Editor’s note: The following story was sent by a Lovefraud reader whom we’ll call “Beatrice.” The name of the perpetrator has been changed.
Its now four months since I’ve found out the cold, hard truth about my ex, and I really want to move on, but would also find it cathartic to share my horrific experience with as many people as possible — also if I can help one other person to avoid the pain and trauma of the past two years I will not have wasted my time. Please feel free to share this with as many people as possible, the more people know about these dangerous predators, the less their power to destroy others lives will be.
Four months ago on 15 May 2012 I had a phone call which changed my life. Prior to this I had NO idea I had been the victim of a very cruel and devious fraud, which has all but destroyed my health and wellbeing.
In January 2010 I met a very special man I truly believed was my soul mate and the ‘one,’ after several years of online dating. I was in my late 40’s, a twice-divorced mother of four, a mature woman with a huge experience of human relationships. I considered myself to be smart and a good judge of human nature. I prided myself on being able to sense dishonesty, mental health disorders and fake personas from a mile away. At the time when I met Axel, I was in a happy and successful period of my life, was certainly not feeling desperate or lonely (in fact he had to wait weeks to get a date with me because I was so busy), but within a month I was swept off my feet by this seemingly shy, caring and romantic middle aged man who seemed so sweet and disarming.
That was his most lethal weapon: his disarming ‘innocence’ and the way he could make me feel so precious and adored. The art of clever flattery. I had no idea I was so susceptible. Oh, when I look back now…
Arrived from Germany
Axel had moved to Auckland from a small town a year earlier, and prior to that he had emigrated to New Zealand from Germany with his wife and son. Over the following weeks of deliciously romantic dates and deep ‘bonding’ sessions, he explained how his wife had callously abandoned him and his son, and had gone back to Germany, leaving him feeling confused and alone. Knowing what I know now about the typical ‘modus operandi,’ I can pinpoint almost exactly when the love bombing, flattering phase morphed into the ‘pity-play’ phase, as his hard luck stories slowly emerged and became the dominant topic of conversation.
Later, at strategic points, he dropped in tales about his ‘abused childhood,’ time spent in ‘the military’ and even stories about him being mistreated in jail as a political prisoner (apparently helping dissidents escaping through the Berlin wall) in the former DDR. When I put it all together I could write a book about his exploits and sufferings from the tales he has told me — full of intrigue and injustice.
Being the very caring and deeply empathetic person I am, he was able to take me in completely, and I allowed him to push my tolerance and personal boundaries way beyond anyone else had ever done before.
One of the first things I did when we met was to check out his background, but I could find nothing unusual. He invited me to spend sailing weekends away with the couple who employed him, and they spoke of him in glowing terms as a lovely and reliable man (later, much later, I found out they too had been victims of his fraud). I was careful, cautious and did all the ‘right things.’ I had green lights all the way and allowed myself to fall more deeply in love than I can ever remember. I turned into a jittery, lovesick teenager in a matter of weeks once I came under his spell.
Trip to Europe
In the ‘honeymoon’ phase of our relationship, we carefully planned a trip back to Europe together to see friends and family. A prime reason for me to return was to spend the last weeks with a much-loved family member who was dying of cancer; I had faithfully promised to be there with her at the end. Axel offered to take care of all the logistics of this trip, promising me he would buy the plane tickets for us and my teenage daughter and I was to trust him to take care of travel arrangements. It was hard to hand over that trust to someone else, but he convinced me he would never let me down. We spoke of this many times and he swore I could trust him. He promised he would buy the tickets from Germany to the UK for us, and he would be there to support me through the difficult time of coping with an impending death.
My daughter and I left for Europe six weeks before Axel because he ‘couldn’t get away from work’ until early July. We stayed with my daughter’s host family near Berlin (my teen was also going on a student exchange).
Axel was brilliant: he called, emailed and bombarded me with love messages daily, saying how much he loved me, how much he missed me and couldn’t wait to fly out to join us in Europe for the first week in July.
Those six weeks were deliriously happy and I was bursting with joy as he built up the anticipation of his arrival: how we would fly down to his friend’s holiday villa in Spain, how he couldn’t wait to introduce me to his family, the places he would take us and the food we would eat, the magical adventures we would have. Axel told me not to hire a car or go anywhere, to stay put with the host family in Berlin until he arrived. All was taken care of. My eldest son took time off work and flew over from Scotland for the week when Axel was due to arrive and other family friends flew into Berlin to join us and meet my wonderful new partner. I felt confused and embarrassed when Axel failed to arrive on the date expected.
I should have become suspicious when Axel would not tell me his flight number or the actual date he was due to fly in to Germany. Every time I asked him he would fudge the question and say he wanted to ‘surprise’ me and not to worry, it was all under control. Then, as the weeks went by and he still didn’t arrive, the excuses for his delay changed: the sale of his marital home fell through; he had health problems; there was a hold up with his flight ticket. I was getting stressed as we were due to leave the host family by the end of July and there were complicated logistics depending on Axel fulfilling his offer to provide us with accommodation and to pay for the second six weeks of our time in Europe. We were running out of money and places to stay. I was beginning to feel that all was not as it seemed, but it was too late now.
