United Kingdom

ITV's Ruth Dodsworth praised for 'inspiring' other victims after controlling ex-husband jailed

An ITV weather presenter has been praised for speaking out after her controlling ex-husband was jailed for his sadistic campaign of harassment and coercion.

Ruth Dodsworth said she was 'overwhelmed' by the support she had received in the days following the sentencing of Jonathan Wignall, who has jailed for years of abusive during their marriage.

The 45-year-old took to Twitter and said: 'I'd just like to say, from the bottom of my heart - thank you. I'm overwhelmed by the love and support.

'I never wanted my story to be public. On reflection I'm glad. Because if just one person can relate... can feel assured that they are not alone.. then it has all been worth it.'

It comes after earlier this week, a court heard Wignall was an 'unrepentant, possessive bully' with a 'fragile ego' who repeatedly accused Ms Dodsworth, 45, of being unfaithful during their relationship.

ITV presenter Ruth Dodsworth has been praised for her courage after speaking out about the campaign of harassment and coercive behaviour by her ex-husband Jonathan Wignall

During his sentencing hearing, the court heard Wignall carried out a campaign of controlling behaviour which included reading her mail, tracking her car, and going out of his way to stop her from seeing friends and family.

Ms Dodsworth was praised by colleagues and supporters for speaking out and hoping she can help others.

Paul Brand, UK Editor at ITV News, replied to her tweet, penning: 'So sorry that many of us never knew you were going through this Ruth. Wishing you every happiness for the future xx.' 

BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire said: 'Ruth you will undoubtedly have helped many people who are in similar situations right now. I am sending you so much love and strength.'

Radio X DJ Polly James added: 'One brave lady. Talented and inspiring for many. Your next chapter is going to be amazing! X.'

Welsh Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi said: 'Ruth, you're awesome - your strength helps so many others. Sending a big virtual cwtsh.' 

Ruth said she was 'overwhelmed' by the support she had received since Wignall was jailed

Politician Peter Black CBE also tweeted: 'Offering my support and best wishes. As others have said nobody should have to suffer what you endured. I hope you are now able to move on with your life and find some peace and happiness in the future.'

Presenter Jeremy Vine added: 'I just read the story Ruth, and I wanted to send you my support and best wishes.

'I can't imagine how you dealt with such sustained pressure and such malice. I hope you can find some peace now he is jailed. No one should have to go through this.' 

During his years of abuse, the court heard Wignall refused to allow Ms Dodsworth to 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.

But Wignall's controlling behaviour began around 2010 when the couple moved from Swansea to Cowbridge and she became their main breadwinner when his nightclub business started to fail.

Jealous Jonathan Wignall, 54, (right) was this week jailed for three years for harassing and stalking his ex-wife ITV host Ruth Dodsworth (left) including at her TV studio for years

Prosecutor Claire Pickthall said: 'The shift in the dynamic of the home was not an easy one for the defendant to take.

'His alcohol intake increased as did his controlling and coercive behaviour towards Ms Dodsworth.'

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. 

Wignall was said to have called his wife 'incessantly' when she was working away, and that while home he would open her mail and stand outside the door while she used the bathroom.

He would also accompany her to doctors' appointments and quizzed contacts on her phone about the nature of their relationship.

Ms 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 after a work shift on October 17 2019, Wignall called her 155 times and even 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.'

Ruth Dodsworth is a regular ITV weather presenter on regional news in Wales and London

Wignall was later released on bail on the condition he did not contact Ms Dodsworth, but messages he 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 Pickthall said Wignall's controlling behaviour charge could only be drafted as starting in December 2015, when the offence was created, but in reality it had lasted since around 2010.

Ms Dodsworth told the court via videolink she has been left with 'heavy debts' after discovering Wignall had borrowed money under their name.

Soon after his arrest she was told she was to be evicted from their home due to Wignall failing to pay bills and found he had pawned her jewellery for cash.

Wignall was sentenced to a total of three years in custody, of which he will serve half before being released on licence, he was given a restraining order against contacting Ms Dodsworth

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 had been left feeling 'degraded' at work due to colleagues witnessing her former partner's 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' and affected his relationship with Ms Dodsworth.

He said Wignall had been 'besotted' with her, and that he 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 not. You're a fantasist with a fragile ego which makes you an unrepentant, possessive bully.'

Wignall was sentenced to a total of three years in custody, of which he will serve half before being released on licence, and was also given a restraining order against contacting Ms Dodsworth.

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