My hell as a battered MAN… by the Wales rugby hunk whose student nurse girlfriend demanded sex six times a day and humiliated him if she didn’t get it (and he was just ONE of her victims…)

On the day Gareth Jones bravely took to the witness box to detail the appalling campaign of abuse he had suffered at the hands of his former girlfriend, student nurse Sarah Rigby, he received a text message from one of her many long-term partners.

‘That must have been hard,’ it read. ‘Now I know that what she did to you was exactly the same as what she did to me. Even the toothpaste and Listerine.’

Those present in Chester Crown Court last month were horrified to hear an emotional Gareth, 40, talk of how the remorseless Rigby, 41, who is a mother of six, subjected her boyfriend to a barrage of humiliation that ranged from forcing him to swallow toothpaste and mouthwash, frisking him as he left the house, restricting what he ate and preventing him from showering or using the toilet at home.

Gareth Jones was subjected to a barrage of humiliation that ranged from forcing him to swallow toothpaste and mouthwash, frisking him as he left the house, restricting what he ate and preventing him from showering or using the toilet at home

They also heard how she attacked him with a glass candle holder scarring the bridge of his nose, kicked, bit, scratched and clawed at him, controlled his finances and made him sleep on the floor without a duvet when he was unable to satisfy her sexual needs. She would verbally abuse him too, calling him a ‘fat whale’.

There were numerous vile texts and numerous demands for sex. ‘She wanted sex all the time — five, six times a day,’ he tells me, talking for the first time about her reign of terror.

‘Even when I was trying to work [from home as a project manager for the NHS] she’d say, “No you can’t go on a meeting right now because we need to have sex,” ’ he says.

‘The police said this was one of the worst cases of coercive control because of the speed of it,’ Gareth says. ‘We now know she’d been practising and perfecting her craft for years.’

Two previous partners had offered to give evidence for the prosecution about her relentless abuse. However, further testimony was no longer required when Rigby changed her plea from not guilty to guilty.

Gareth says Rigby even showed him a picture of a suicide note a third boyfriend of hers had

written, though the reasons for his suicide are not clear.

Gareth Jones with Sarah Rigby in 2021 on an I'm a Celebrity event - but Gareth's smile masked constant fear of what fresh torments his then girlfriend would inflict on him

Gareth Jones with Sarah Rigby in 2021 on an I’m a Celebrity event – but Gareth’s smile masked constant fear of what fresh torments his then girlfriend would inflict on him

In truth, Gareth knows he’s blessed to have emerged from this toxic relationship. For he admits that when their relationship did eventually end, at first he wanted nothing more than to ‘walk into the traffic and die’.

Two years of psychotherapy followed and, today, he remains on anti-anxiety medication. It is why he is giving this interview in his mother Diane and stepfather John’s home.

Diane, a generous-hearted woman, has been to hell and back these past three years.

She couldn’t sleep for worrying and regularly pleaded with Gareth to leave Rigby, who called her a ‘vile interfering witch’ by text.

‘We kept saying this is wrong. You have to leave, but that’s easier said than done.

‘Even when he came home and was suicidal he’d say, “It’s not really her fault. I need to tell her I’m sorry I went to the police. I need to help her.”

‘She looked like a little china doll — a butter-wouldn’t-melt type — but she was evil.

‘We now know he wasn’t alone. She is a serial abuser.’

Gareth says he will ‘always be mentally and emotionally scarred’, confessing that he feels ‘nervous’ sharing the terrible detail of their nine-month relationship given the stigma associated with male victims of domestic violence. But he is determined to give this interview as a warning to other men.

‘My friends and family say, “Why didn’t you leave earlier?” But you get sucked in and it’s as if you’re in a kind of spell.

‘I can now see the red flags were there from the start. If this interview helps even one person recognise the signs and get out of an abusive relationship before it’s too late, I’m happy.’

Gareth, a keen rugby player who in his youth played for Wales, was sociable, single and in a well-paid job as a project manager for the NHS when he met Rigby on online dating site Plenty of Fish in June 2021.

After recently coming out of a two-and-a-half year relationship, Gareth hoped to meet someone with whom he could start a family. Rigby told him she wanted the same as they messaged for two weeks.

‘She also told me she was 33. It turns out she was 39. She told me she owned the [detached five-bedroom] house. She didn’t. It was in her father’s name.

‘She’d send pictures of her and the children in the paddling pool. She had five then but she didn’t tell me in the beginning there was more than one father.’

When he met her on their first date in July at a restaurant, he tells me his first reaction was, ‘Wow’. ‘She was wearing a nice dress. I think it was red, low- cut. Towards the end of the meal she was holding my hand. We had a kiss.’

They ended up in bed after the second date. ‘She became more and more affectionate. You think, “Oh my God, how can this beautiful lady be so enamoured with me?”

‘She looked like a little china doll — a butter-wouldn’t-melt type — but she was evil,' says Gareth of his ex, Sarah

‘She looked like a little china doll — a butter-wouldn’t-melt type — but she was evil,’ says Gareth of his ex, Sarah

‘She kept saying, “I really want this to work out. I know you’ll be a great dad.” It’s probably her being so affectionate that sucked me in. I now know that’s one of the biggest flags — love bombing — but you take everything at face value.’

As the weeks went by, she began to confide in him about a difficult childhood and abusive relationships. Everything was always someone else’s fault.

‘She’d say, “Men have always been monsters towards me.” You’d think, “Why would another man want to treat her like that?” It made me want to be there for her more.’

Gareth was besotted, despite his mother’s warning to ‘take things slowly’.

Then the gaslighting started.

‘She was having a hard time, so I booked a week in Spain. Two days before, she said she didn’t want to go. I said, “I can’t go on my own I’ll have to cancel.” She said, “Go ahead.”