By early August I had word that my relative had suffered severe kidney failure and had been admitted to a hospice. I was informed there wasn’t much time and I should fly over to the UK as soon as possible.
My mother finally got hold of Axel (still in New Zealand!) and he insisted that he was packed and about to leave for Europe. He kept telling me to ‘stay put’ in Berlin until he arrived, then gave the impression he was in transit in Hong Kong and on his way over. Then he stopped answering his mobile and his emails, and I became frantic with worry and utterly confused as to what to do. I had not purchased the flight tickets from Berlin to UK as he had told me not to waste my money and he that had found a ‘special deal.’ Finally, I had to make a tough decision and spend a lot of extra money buying last minute tickets for my teen and myself; there was no time left. Axel finally messaged me saying ‘go my love’ and he would be joining me soon. In the end, by the time I got to the hospital my relative had closed her eyes for the last time and I try to believe she knew I was with her in those last hours.
On the 8 August, the day my dearly beloved aunt (who had been more like a sister to me) finally gave up her battle with cancer and I was numb with grief, I got the most disturbing email from my sister and her husband back in New Zealand. It was a Sunday (I will never forget that day) and they had been out for lunch to a country cafe. To their amazement they realised that the couple sitting at the next table was Axel and a German woman. They were deep in intimate conversation and staring into each other’s eyes. They had not even noticed my sister watching on in horror.
My sister and brother-in-law decided to confront him: What the heck was going on? He was supposed to be on a plane to Europe—the situation was urgent, I was waiting for him and going out of my mind with worry. To their total confusion, Axel denied all knowledge of me in front of this mysterious woman! Then he explained me to the woman as ‘someone from his past.’ When my sister confronted him directly he said, ‘There must be some mistake. I have no plans to go to Germany; I am going to South America.’
Later that evening Axel called me in the UK and made up a completely different story — that the woman was just an old family friend, that my sister had been confused and that he was still on his way to Europe and would be there any day now. Lies, lies and more lies. I felt so vulnerable, abandoned and so completely confused and frightened waiting there week after week on the other side of the world. I tried to change my flight ticket but it was impossible, I had to wait another four weeks to return to NZ, it was stressful and scary finding places to stay with no money. I was lucky to have friends and family there, but their patience was wearing thin I had to accept that Axel was never going to arrive and it was time to give up and go home. It felt like a huge disappointment after the magical summer I had been promised.
Axel made a great pity plea when I returned to NZ, by that time numb — not knowing what to think after all the crazy behaviour and the ‘gaslighting’ techniques … trying to be a ‘strong’ mum to my teen … but feeling like an abandoned child inside. I started getting anxiety attacks. I felt like I was losing my mind. I didn’t know what was real any more.
During September 2010, Axel love bombed me continually and did all he could to convince me trust him again. He flattered my family, treated me like a princess and made grand promises he would take me back to Europe for Christmas. He made a thousand excuses why he let me down, but he loved me so deeply and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I tried to forgive him, and allowed myself to believe we would be getting married within a few months. Looking back, I was so utterly in love with him, I would have believed anything he told me. He was a supreme actor who made deep and prolonged eye contact — the hypnotic stare.
Then in late September, with no warning whatsoever, Axel just completely disappeared. He stopped answering his text messages or emails. There were no indications, no hints of what had happened. I sent him begging messages and pleas to let me know he was safe, but nothing. I paid expensive psychics to help me find him. I felt desperate. It felt like I was having a breakdown and had to take drugs to sleep. Eventually I contacted his employer. I was informed in a matte- of-fact manner that Axel was on holiday in South America.
Tried to end it
I tried to end the relationship and go ‘no contact’ after that grand and impressive insult. I was so shocked I was speechless. Family and friends were horrified. To this day I can never ever understand why he even thought it acceptable to disappear like this with no warning after the trauma he had just put me through, and why he didn’t just make up some story or lie to fudge his sudden disappearance and keep me on a string. His arrogance was breathtaking.
Eventually, he only had to pull at the string slightly and he was able to reel me back in. One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life. He wrote me begging and pleading messages saying he had made a huge mistake, and couldn’t bear to lose me. There was no one else like me; I was the love of his life. He had some mental health problems but with my help he would recover and we would be happy again.
After he had groveled for some time I agreed to give him one more chance if he got therapy, and he reluctantly consented. He took all the blame for his bad behaviour and blamed it on being sexually abused by his mother. I felt so sorry for him I agreed to walk along side him on his ‘healing journey.’ What a fool I was … how stupid that I believed his elaborate pity pleas and manipulating stories.
Nothing made any sense
I won’t itemise the further atrocities he committed over the following year: It makes me shudder with disbelief that anyone could be so callous and manipulating, or that I could be so helpless and trusting. 2011 was a sorry web of lies, betrayals, let downs, outrageous broken promises and yet more instances where Axel placed me in difficult situations after planning a trip together and going ‘missing’ at the last minute, leaving me to foot the bill. Another failed trip to Europe … more bizarre behaviour and me left wearing the consequences.
