ITV weather presenter Ruth Dodsworth has said she “wouldn’t be here now in any shape or form” had her children not warned her against returning home to her abusive ex-husband.
The mother-of-two said her worried children said “don’t come home, he’s going to kill you” after they witnessed their father Jonathan Wignall drinking heavily and harassing their mother with calls and texts.
Wignall, 54, was jailed for three years and given a restraining order last week following a nine-year campaign of controlling behaviour, harassment and stalking the ITV Wales presenter during their marriage.
It included cutting her off from family and friends, accusing her of having affairs, using her fingerprint to access her phone while she was asleep, turning up at her places of work, and following her to the bathroom to stand outside.
She later discovered Wignall had fitted a tracking device to her car which he would sometimes use to follow her.
Speaking to ITV’s This Morning programme on Wednesday, Ms Dodsworth, 45, said the situation had escalated in October 2019 when Wignall began phoning her hundreds of times a day asking her who she was with.
She said: “That particular day he’d started drinking earlier in the day. By the time my children got home from school they were phoning me saying ‘Mum, don’t come home. Don’t come home. He’s going to kill you’.
“And I think, for me, that was a turning point.
“I didn’t go home that night, because I think if I had I wouldn’t be here now in any shape or form.”
She said Wignall, who she has now divorced, had left their family destitute by secretly spending all their savings and accruing debts in his ex-wife’s name.
“I lived the Instagram life. I had a beautiful home, or so I thought, a beautiful car, beautiful children,” she said.
But the home Wignall had convinced her they owned was in fact only rented, and debts of hundreds of thousands of pounds had built up in her name leaving her unable to get a mortgage or even take out a credit card.
“I’ve worked for 25 years, every single day for ITV. And I have, apart from a very small pension, nothing to show for it,” she said.
Ms Dodsworth said it took confiding in a friend about her then-husband’s behaviour for them then to convince her to contact the police.
“I was married to this man for 18 years, and I think sometimes within a marriage itself at first you try to make it work,” she said.
“You think, ‘OK that’s happened, let’s move on’. And you make excuses, you try to reason, you try to justify.
“You plaster this smile on your face. Life isn’t always as it seems, especially in a job like ours were there’s an expectation that you smile and you’re happy. And sometimes that couldn’t have been further from the truth.”
She added: “Looking back on it now, I can see the signs were there. We were happy, but there were moments where his temper became obvious, at first towards other people.
“As things started to fall down elsewhere, his business went through financial difficulties, I very much became the focus of his temper, his anger.”
At Wignall’s sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Daniel Williams told him he was a “fantasist with a fragile ego” which made him “an unrepentant, possessive bully”.
Ms Dodsworth said the details of the case becoming public had been “the best thing in hindsight that’s ever happened” and urged others in the same situation to ask for help.
“As hard as it is, just ask. Because I look back now and wish I’d done so sooner.
“I would not be here, I wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t asked for help.”
She added: “Not being believed was something I was really frightened of. But I was believed, and I would say to anybody, you will be believed too.”