A 36 year-old man has been jailed for bigamy after his first wife discovered his second on Facebook.
Andrew O’Clee married first wife Michelle in 2008. He began a relationship with another woman called Philippa three years later while he and his wife were still trying to have a baby. When he decided to marry the latter, he forged a decree absolute certificate and showed it to his family to convince them he had divorced Michelle. As a result, his mother and brother attended the wedding ceremony, The Telegraph reports.
O’Clee then reportedly told Michelle that he had begun a job which involved fraud investigations and would be away from home for lengthy periods because he had to enter the witness protection programme and live in a safe house.
Michelle told Chichester Crown Court that the story had made her anxious.
“I was told by him not to tell my family or friends. I became paranoid and constantly fearful for my safety. Looking back, I feel completely stupid and naive for not thinking something was wrong. I believed my life was in danger.”
O’Clee maintained his double life for a full four years before Michelle discovered the deception on Facebook. He was ‘tagged’ (named) in a video undertaking the so-called ‘ice bucket challenge’ with Philippa. This popular social media phenomenon involved people having buckets of cold water poured over them to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Michelle then uncovered videos of her husband’s second marriage on Facebook, describing the discovery as a “violent betrayal”.
She reported her husband to the police and he was arrested in August last year.
O’Clee admitted one charge of bigamy. His defence counsel told the court:
“There isn’t a day that goes by when he doesn’t regret the stupidity of his actions.”
Jailing O’Clee for eight months, Judge Christopher Parker QC told him:
“You began to develop a complicated and absurd lie. All of which was a complete nonsense, but it enabled you to lead a double life.”
“Bigamy is an offence against the institution of marriage, an institution founded on complete trust. This was simply a selfish act.”
Philippa told the media that she plans to continue her relationship with O’Clee when he is released, the paper reports.