A cleaning company boss whose “knight in shining armour” was a devil in disguise says his violence and bullying was so extreme that she even agreed to humiliating intimate “checks” to prove she had not slept with other men.
Mum-of-three Hannah Martin, 32, had “mentally said goodbye” to her children after 18 months of coercive control and physical attacks at the hands of monster Hayden Wykes, 27, made her fear for her life.
Yet Hannah, who finally saw Wykes jailed for three years and nine months at Northampton Crown Court in January 2022, after admitting assault and coercive control, says she was tied to him “like a puppet on a string” until a three hour assault in February 2021 finally saw her sever ties for good.
Hannah, of Northampton, who was left with broken ribs, secretly reported Wykes to the police and is now campaigning for other victims of domestic violence to come forward, saying: “I just knew that I was going to die the next time and I had to protect myself. I couldn’t take anymore.
“It was a risk because if he caught me reporting him I would have been in big trouble, but I’m so glad that I did.
“I want people to know that you can make that call and you will be supported.”
She added: “I feel so empowered. I’m not scared now – not of him.
“For the first time in a long time, I’m excited for the rest of my life.”
An accomplished woman, when Hannah met Wykes – a friend of a friend – in July 2019, she was celebrating her 30th birthday with pals at a local pub and, having recently split up with her children’s dad after their love turned stale, his attention came as a welcome ego boost.
Hannah said: “We had a really nice evening chatting, drinking gin. He was lovely, he was so intelligent and so intuitive.
“He was so interested in me, which drew me in.
“But I know now he was just sussing me out to see how vulnerable I was. And I fell for it hook, line and sinker.”
A single mum, she was not expecting romance, so when Wykes, who was jobless, wanted her number, she was flattered.
She said: “I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’d just had a baby, so I thought no one would be into me. I was very insecure.
“I was the perfect candidate for him, it all makes sense.”
She added: “When he came along. I thought all my dreams were coming true. He was good with my kids, he was so attentive. He was perfect.
“And I quickly fell in love with him. I craved a family and wanted to have a wholesome and united feeling with someone.
“He gave me that. I was exhausted as a mum alongside trying to run a business, so I thought he was my knight in shining armour.”
But Hannah – who says Wykes was always at her house but did not move in – claims that within weeks he was chipping away at her confidence.
She said: “He told me I was a bad mother. He told me to clean the house and he’d tell me I didn’t know how to do my make up. He said I was fat. ”
Th real warning of what lay ahead came in August 2019, when Wykes shoved Hannah to the ground because he thought she had looked at another man.
She said: “I was hysterical. I was really upset and asked him to leave.
“I told him I didn’t want him to be at my home, but I ended up feeling sorry for him because he was playing the victim.
“He begged me to get back with him and apologised.”
She added: “I didn’t tell anyone. I was a bit embarrassed, as I’d told my family and friends about this amazing guy I’d met, but it wasn’t true.
“He made it feel like it was my fault, he twisted it all.
“He’d even tell me he wouldn’t hit me in the face, or that he’d hit me harder because I was bigger.”
She added: “But whatever he did, he always made it feel like it was my fault.
“And he wore me down until I believed him.”
A master manipulator, according to Hannah, however badly he treated her, he was brilliant with her youngest son.
She said: “Seeing Hayden with him really pulled at my heartstrings. I was a puppet on a string from day one.”
But his violent outbursts, fuelled by jealousy, continued.
He even slapped her so hard he burst her ear drum and threw her into the stairs at Christmas, alleging she had cheated on him.
After violent assaults he would gaslight her into believing she was responsible for his behaviour.
She said: “Every time he hurt me it was because of his paranoia and jealousy.
“Every time these things happened, I fell into his trap and went back to him.”
She added: “He would be so apologetic and charming that I’d believe him, as my self worth was so low. Then he’d do it again and we’d be back in the cycle.”
So possessive he would check her phone’s location settings every day and control who she spoke to, Wykes even insisted on smelling her intimate areas to make sure she had not cheated on him.
Hannah said: “His jealousy was completely insane.”
She added: “When I went to work one time he thought I was cheating. He checked my underwear. He would check everything.
