Like many, my life hasn’t been an easy one. When l was 48, l lost my husband to bowel cancer. He had suffered for four years. He passed away in a hospice in 2002. My two sons were left with no father. At the time, they were 17 years old and 20 years old. My eldest son was preparing to leave university and tried to deal with his grief by traveling. My younger son was turning 18 and about to set off for university. He’d been extremely close to his father. He went to university, but on graduating in 2006, he had a mental breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric unit in Bristol. He’d been arrested by the police for odd behavior in the hospital grounds, where his mates had dropped him off. I shall never forget him naked in a police cell, destroying his glasses before my eyes. These two life episodes obviously had a significant impact on us all.

In 2010, l retired from my teaching post and began supporting my elderly parents. My father was suffering from dementia, and my mother had poor mobility. With support, l could keep them in their bungalow until they both passed away in 2017, within three months of each other. It was a harrowing time. Also, l lost my sister on the operating table in 2013 when she suffered a pulmonary embolism at the age of 54 years.

After my husband passed away, l was on my own for nine years, but in 2011, I met Ron, and we became a couple. We were happy together. However, in 2014, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This was a journey we took together. Having done it once, it was heartbreaking to see history repeating itself. By 2018, Ron’s health was really deteriorating. In 2019, he was on chemo tablets, and by 2020, he had two nephrostomy bags (his kidneys had packed up). COVID had started, and l learned how to change these bags regularly to avoid nurses coming and going from the house. By 2021, he was on complete chemo, and the cancer had spread to his bowel. He had to have a stomach bag. He passed away in January 2022. I kept him at home till the last five days of his death. This has been a journey l wouldn’t want anyone to have to deal with.

So, come 2022, l was mourning Ron’s death, and I missed him. Along with everything else I’d dealt with, l was bereft. Looking back, my sons gave me little support. Ron was not their father. As time passed, I felt that life couldn’t get any worse, but it did.

2023 has been awful. In March of 2023, my daughter-in-law asked me how l was feeling, and l remember saying l was feeling lonely, but l didn’t feel alone. What l should have said was that l was feeling bloody awful. I needed help. I wanted to be loved; l wanted someone to put their arms around me and say everything would be okay. I needed support. So she asked me, ‘Why don’t you think about joining a dating site?’ And this is how it began!

On March 22nd, she put me on ‘Ourtime,’ and by March 31st, someone had made contact with me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I was so vulnerable; l wasn’t ready for dating, and l was still grieving. We emailed for a month but didn’t meet, then he suggested WhatsApp, and we did that. He phoned me, but we never FaceTimed.

I was so naive; l was out of my depth from the start. I was completely groomed in a very sophisticated manner. I was made to feel loved and desired, to be wanted.   Suddenly, out of the blue, he told me he was going to Dubai on business, but he would be back in July. He was securing broadcasting and video equipment ( he was supposed to be a procurement consultant). However, something else got in the way whenever he was going to return. The supposed contract could only be completed if he could secure the funds to have it shipped, and this is where l offered my help  (what a fool, what was l thinking of?). I was usually so sensible. Why had l agreed to this? He had worked on me so well; he knew the buttons to press. He sent me songs and the most wonderful messages. I was living in ‘his universe’. To me, he was ‘real,’ and l had to get him back from Dubai. It became like a mission.

It started with a ‘loan’ of £11,500; in the end, he scammed me out of £300,000. I’m ashamed, embarrassed. I loathe myself. I was entrusted with something for future generations, BUT l have lost more than money. I’ve lost two sons and five grandchildren.