A BRAVE woman has told of her horror after learning her boyfriend had a secret 17-year history of domestic violence.
Sarah Jane Blair, 44, from Dundee, thought Derek McLaren, 52, was the "perfect" man when she met him in 2013.
The law student was stunned when he became controlling, mentally manipulative and, in the end, physically abusive.Sarah was ten stunned to learn she wasn't his only victim – McLaren had actually abused three of his partners. One so horrifically injured that she miscarried.
Here, Sarah shares her story with Fabulous Digital…
I was a law student with my own flat and a happy life when I met Derek at my local pub around six years ago. He seemed perfect, kind and caring; I was well and truly smitten.
I thought little of giving up my home three months later when I moved in with him, but almost instantly it was like a switch inside him had been flicked.
My happy-go-lucky man was replaced with someone much darker. Cracks appeared instantly.
If I mentioned I was going to the shops he would question why. If I passed a man in the street – a complete stranger – Derek reacted furiously.
I moved in with him, but almost instantly it was like a switch inside him had been flicked
'You've slept with him,' he would shout at me. Anything would set him off.
Later he would apologise and we would get back together. However, a few days later it would be the same.
I didn't realise it at the time but he controlled everything I did. I was too scared to even call my family. He bullied me and because I was so downtrodden by him I felt like I deserved it.
Eight months after we met he became violent. One day, after coming in from drinking, he told me leave.
He started to pack my bags and, picking up my hairdryer from my bed, he threw it at me.
Although I wasn't badly hurt it was a wake-up call. I left him and called the council for help. They found me temporary accommodation in a homeless shelter. It was horrendous.
That night I cried myself to sleep. I couldn't believe I had ended up homeless and jobless. But, even though he was the one who had bullied me, I blamed myself.
As Derek rained down brutal blows and I cowered on the floor, I believed he was going to kill me
For three months, I stayed there but he wormed his way back in. He told me nothing like that would happen again and I believed him. I was wrong.
The violence started up again almost instantly. He would beat me regularly, going from kind to furious in an instant – a Jekyll and Hyde character.
On one occasion in summer 2016 Derek hurled a picture frame at me and I fell to the floor, I scrambled to call the police. Then I braced myself.
As Derek rained down brutal blows and I cowered on the floor, I believed he was going to kill me. He grabbed my neck, repeatedly pulled my hair and kicked my body.
Where can you get help?
You don't have to suffer in silence.
If you are experiencing domestic violence or someone you know is there are groups that can help.
Refuge runs a free, 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247
Or visit the website.
Or contact Women’s Aid.
I screamed as he threw me to the floor again and again, chucked things at me and pushed me against the wall.
So when I heard police sirens, I wept with relief. Derek was arrested and bundled out but I was convinced he’d be released in a matter of weeks and come back for me.
So what police revealed days later, shocked me to the core.
Derek’s campaign of domestic violence spanned over 17 years, after he’d attacked three previous partners before me.
I was horrified. I’d had no idea – I’d always thought I was the only one. I’d never had started a relationship with him if I’d known the truth of his dark past.
Police told me they needed my statement to convict him. As I was Derek’s most recent victim, my testimony was crucial and I was determined to never let him hurt another woman again.
I helped the police with all their enquiries and in July 2017, Derek admitted assaulting four women between 1999 and 2016 and was jailed for 10 years, the maximum that can be imposed at a sheriff court.
I was horrified. I’d had no idea – I’d always thought I was the only one
The court was told he attacked one woman so viciously she miscarried.
I was so relieved as he was jailed for such a long time – and proud that I was the one to finally bring Derek’s reign of terror to an end.
All four of his victims went to court to see him jailed – his face was white as a sheet as he saw us all there.
How can I find out if my partner has a history of violence?
Also known as Domestic Violence Closure Scheme, Clare's Law is intended to provide information that could protect someone from being a victim of attack.
The scheme allows the police to disclose information on request about a partner's previous history of domestic violence or violent acts.
If you have concerns about your partner's background, you can apply for disclosure by going to the police.
You can visit your local station in person, call 101 or speak to an officer on the street.
Once you've made contact, the police may invite you in for a chat to put in the application.
And I beamed as Judge Alistair Brown called him a "drunken boor" and an "animal".
Afterwards I went to the pub with his other victims – or as I think of us survivors – and shared our stories. "We did it together," I smiled.
Now I am still in touch with some of the girls. Best of all, I have a new job and a flat. I can't believe he made me homeless and doubting myself.
Happily, the monster is behind bars now, where he belongs, and I’m finally free.
A shocking report found 10 per cent of domestic abuse victims are being forced to sleep rough after being refused emergency accommodation.
Mum-of-one Devon Brown, 26, from Wigan endured months of controlling behaviour at the hands of her jealous ex.
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