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‘It was an act of the utmost cruelty, designed to destroy my life for his personal gain’

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Mark Acklom was today jailed for five years and eight months after pleading guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from Carolyn Woods in a complex romance fraud.

Below is her Victim Personal Statement which was read out in court.

“Mark Acklom acted deliberately, and in the most calculated, pre-meditated way, to defraud me of all my money and nearly all my personal possessions, and to deprive me of my home and my job, thereby rendering me totally helpless and at his mercy.  He also deliberately isolated me from my family and friends, and played psychological games to deceive me and engender a sense of fear in me. It was an act of the utmost cruelty, designed to destroy my life for his personal gain.

“My life, as I knew it, has indeed been destroyed, and it has only been the love of my two daughters that has prevented me from ending it completely. They, too, have been deeply affected by what has happened to me.  I have felt condemned to a life that I don’t want and I grieve for the life I once had. Initially, when I discovered the truth I was in shock.  I could not think more than about ten minutes ahead.  I literally concentrated my mind on trying to get through the next ten minutes.  The simplest things would take an inordinate amount of time to do.  Indeed during the first few months it took me about four hours to get up in the morning.

“I have suffered total financial ruin.  In an attempt to keep going and keep paying the bills I used up all my savings and cashed in my pension.  I have borrowed money from friends and am left in debt and have been hounded by utility companies and debt collection agencies.  All my life, until my involvement with Mark Acklom, my finances were well organised.  I always budgeted and paid my bills on time.  I was able to enjoy a good social life and a variety of interests. I have always taken a pride in my personal presentation but without any means this too has become impossible and has contributed to a loss of pride and added to my depression.  Now my life is restricted to little more than survival.

“I have suffered the total loss of all my security and independence.  I was brought up to be self-reliant and to take responsibility for myself. I have always loved my home and valued my independence. Since April 2012 I have suffered terrible homesickness and I have found it an enormous strain not to have anywhere that I can call home.  I also hate being financially dependent on my daughters and a few close friends.

“I have suffered sexual and emotional violation that has resulted in a loss of pride and self-worth.  Initially, when I discovered the truth, I felt bereaved.  It was as though the man I fell in love with had died.  What I had to get my head around was the fact that the man I fell in love with never actually existed; he was the fictitious creation of Mark Acklom. I have felt deeply betrayed and have suffered a loss of identity.

The wedding dress Carolyn Woods bought thinking she would marry Acklom
The wedding dress Carolyn Woods bought thinking she would marry Acklom

“On a practical level I have tried my best to get a job but I have suffered a debilitating loss of confidence and often find it very difficult to concentrate.  At the end of 2013 I did manage to secure a job interview but unfortunately I was not successful.  The elation I felt at being offered an interview was equalled by the despair I felt at not getting the job.  I find that I am very emotional and prone to mood swings, much of the time struggling with feelings of deep depression.  I have suffered from both agoraphobia and claustrophobia, sometimes feeling too frightened to go out and at other times feeling terrified of being trapped.  I have suffered terrifying panic attacks when I have been unable to breath and have felt my heart racing and a terrible weight on my chest.  I also suffer from insomnia and often feel intensely lonely.  Physically I feel as though I have aged a good fifteen years. A doctor I saw in the summer of 2013 told me I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“People I know well think of me as a strong person. I used to be happy, confident and sociable but I now find it very difficult to trust anyone and have become reclusive.  I am unable to function normally and lack energy, often becoming exhausted at the slightest physical or mental effort.  I have a fear of being watched and followed and don’t want anyone to know where I am or what I am doing.  I live in fear.  My world has shrunk to almost nothing and I feel totally messed up inside.  Along with everything else I feel I have lost myself.

“Emotional and psychological wounds are not obvious in the way that physical wounds are and it is in my nature to put on a brave face.  However, if the assault I have suffered had been physical I would look as though I had been beaten to a pulp.  Psychologically and emotionally that is what has happened to me.

“I was brought up to treat people as I would wish to be treated myself, and believe some of my strengths of character to be kindness, generosity, loyalty, dependability and stoicism.  I stand by what I believe to be right and am true to my word.  Unfortunately I feel that in the relationship I had with Mark Acklom my strengths were used against me and contributed to my downfall.  I feel a tremendous sense of injustice and I can only hope that, in the course of time, justice will prevail and that the perpetrator of this assault against my very being will be punished accordingly, and stopped from destroying any more lives in the way in which he has destroyed mine.”