Station and said I needed to speak to someone about a possible fraud.
Seduced by a Sociopath by Chrissy Handy with Kathryn Knight (HarperElement, £8.99) is out now.
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