Real Life

Real life: My boyfriend and carer stole my money and abused me

He was supposed to be looking after me, but he just wanted my money.

Melinda McIntyre, 50, from Melbourne, Vic, bravely shares her true story:

I glanced around the crowded train carriage for a spare seat and sighed in frustration.

I'd recently hurt my foot and had to wear a protective brace while I recovered.

The 40-minute journey to work would be agony if I was forced to stand the whole way.

Suddenly, a tall, well-dressed man stood up and motioned for me to sit.

"Thank you," I smiled with relief.

The small act of kindness impressed me – especially when so many others hadn't bothered.

After that, I kept spotting that man on my carriage.

Some mornings we'd smile at each other and he even gave up his seat for me a few more times.

One afternoon, I was waiting for the train home when he came over and introduced himself as Paul.

"I've seen you a lot lately," he began.

We got chatting and I learnt Paul was a 42-year-old single dad who worked as a security guard and lived close to me. He was very easy to talk to and suggested we go for a drink.
"Not today," I replied.

I'd been single for a long time and was content with just my adult daughter in my life.

But as Paul and I continued to cross paths, I started to relax in his company. "How about that drink?" he asked.

I agreed to meet him for a lunch-time coffee in the park. We swapped numbers and this became a daily occurrence for the next week.

You're the sweetest person, he wrote in texts. Can't wait to see you again, my love.

My love? We barely knew each other!

When we met, he seemed so kind and easy to talk to.
When we met, he seemed so kind and easy to talk to.

While part of me was taken aback, butterflies were swirling in my stomach.

As a 47-year-old single woman who'd spent the past 10 years caring for my elderly mum, I'd long given up on the idea of falling in love again.

Now Paul and I were hanging out all the time, I started to change my mind.

"He's the sweetest guy I've ever met," I told friends.

Paul was spending so much time at my house that when his lease expired months later, he moved in.

"You're a great cook!" he said as we sat down to his favourite meal of steak and vegies.

I couldn't help but marvel at how perfect my life had become: I had a good job at the RSL and I'd found the man of my dreams.

"Why don't we go away on holiday?" Paul suggested.

We settled on Bali, which we were both keen to visit and he found a luxurious hotel with a pool.

"Can you book it?" he asked, explaining he still hadn't received his bond back yet.

My excitement at going on a romantic getaway soon nosedived when I fell ill and started bleeding down below.

"It's probably menopause," a doctor said, giving me tablets.

I pushed it from my mind. Nothing was going to ruin my holiday.

For a week, Paul and I kicked back in our villa, watching the sunsets while drinking cocktails.

We went on elephant rides, saw the monkeys, feasted on seafood and wandered through the markets hand in hand.

"This is bliss," I sighed.

Back home, my health declined further so the doctor ran more tests.

"I'm sorry, but you have cancer of the uterus," he said later.

I gripped the chair in shock. This couldn't be happening.

He seemed so fun and sweet, but it was a mask for his dark side.
He seemed so fun and sweet, but it was a mask for his dark side.

Paul was stunned, too, but there was no time to cry as doctors wanted to operate straightaway.

"You should update your will," Paul suggested softly one night. "Just in case."

I'd planned to leave everything to my daughter, but Paul wanted to know that he could stay in my house for at least two years if anything happened, just while he got back on his feet.

I also left him 50 per cent of my savings and super.

"I don't know how I'd even function without you," he said sadly.

He'd been there for me so it was the least I could do.

When I woke up, I hoped the nightmare was over.

But when I saw the doctor two weeks later, her face was grim.

"It's spread to your liver," she said. "You don't have many options left."

Chemo was my only shot, and it wasn't even guaranteed to extend my life greatly.

Distraught, I turned to Paul in tears.

"It's okay," he soothed. "I'll be your carer and look after you."

Despite everything, I still felt so grateful to have such a loving man by my side.

I had to give up my job and Paul resigned, gaining a carer's payment and allowance from Centrelink.

I got ready to start the gruelling rounds of chemo.

"We should travel again," Paul suggested. "Create more precious memories."

"We've only just been to Bali!" I said.

Travel was the last thing on my mind.

But Paul set about making a bucket list of places for us to go.

"We'll have a helicopter ride over Sydney Harbour, watch the cricket, visit the Great Barrier Reef… London and Paris…"

His voice trailed off in excitement.

Paul always liked a bit of luxury.
Paul always liked a bit of luxury.

"Careful," I said, "we've got to watch our money."

I gave him my credit card and made him a secondary card-holder since I was too sick to do most of the shopping.

And I did get sick very quickly.