“He’d check the bins for beer cans and cigarettes.
“He would smell my lower areas, leaving me feeling awful and degraded. I’m so angry with myself that I let that happen.”
She added: “But at the time, he made me feel it was normal. I was in such a low place, I didn’t have the confidence to leave.”
Then, in late 2020, fuelled by jealousy, he phoned Hannah’s neighbour thinking she had been speaking to a man, only to hang up when he heard a woman’s voice.
Concerned that it was a cry for help, the neighbour called the police and Wykes was arrested in the early hours in November 2020, after she finally told them about the pattern of abuse she was being subjected to.
She said: “My head was all over the place. I went outside and told them everything and he was arrested.
“I was just concerned about my health. But I was terrified as well that if I spoke to the police there would be terrible repercussions.
“I was so scared, I didn’t know if I had made the right decision, but I knew he had to be out of the house.”
Sadly, she did not yet have the strength to see things through.
She admitted: “I couldn’t face speaking to the police properly and all the court proceedings. It seemed easier to just go back with him.”
But it was at least a step in the right direction and she met a female police officer, who she says saved her life.
Released after 24 hours, Wykes was banned from contacting Hannah, but they rekindled their romance in secret a month later.
Hannah now says she was so worn down she felt like she “couldn’t breathe” without him.
She said: “I didn’t hear anything from him for over a month. It was me who made contact.”
“I forgot all the bad things he’d done. I was just thinking about the good times.”
For a few weeks he was “wonderful,” according to Hannah.
But the violence soon began again and this time she felt unable to tell a soul, because of their secret meetings.
Driven to the brink of suicide after another unprovoked attack in May 2021, she was so tormented she did not know which way to turn.
She said: “Bruises and bones do heal, but the mental torment drained every part of me.”
She added: “His behaviour had become so normalised that when he hit me, I’d tell myself, ‘It wasn’t that hard.'”
Things came to a head on February 21, 2021, when Wykes unleashed an unprovoked three hour assault on Hannah, breaking her ribs and beating her until she was left, nearly unconscious on their bed.
Suddenly, he stopped saying he would never do anything to hurt her.
“I tried to escape, but he took my phone and keys saying I couldn’t leave or call the police.
“He kept shouting at me, then he punched me in the ribs.”
She added: “I was screaming and I just wanted someone to help me, but he told me I was being too noisy and asked me if I wanted to be killed.
“I tried to get out of the downstairs window and that’s when he threw me over the sofa and I could feel my ribs had broken.
“I thought I was going to die, I said goodbye to everyone in my head and I thought that was it. Mentally, I said goodbye to my children.”
She added: “I’d never been so close to death. It changed me as a person.”
Realising that she would not survive the next attack, a week later she bravely contacted the police officer who had helped her before at Northamptonshire Police’s domestic violence unit in secret, begging for help.
Yet she still felt crippled by guilt, saying: “This is why it’s so hard to get away.”
She added: “After months – years for some victims – of coercive control, you feel like you’re in love with your attacker, like you can’t breathe without them.
“But I would have died if I’d stayed with him.
“I had to protect myself, for my children.”
Hannah who received the news of Wykes’ imprisonment over the phone, felt empowered when she heard his sentence.
Now she is determined to encourage other victims of domestic abuse to report their attackers, saying: “You need to have the strength to leave. I want people to know they can.
“I’m so grateful for everything in my life now. I’m always trying to look at the positive things in the world and I feel stronger.”
She added: “I don’t know what I would have done without the police officer who helped me. I feel like she’s honestly saved my life.”
Hannah, who thought she would never be able to trust a man again, has even started dating and says her new boyfriend has been her rock, as she has recovered from her ordeal.
She said: : “Hayden Wykes degraded me and knocked the confidence straight out of me. It took me months and months to look into the mirror without needing to cry.”
She added: “But I’m now in a new relationship. It’s completely unexpected, but he’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time and he is helping me to rebuild myself.
“He’s shown me what it is really like to be loved.
“No one should settle for less.”
You can follow Hannah’s story and journey on Instagram @Thesurvivaldiaries21.
The free National Domestic Abuse Helpline is on 0808 2000 247.
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