Published: 06:00, 05 September 2019
| Updated: 14:32, 06 September 2019
When truck driver Tony Hannington tied the knot with blushing bride Tracy at Canterbury Register Office, he thought he'd married his soul mate.
But what followed was years of abuse and violence at the hands of his "Jekyll and Hyde" wife, as Jack Dyson reports....
Teeth gritted and wide-eyed with rage, Tracy Hannington held a knife to the throat of her long-suffering husband as he sat on their living room sofa.
"You want peace? I'll leave you in peace permanently," she screamed, pressing the blade against Tony's skin.
It was a terrifying act of control that would epitomise the last three years of a marriage haunted by abuse and violence.
And the warning signs were there as far back as their first date, when 56-year-old Hannington showed glimpses of her explosive temper at a Herne Bay curry house in 2012.
Tony recalls: "I was asking her questions and she put her knife and fork down and said 'what are you, a ******* policeman!?
"In the end she calmed down and said sorry."
Despite this, the pair embarked on a whirlwind romance and married in Canterbury seven months later, with Tracy moving into her new husband's flat in Collins Road, Greenhill.
“For the first year it was great; it was like it was meant to be,” he says.
“But we got married very early. We just didn't get to know each other.”
Tony, a self-employed lorry driver, says the relationship began to turn sour in 2015 when Hannington started to regularly accuse him of being lazy and "a parasite".
“We could come home with the shopping and I would sit down after carrying all the bags and she'd come and say ‘what are you doing? Why are you chilling?’" he continues.
“It would all escalate from there and she'd start calling me names, like a parasite and other vile things.
“She is a nice, thoughtful person when she's not in a mood, but there's this totally opposite side to her, like Jekyll and Hyde.”
The couple would often agree to put such events behind them, but Hannington would soon slip back into verbally abusing her husband of six years.
"I just wanted it to stop,” Tony says.
But the the name-calling continued and was a precursor to physical violence.
"There's this totally opposite side to her, like Jekyll and Hyde" - Tony Hannington
“She'd hit me anywhere,” he adds. “I'd hate her for doing it. I didn't understand why she'd hit me.
“I kept telling her it was illegal to hit people and that it was wrong, so she started throwing jugs of water at me.
"She'd say it was better than hitting me.”
But in the last year the abuse became even more unpleasant as Hannington used a variety of weapons to intimidate Tony with.
During these episodes, he says she would “grab anything she could get her hands on” – including tools and planks of wood.
“Over the last year, it was always weapons," he says plainly.
"Once I wound her up when she was hoovering and she picked the hoover up, swung it like a golf club and hit me on the side of the head. It cut my ear and the side of my head.
"On another occasion, she came into my bedroom with a carving fork and said 'I'd love to stab you with this'.”
After Tony missed a train to travel to a Christmas do last year, Hannington told him during a series of repellent phone calls “I don’t want you home. If you come home I’ll put you in a six-sided box”.
He estimates that she threatened him at knifepoint three times at the height of the violence.
In March, she held a blade to Tony’s throat during an argument. She then moved it towards his stomach and cut his hand as he tried to shield himself from the weapon.
“When it was against my throat, I thought 'should I lean into it and get this over and done with?'" he says grimly.
“I don't know if she meant to stab me or if it was accidental."
Tony began confiding in his sister when the violence was at its worst.
She urged him to attend bi-weekly support sessions for victims of domestic abuse at Poppy Children’s Centre in the Memorial Park.
At one of the meetings with his care worker, he was told to create audio recordings of the attacks and to photograph his injuries.
He adds: "The Poppy Centre had community police officers, who told me it should be reported.
"They were saying she could go too far one day.
"I just thought they'd give her a big telling off and she'd move on; I didn't know they'd take domestic violence so seriously.”
At a hearing at Margate Magistrates’ Court last month, Hannington pleaded guilty to coercive behaviour between December 29, 2015, and July 11 this year.
She also admitted a charge of actual bodily harm after attacking her husband with a knife, cutting his hand in the process, in March.
Due to the severity of the offences, chairman of the bench Tony Hodges sent the case to crown court for sentencing - but a date has not yet been set.
Hannington was released on bail under the condition she does not contact her husband or return to Collins Road.
"I'd tell anyone else to speak out - my life now is easier" - Tony Hannington
“I feel sorry for her and for what she's got herself into – she needs help,” Tony says.
"I don't hate her, but I also don't love her. I'd never get married or live with anyone again.
"I still think about it all. I could be driving down the road, remember something and it'd bring tears to my eyes because it's really hurtful being treated like that."
Figures compiled by the Crime Survey for England and Wales revealed that about 695,000 men experienced domestic abuse in the financial year 2017/18.
Despite this, the Men’s Advice Line says male victims struggle to talk about their experiences as they feel it would make them appear weak.
But Tony is urging others in similar situations not to suffer in silence and to go to the police.
"I didn't want to own up to it initially because I didn't want to say I'd been hit by a woman,” he said.
"I'd tell anyone else to speak out - my life now is easier.
"I wanted to start my own business, but I found she took the confidence from me. I only started being self-employed when Tracy went as she's not here holding me back and telling me I'm a waste of space.
"I've spoken to blokes on Facebook who've had this for 10 or 20 years. I don't think any bloke should put up with it like I did.
“Sometimes when I'm on my own, I'll sit and cry and think 'why me? What did I do to deserve this?'”