I hardly recognised the worn down, anxious shadow of a person I had become. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia; I lost my job. I started getting chronic fatigue, memory blanks and lost all my confidence. I was going out of my mind trying to think of reasons why anyone would behave like this man was behaving … if he loved me so much. Nothing made any sense.
I used up all my savings on therapy and any amount of New Age healers who tried to ‘help us.’ One healer even tried to tell us Axel had ‘alien implants’ which needed to be removed … Axel played along with all these therapies and pretended he was a pitiful victim. Pretended he was doing all this for ‘us’ and that we would have a wonderful life together once he was healed.
I blamed myself for not ‘being enough’ and pushed myself harder to do the ‘right thing.’ I tried again and again to ‘figure him out,’ but nothing worked.
Later, during that phone call on 15 May 2012, I learnt that soon after my daughter and I had left for Europe, Axel had met a German woman and had been in a relationship with her since mid 2010. We both knew nothing about each other. He cleverly managed to feed us enough clever lies to cover his erratic and confusing behaviour, and had us both behaving like puppets. He swore blind love to both of us; he was our faithful partner. I still don’t know if she knows about me, but she was only one of multiple infidelities … indeed there never had been a relationship to grieve the loss of … all had been an elaborate fraud from day one. That is the hardest thing to accept.
There were so many horrible, nasty, repulsive things I learnt about Axel from the couple he had worked for: How he had defrauded them of their life savings … I learnt of good people whose lives and businesses had been wrecked by this cunning creature. Through all the awful, lonely nights when I prayed to God for strength and understanding about Axel, I always believed that at heart he was a good man who genuinely loved me and just needed time and patience. All the psychics and healers I saw during this time told me so! He was so clever— at every point at which I found some strength to almost walk away he had a ‘hidden card’ of supreme pity play to pull at my heartstrings and soften all my resolve against him. He always blamed himself and flattered me that I was the ‘good woman’ whose love he needed to give him hope to do better and learn to be a ‘good man’ for me.
Having that phone call in May felt like turning over a stone and discovering the sordid underworld in which Axel really existed … how could I have been so naive? There were so many distasteful and shady parts to his life I knew nothing about. It seems he had put his poor wife through hell until she finally had the strength to leave him. Even his own son called him a ‘Man Whore,’ as he spent his whole life conducting multiple relationships with unsuspecting women who he enjoyed lying to and manipulating in ever increasingly elaborate ways to cause them maximum stress and humiliation. I was just a piece player in his impressive cast of thousands.
How it all ended? After stranding me in Europe again (yes he found some even more convincing lies to manipulate me with) I returned to NZ in September 2011 to yet more pity plea stories and excuses on why he let me down. (He even managed to have a spectacular accident at work so I would feel sorry for him.) He asked me to take him to the airport as he was going home to Germany to confront his abusive mother, to find God and heal his life. He never turned up on that Friday night, and turned off his phone. I heard nothing for months and he ignored all my emails and messages. I spent months living in limbo … not knowing what country he was in or if he would suddenly turn up on my doorstep again. I felt like an empty, worn out shell existing in a grey, empty time warp … just waiting and waiting and waiting …
Recently I discovered he had actually gone back to Germany with the other woman. Before I discovered this, he started love bombing me out of the blue in March this year after months of no contact. Pretending he had gone to Germany alone, pretending he was sad and lonely without me and had now healed his life. He had finally had time to think … to realise how much he had hurt me … how much I really meant to him … was ready to start a new life with me for real this time and begged me to trust him again. We talked online again every evening … he promised to by me a ticket to bring me over … he got my hopes up again.
By this time I was punch-drunk with broken promises, but had the insight to contact his former employers to find out the real story behind Axel suddenly fleeing NZ. I wish I had done this a lot earlier … it might have saved me months of heartache and wasted time and energy. The employers called me back on 15 May this year and told me the whole story … The many women who had turned up at their workplace confused at his sudden disappearance … for each one he had designed a different persona and elaborate web of lies to explain his frequent absences.
How an over-weight middle-aged man with erectile dysfunction and health problems ever found the energy to run this complex operation on such a scale I will never know … but he pulled it off long enough to make a lot of money and destroy a lot of people’s lives, until he had to leave the country in a hurry when police were called and the web of lies threatened to implode around him.
New unsuspecting innocents
So Axel has started the whole sorry cycle off again in a new city — Hamburg this time. I feel sorry for the hapless unsuspecting innocents who will no doubt be drawn into his web of lies and fraud, both in business and in love. There is not much I can do to help anyone … but if someone could have warned me in time … it would have saved so much heartbreak.
I am a very different person to the happy, social, outgoing and optimistic person I was back in 2010 … and I wonder if I will ever find that person again? … or if is too late, she is gone forever. I have been unable to work much of the last year … have constant viruses, chronic fatigue and have developed some kind of anxiety disorder where I find it difficult to leave the house. I don’t have the energy to put into social relationships; I can’t afford to pay any more therapists as I’ve used up all my savings and now just survive on a disability allowance. I’ve hit menopause and feel grey, numb, sex-less and unattractive compared to the lively woman I was two years ago. How do I ever find the energy to heal my life? And what is the answer when life throws you an experience like this?