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 during their relationship.
He refused to allow her 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.
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.”
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.
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 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.