Some days, I couldn't even get out of bed. Luckily, Paul was by my side.

After the first round of chemo, he declared we'd go to Sydney to visit his family.

"But…" I stammered weakly, too tired to argue.

Trailing behind him as best I could, I struggled to get through the days.

After more chemo, Paul announced that we were heading off to Tasmania in a few weeks' time.

It was so good of him to try to cheer me up, but I was just so exhausted.

"I really need to rest," I told him.

But he insisted that he'd make sure I didn't overdo it.

He helped a lot around the house and kindly drove me to the ATM each week so I could withdraw a few hundred dollars.

We managed a few more trips interstate.

Over time, the house was becoming full of his new possessions.

I wondered where he was getting the money, as a carers' allowance was so small.

He'd bought himself new clothes and got his car serviced.

In the meantime I was still all doing the cooking and housework.

"We need milk," I told him, hoping he'd go to the supermarket as now I couldn't walk more than a few steps.

"You can buy the groceries online," Paul grunted from the couch.

Too weak to protest, I ignored my niggling doubts.

On the plane going to Tasmania. We were always going somewhere.
On the plane going to Tasmania. We were always going somewhere.

But as my treatment continued, I grew more frail. I lost all my hair and needed to wear a wig.

I felt death looming closer.

Doctors couldn't even give me much assurance now.

"I'm scared," I whimpered to Paul.

He looked at me coldly.

"Make sure I get everything when you die," he grunted.

He started walking through each room of the house.

"I want this," he said, pointing to the couch, table, lamp and TV. "And this, this and this…"

It felt like he was waiting for me to die.

This wasn't right.

"I've got a child," I told him. "You can't have everything."

Paul pouted sourly and sunk back onto the couch.

My health continued to decline and I needed more blood tests and scans.

"Please, take me to the doctor," I begged Paul.

"It's a waste of time," he mumbled.

Eventually, he agreed, annoyed about the inconvenience. We bought takeaway pizza for dinner.

"We should go away again," he sulked when we got back.

I'd lost count of all the trips we'd been on and was concerned that he saw me as nothing but a cash cow.

"No!" I said firmly.

Paul snapped, throwing the hot pizza in my face and slamming me into the doorway.

"Get out of my house!" I screamed, furious.

But Paul wasn't finished.

Photos of my injuries taken by police. I thought he was going to kill me.
Photos of my injuries taken by police. I thought he was going to kill me.

"You bitch!" he cried, ripping off my wig and throwing it on the floor.

With shaky hands, I called the police who arrived quickly and suggested I take out an intervention order.

"I'm her carer," Paul insisted to them.

Then he turned to me.

"I'm sorry, Mel," he said, sounding sincere. "You know I love you."

He won me over again, convincing me not to proceed with the order.

After all, I needed him around.

After that, Paul returned to the sweet, caring man I'd first met, but I was still cautious of his temper.

When we went away with his family the following week, things reached fever pitch.

Out for dinner, I noticed one of his younger relatives was struggling to eat their steak.

I tried helping the young child cut the meat up properly.

Paul was livid.

He kicked me under the table, urging me to stop.

Back in our hotel room he roared.

"What the hell were you doing?!"

Before I could reply, he wrapped his arms around my neck.

"I'm going to kill you!" he spat.

I could barely breathe.

When he loosened his grip, I summoned all my strength to break free and grab my mobile.

Paul chased after me, snatching the phone and throwing it to the floor, before ripping my wig off again.

"Stop!" I cried.

I knew if I didn't do something, he'd kill me on the spot.

Reaching for the hotel phone, I dialled reception.

"Call police!" I rasped.

They were fast to arrive and arrested Paul Symons, who faced charges including recklessly causing injury and threats to kill.

I was determined to get away.
I was determined to get away.

He even served 90 days in prison after he was found guilty.

But he's now free and I'm terrified he'll come after me.

A reporter tracked him down with another woman, but he refused to comment on what he'd done to me.

Recently, I was shocked to see Paul has a dating profile online.

I'm looking to meet someone who is honest, able to speak freely and enjoy the good things in life, he wrote.

Thanks to me, he certainly did that.

I estimate he blew around $80,000 of my money on holidays and living the high life – all while he was meant to be looking after me.

He's been removed from my will now, but I'll never get over what Paul did, and I no longer feel safe knowing he's still out there.

My cancer diagnosis is unchanged and I'm just taking things day by day.

I'm glad I have my daughter to help me when I need it, because each day is a struggle.

So I'm sharing my story in the hope of protecting other women from this cruel man who destroyed my life.

Melinda donated her payment to White Ribbon.

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