The ex-husband of an ITV weather presenter has been jailed after a nine-year campaign of controlling behaviour, harassment and stalking against her during their marriage.
Jonathan Wignall, 54, set alerts for Ruth Dodsworth’s television appearances, used her fingerprint to access her phone while she was asleep, and fitted a tracking device to her car.
On Wednesday a court heard Wignall was an “unrepentant, possessive bully” with a “fragile ego” who repeatedly accused Ms Dodsworth, 45, of being unfaithful.
He refused to let her travel to filming locations without him, would turn up at ITV Wales’ Cardiff studio unannounced, and force her to spend her lunch hour with him in its car park.
Cardiff Crown Court heard the couple met in 2001, a year after Ms Dodsworth started her weather job, and were married in 2002.
Wignall’s controlling behaviour began around 2010 when they moved from Swansea to Cowbridge and she became their main breadwinner when his nightclub business started to fail.
On one occasion in October 2016 family members witnessed Wignall pushing his wife over causing her to fracture a rib, and on another occasion saw him pushing her and grabbing her by the neck.
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Prosecutor Claire Pickthall said: “On one occasion she woke during the night to find him pressing her fingertip against her phone to access the fingerprint ID feature, and ultimately her phone, while she was sleeping.”
When Ms Dodsworth eventually decided not to return home on October 17 2019, Wignall called her 155 times and threatened to commit suicide to get her to return.
When Wignall was arrested the following morning on suspicion of harassment, he told police: “Harassment?
“But she’s my wife.”
Wignall was later released on bail on the condition he did not contact her, but messages sent to family members about her whereabouts raised suspicions he had planted a tracking device on her car by December 2019.
The tracker was found and police found an app on his phone and laptop linked to the device as well as an alarm on his phone set to go off when Ms Dodsworth was presenting the weather on television.
Wignall pleaded guilty to one count of coercive and controlling behaviour and stalking before he was due to stand trial last month.
Ms Dodsworth told the court via videolink she was left with “heavy debts” after discovering Wignall borrowed money under their name.
Soon after his arrest she was told she would be evicted from their home due to Wignall failing to pay bills and found he had pawned her jewellery.
Ms Dodsworth, fighting back tears, said: “Because of my television career I’ve had to try and portray a smiley, happy, sunshine-like personality every day, when how I felt was everything but.”
Ms Dodsworth said she felt “degraded” at work due to colleagues witnessing his behaviour, and the past year had seen her confidence and physical health deteriorate.
Dyfed Thomas, defending, said Wignall previously ran a “phenomenally successful business” with both the Escape nightclub in Swansea and the city’s annual Escape In The Park festival before both came “crashing down”.
He said Wignall had been “besotted” with her and was “sorry for his behaviour”.
But Judge Daniel Williams told Wignall: “It is clear you have no remorse for that which you’ve done.
“You affect the air of a respectable and beleaguered but successful businessman.
“You’re a fantasist with a fragile ego which makes you an unrepentant, possessive bully.”
Wignall was sentenced to three years in custody, of which he will serve half before being released on licence, and was given a restraining order against contacting Ms Dodsworth.
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