‘The following week she said, “You know what, Gareth? I don’t think this is going to work. I’ve got too many other things going on in my life.”

I said, “What do you mean? Everything’s fine between us.”

‘She said she needed to focus on her children and didn’t need a man.’ By that stage they had been dating for a month. Gareth says he felt ‘dejected because everything was going so well’ but accepted the relationship was over. He wishes now with all his heart it had been.

‘A day or two later she messaged saying, “Maybe I made a mistake. Sorry. I get these mood swings from time to time. I should have told you before. I think I was wrong in what I said. I’m sorry I decided not to go on holiday at the last minute but if you want to give us another chance, come over.’

Gareth did. Within weeks, she had put him on a diet consisting largely of salad and fruit and asked him to explore the possibility of having a hair transplant.

When he tried to stand up to her, she’d threaten to go back on the dating app, telling him he was ‘lucky’ to have her. ‘It’s like you’re in a trance,’ he says. Gareth shakes his head. It’s taken two years of therapy to help him realise the extent to which Rigby was already exerting control.

Take the trip to London in October 2021 that was part of the evidence in court.

‘We stayed at a hotel that was £3,000 for the weekend and did the Tower of London, The Shard. I paid. Then she wanted to go to Harrods,’ he says. ‘We were walking out of the shop and she said, “We’re not leaving this store until you buy me something expensive.” She grabbed me by the arm digging in her nails until I bled.

‘She said, ‘If you don’t buy me the bag I want, I’ll go back on the app and see who’s in the vicinity. I’m sure there’s plenty of men who’ll have me round this evening.’ Gareth bought her a £400 Marc Jacobs bag and a £600 Balmain dress. She wore the same bag on her arm at Chester Crown Court. ‘After we came back, she said, “You really showed me this weekend that you’re the one. I really, definitely do love you. You’re spending more and more time with me. There’s no point paying [rent] on a place you’re hardly using. Why don’t you move in?”’

Gareth boxed up his belongings from his flat in Crewe and moved into her home in Winsford, Cheshire. It was little more than three months after their first date.

Sarah Rigby pictured outside court

Sarah Rigby pictured outside court 

‘That’s when it all went rapidly downhill,’ he says. ‘When I got there she said, “You’re not keeping all those boxes in the house.”

‘Then she said, “You’ve been spending the majority of your time here so you owe me back rent. I want you to pay me £700 a month moving forward and £1,400 for the last two months.” She said, “I’m a student nurse and you’re the money source. If you’re living with me now these are the rules you abide by. I said, “OK, can I have a key?” She said, “No.” I asked how I was supposed to come and go. She said, “When I come and go.”

‘When I said I didn’t like that, she said, “There’s the door, but if you walk out through it, I’ll go to the police right now and tell them you raped me. Who do you think they’re going to believe?” I knew then that this was not good.’

Fast forward four months and Gareth was not even allowed to shower in the house without disinfecting it after. He had to walk the streets when she was not in or if she was entertaining other men.

‘If I couldn’t perform, that’s when I was made to sleep on the floor with no covers on and the window open as a punishment or I’d get kicked in the ribs at night. Periodically, she’d kick me out.’

There were constant abusive texts. He shows me and, looking at them, you wonder how on earth he held on to his sanity. His mother worried he wouldn’t.

‘He was losing so much weight and was depressed,’ says Diane. ‘I remember seeing bruises on his arms. I asked, “Does she hit you?” Gareth said, “She hasn’t done for a while.” I thought, “Oh God.” ’

Gareth finally contacted the ManKind Initiative, a charity which supports male victims of domestic violence

Gareth finally contacted the ManKind Initiative, a charity which supports male victims of domestic violence

The final straw came in March 2022 when Gareth had arranged in secret to meet his mum for a coffee. ‘I’d taken a packet of crips from the drawer. Sarah sent me a text using the c-word and saying, “No food for you tonight”.

‘Mum saw that message and broke down in tears. I thought, I can’t put my family through this.’

The following day, he contacted the ManKind Initiative, a charity which supports male victims of domestic violence. ‘They said, “These are all the signs of domestic abuse. Get a grab bag and leave.”

‘The next morning I went upstairs and she said, “Where are you off to, fatty?” I said was going to brush my teeth but got my passport from where I knew she’d hidden it and stuck it down my pants. I had my laptop bag and went to the back door.

‘She’d frisk me when I left the house, so I opened the bag and showed her there was nothing there except for my laptop. I told her I was going to the library.

‘I walked round the corner, rang Mum and said, “I’m out.” I rang the police straight afterwards.

‘They arrested her at 3am and kept her in for 12 hours. After that, because your brain becomes conditioned, I thought, “I shouldn’t be doing this.” I sent her some money and said, “Let’s just meet up, sit down and talk. I just want you to get some help. Give me my belongings back and we’ll just go our separate ways.” She reported me for harassment and had me arrested and locked up.’

Such is Rigby’s malevolence she contacted his workplace alleging he was a rapist. ‘She nearly cost me the job,’ says Gareth. ‘Thank God I’d kept all the evidence and forwarded some of her texts to Mum.

‘The police have told me she tried to twist everything in her interview, trying to convince them I was the monster.’

Charges were dropped against Gareth in September 2022. He threw himself into work and has since been promoted.

In contrast, Rigby moved on to another man and fell pregnant. She has now been given a 20-month suspended sentence and a restraining order not to contact Gareth or his parents for five years.

Understandably, Gareth feels they should have locked her up.

‘I think if it was a man it would probably be a different outcome,’ he says. ‘It seems if you’re a female abuser and you commit the atrocities I’ve experienced you can get away with things. It’s important we turn the narrative around.’

For confidential support, call ManKind on 0808 800 1170. Or see for details.