'˜What he has done to me will haunt me for the rest of my life'
A bar worker has spoken out about her ordeal at the hands of her abusive boyfriend following his conviction for assaulting her.
Nathan Lightowler subjected Natasha Wilcock to an attack which lasted three-and-a-half hours at her home, during which he attempted to throttle her.
The 26-year-old, of Maxwell Grove, Bispham, admitted two offences of assaulting Miss Wilcock. He denied a further offence of assault but was found guilty after a trial.
He was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months by Blackpool magistrates.
The court heard Lightowler threatened to kill and stab his girlfriend several times and called her obscene names repeatedly.
On May 6 he pinned her up against a door and pushed his hand against her throat.
On May 14 he subjected her to a late-night attack which lasted three-and-a-half hours at her home in the Stanley Park area of Blackpool.
He repeatedly grabbed her by the throat and choked her until she could not breath.
During an earlier incident on April 10, they argued at a nightspot and he pinched and gouged her thigh with his fist leaving a nasty bruise.
Speaking after the conviction, Miss Wilcock said when Lightowler tried to strangle her she thought she was going to die.
The couple had started seeing each other last Christmas after meeting at the Washington Pub on Topping Street where they both worked as bar staff.
She said: “The abuse was verbal and emotional at first. He was always putting me down and controlling me, and making me feel he was the only person I needed.
“I never retaliated to the arguments as it would just have been worse, so I just sat there and took it.
“When he put his hands round my neck I thought I was going to die at one point.
“I managed to fight him off. My dad was in the house asleep and I managed to shout for him and he came to help me.” Despite reporting the attack to the police, Miss Wilcock admits she did carry on seeing Lightowler until the abuse eventually became too much to bear.
She said: “People can’t understand why you go back, but when you are in an abusive relationship you think you love that person and you want to go back to them.
“You are scared to leave and your thoughts are muddled with different emotions.
“You think you can give them another chance.”
After finally ending the relationship, and giving evidence in court, Miss Wilcock felt she had to speak out in order to encourage other victims to report violence.
She said: “I was thinking about what could have happened to me if I had stayed with him.
“I wanted to speak out to encourage people to report it if it happens to them.
“I am 19, and I didn’t think it would happen to me. I thought it just happened to women, married with children, but it can happen to anyone.
“And they might not be as lucky.”
Miss Wilcock says the assaults have left their mark mentally as well as physically.
She said: “After he tried to throttle me I couldn’t move my neck and it was very swollen.
“I suffered severe internal bruising on my stomach, neck and back and was in quite a bit of pain for a few days.
“I missed taking my A-level exams and will have to re-sit them next year, and I don’t trust people.
“What he has done will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Lightowler, a former youth project volunteer, was also sentenced to up to 30 days rehabilitation to be supervised by the probation service and ordered to pay £100 compensation with £115 victims’ surcharge.
He was also placed on a two year restraining order which bans him from contacting the complainant.
Stephen Duffy, defending, said the complainant had lived with Lightowler for a number of weeks after he assaulted her three times. He had previously avoided any intimate physical relationship for five years because he was worried about being betrayed.
In a report to the court, probation officer Lesley Whittaker, told magistrates Lightowler said he had been abused as a child and had difficulties trusting people. Two weeks into his relationship with the complainant he discovered she had been unfaithful to him.
He dwelt on her infidelity and was verbally and physically abusive to her after he had been drinking.
Three weeks ago he had taken an overdose and spent a week in hospital.
But Miss Wilcock said she had never moved in with Lightowler.
She said she had been unfaithful but that could not be an excuse for the abuse she suffered.
There are plenty of way to get help
A spokeswoman for Fylde Coast Women’s Aid said: “If you find yourself in an abusive relationship remember that you are not alone, domestic abuse affects people of all backgrounds regardless of age, class, gender, race or sexuality.
“Fylde Coast Women’s Aid has been around on the Fylde coast for over 20 years, we support people in a number of different ways and cover all levels of domestic abuse.
“Independent domestic violence advisors support high and medium risk, the Outreach team support standard risk, run drop in sessions across the area and run a 12 week recovery programme.
“FCWA have three refuges across the Fylde which act as safe house and offer emergency and temporary accommodation, we also have a children’s team that do one to one work and run groups in local schools and the community for children.
“If you find yourself needing support please call our helpline on 01253 596699, we also have a website www.fcwa.co.uk where you can get information.
“If you find yourself in an emergency situation always call 999.”
A report to Blackpool Council’s Resilient Communities Scrutiny Committee in April this year said Blackpool “ experiences a high volume of domestic abuse incidents, with a large number of high risk cases.”
Domestic abuse contributes to 10 per cent of all crime with alcohol consumption often a key factor.
In Blackpool, 1,506 crimes were recorded in 2014/15 with a qualifying factor of domestic violence.
This is the highest rate in Lancashire at 10.6 per 1,000 population.
However reported incidents recorded by the police have reduced to 29.58 from 44.27 incidents per 1,000 population between 2011/12 and 2014/15.