Domestic abuse: I was saturated in blood, like a horror movie scene... I still don't go out alone in case I bump into him
In the final part of the Belfast's Telegraph's week-long series highlighting the need for a tougher stance on domestic abuse, Deborah McAleese talks to a victim who suffered horrifying violence from her husband, and then saw him walk away from court with a suspended sentence
As she lay on the cold floor, drenched in her own blood, Irene Wilson's husband of 32 years walked out of the house laughing.
Moments earlier he had viciously attacked her, severing an artery in her head.
Somehow Irene managed to dial 999 for help. She was three minutes from death when police and paramedics found her.
Shockingly, her husband Scott Wilson, who pleaded guilty to the attack, walked free from court months later with a suspended sentence. Today, Irene recalls the "callousness and the coldness of that man".
"He walked out and left me to seek medical assistance myself.
"I wouldn't have left an animal like that. But thank God I survived. Thirty-two years of abuse never goes away, but I have moved on and have finally found happiness."
The Londonderry woman married Wilson, her childhood sweetheart, when she was 18 years old.
"He was my first love, my one and only boyfriend," said Irene. "I was innocent and naive. I had been raised by my grandparents in a very loving home and I thought that is the way my marriage would be. Scott had never shown any signs of aggression before.
"As I walked up the aisle with my grandfather, I looked at Scott and thought: 'I love this man to bits.' I took my wedding vows seriously. Little did I know that my marriage would end with my near-death 32 years later."
Less than one year into the marriage the abuse started.
"I remember one evening I came in from work and lit the fire and started the dinner. There was a green check shirt on the chair. He came in, and because the shirt was not ironed he threw it on the fire. He then stormed out and went to the bar. That was the start of it," Irene said.
The couple went on to have two daughters but the abuse just got worse.
"He just seemed to enjoy destroying everything. Say we went for a picnic with the girls to Portrush. He would ruin a nice day with his moods," she recalled.
"There was one Friday I forgot to get ham for sandwiches and he turned around in front of my two children and called me a 'useless whore'.
"Then there was the Christmas Eve I had the turkey sitting on the kitchen table and he came in drunk and put cigarette ash all over it and stuck matches in it.
"I used to love Christmas until I got married and then I hated it. He used to do his best to destroy it. When I look back at photographs of my children at Christmas I can see the unhappiness in their faces and it makes me want to cry."
Irene said that people in normal relationships can find it difficult to understand why an abused woman stays with her partner.
"In my marriage I lost my identity. He moulded me and made me who he wanted me to be. Abusers like him make you believe mentally that you are in the wrong. They twist things around. I didn't know where I could go. I had two children to care for, I had nobody to talk to. I had been brought up with old values, standards and morals. I am an old fashioned mum."
But on the night of Friday. October 20, 2007, Irene's life changed forever.
"Scott was working and my friend asked me if I wanted to go out with her for something to eat, so I did. After dinner we moved to the front of the bar and her husband joined us.
"I texted Scott to tell him to join us. He walked into the bar with his hands in his pockets and his eyeballs were bulging with anger. He kicked me under the table, but little did I know what was lying in store for me."
Irene recalled: "We went home and as I was walking towards the front door he grabbed me and he kicked me up and down the front garden just like a football.
"I remember getting up and somehow I managed to get in through the door. Within seconds he was standing in front of me. He lunged forward and hit me across the face and said: 'I hate you, you b*****d'".
Wilson then hit his wife with such force that her head banged off the bannisters, severing an artery.
"I went into shock and landed on the floor. It was like a scene out of a horror movie. I was saturated in blood, there was blood everywhere. I do not know to this day how I got my mobile phone, but I made a 999 call and that is all I remember until I woke up in hospital. I had to undergo specialised surgery to tie a severed artery."
While his wife was in hospital Wilson returned to the marital home, walked past the pool of blood and got into bed, where he was arrested by police later that morning.
He was originally charged with GBH with intent, but later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of GBH.
His punishment was a suspended sentence.
"The minute he walked out of court that day I was like a lamb to the slaughter," said Irene. "I was humiliated.
"He lives within walking distance of where I live. I still don't go out alone in case I bump into him. I remember bumping into him outside Tesco one day and I couldn't stop shaking," she added.
"But I got on with my life. I ended up in a Women's Aid refuge for a few months until I found a wonderful new home to go to. I have made so many friends and life is good for me at the moment. I still have recurring nightmares and am very aware of my personal safety, but I have survived and I have never been happier."