An old man in a lilac jumper shuffling to the prison van. That’s what the TV pictures of Peter Tobin seemed to show when the law caught up with him and the world finally found out he was a murderer.
But as Tobin was led away in handcuffs, the footage shows him lashing out at a photographer – and it’s the look in his eyes that Cathy Wilson remembers so well.
She saw the same flash of anger each time he abused her during their turbulent marriage and it still sends a shiver down her spine when she sees it.
Yet despite the fact he subjected her to the cruellest physical and mental torture during their three-year relationship, she never once suspected that her husband was a sadistic killer who preyed on vulnerable young women, just like her.
‘He was always violent and abusive towards me but I thought he was a wife-beating husband,’ says Cathy.
‘I don’t say “just” a wife-beating husband, as if it’s nothing, but that’s what I thought he was. I had no idea.’
She adds: ‘I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in my life but I have made mistakes and marrying him was a mistake.
‘I’m sickened that he ever touched me.’
As she sits in her kitchen clutching a cup of coffee, the book she’s written about her life sits by her side. Currently sailing up the best-sellers chart it makes for grim reading.
In 2006, Tobin was found guilty of the brutal murder of Polish student Angelika Kluk. By 2009 he’d also been convicted of killing Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol.
Police suspect Tobin – who was also jailed in 1994 for the sexual assault of two teenage girls in Leigh Park – of many more crimes.
Cathy is convinced she’s lucky to be alive following her relationship with Tobin, the father of her son, Daniel.
But despite her ex’s horrific past, Cathy believes Escape From Evil should inspire hope in others, not fear.
‘What I’m hoping is that people reading this can see it was a really difficult life but if you’re strong it’s something you can beat,’ explains the 41-year-old.
‘It’s meant to be inspirational. I wanted it to be hopeful. People in these situations stay through fear but you can take the plunge.
‘I stayed for too long, I didn’t want to admit failure. He was a very clever man and always played a lot of mental games. He made me think I was nothing. As I had no-one to ask questions of I thought nothing of it. You’ve got this person that you believe that you love, mind-manipulating you to think that you’re the reason it’s like this. People like him have got a sixth sense to be able to pick out people who are vulnerable.’
For the first time in her life, Cathy’s not vulnerable any more. She’s just re-mortgaged her Southsea home for the next five years and while that might not sound like much to some, she admits what it symbolised made her cry.
‘He won’t come out of prison now. It’s horrific for the girls who died and their families but from my point of view this is the first time I don’t have to keep running. I have a home, I don’t have to keep moving.
‘For all of my adult life I have been running from this man. I don’t have to run from him any more. Looking over my shoulder has been really draining. It’s like I can go to sleep now. That’s what doing this book has done for me. It’s the finish.’
Cathy met Tobin when she was just 16 and within a year they were married and expecting a child. He was charming, attentive and her knight in shining armour.
During her troubled childhood she’d been abused, spent time in care and seen her mum Jenny beaten and have her hair set alight.
Jenny died when Cathy was eight and she believes it was her childhood that singled her out for Tobin – and what ultimately helped her escape from their marriage battered, but alive.
‘I was 16 when we met. I thought I knew everything but I was vulnerable and naive. If you’ve had an abusive childhood you can go different ways. I put this confidence on, this brashness, to give me the armour I needed and that’s what people like him sense.
‘I was charmed by him and I would have been another victim, I exactly fitted the profile. I think what changed his mind was that I had his son. I think that changed me from a victim to a possession and I think that’s the reason I’m still here.’
She adds: ‘Obviously it could have ended differently and that’s frightening. It’s only now that I can think “There but for the grace of God go I”.’
After tricking Cathy into getting pregnant, Tobin moved his young wife and son to his native Scotland. Isolated from her family in Portsmouth, he continued to manipulate her until she finally snapped, telling him she wanted a divorce. His response was to dangle Daniel over the stairs, knowing that Cathy wouldn’t put her child’s life in jeopardy by going through with her threat.
‘From that point onwards he followed my everywhere, to the back garden, to the boot of the car,’ remembers Cathy. ‘If he went out he took my bank cards and locked me in the house. He didn’t leave me alone for a minute.
‘When he did leave me this one time I grabbed Daniel’s bag and stuff and ran to the coach station.
‘That hour and a half wait was the longest I’ve ever spent. I remember thinking “If he comes now and sees I’ve disobeyed him, in my heart I know he’s going to kill me”. I really felt it. I was absolutely petrified.’
She was 19 when she fled to Portsmouth and thought their ordeal was over. But Tobin would continue to play a part in their lives, despite the brutal way he’d treated her.
For the sake of her son, she let Tobin see him – even going back to him once when he abducted Daniel and took him back to Scotland. When Tobin settled in the south, Cathy let him see Daniel at the weekends.
But all that was to change when he locked two girls in his Leigh Park flat to drug and rape them. Daniel was with him at the time and Cathy believes her son might have been used to lure the girls in, thinking they would be safe there with a young child present.
Tobin was sent to prison for 14 years and Cathy refused to let him see Daniel.
‘I said to Daniel “Your father is in prison on a drugs-related offence” and as far as I was concerned I could get on with my life.
‘The only thing I did was move every six months because he’d asked for a photograph of Daniel when he was in prison and I’d said no.
‘I knew that would anger him and I was always convinced that he would come after me. We’d move around and put in spy holes and people would say “Don’t you think this is too much?”
‘I’d tell them “I’m absolutely convinced that man will kill me when he comes out of prison.”
‘I had a feeling inside of me that I would have offended him so much that he’d kill me – but not anybody else. I had never seen any sign of aggression to anyone else at all, it really was just directed towards me. I could just see him sitting in prison seething, I could feel it in my bones.
‘Well he can’t hurt anyone now.’
Until 2006, Cathy believed Tobin was still in prison. Although he’d been released early, he’d broken the conditions of his probation within days and she assumed he’d been sent back to serve the remaining years of his sentence.
In reality, he was living in Scotland and Angelika Kluk was his next victim. When her body was discovered it wasn’t long before he was named as a suspect – and a phone call alerted Cathy to the fact he was out and on the run.
‘My aunt phoned me and I screamed,’ she says. ‘I hadn’t seen his face for 12 years and then it was disbelief because I’d thought he was in prison. I went to the police station in Fratton and by then his face was on the front page of The News. I said “I know this is going to sound really stupid but this man is my ex-husband and I think he will be coming to Portsmouth”.’
After he was convicted of Angelika’s murder, police linked him to the deaths of Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol in 1991. Homes that Cathy had lived in with Tobin were soon being searched. And the bodies of both girls were discovered in the garden of his home in Margate – with Vicky’s remains found in the sandpit Tobin had built for Daniel.
As details of what had happened started to emerge, Cathy realised Daniel might have been used again as a lure. The sight of his car seat and toys when Tobin picked Dinah and a friend up on the A3 near Liphook had reassured them enough to make them get into the vehicle. And the weekend Tobin abducted Vicky, Daniel had been with him.
‘It doesn’t sicken me that Daniel played in the sandpit,’ adds Cathy. ‘I’m sickened that that’s how his mind worked and he (Tobin) did those things. Someone asked me if I felt guilty that the reason he was in Hampshire was because of me and Daniel but he was going to do these things where ever.’
When Tobin was convicted of Dinah and Vicky’s murders, Cathy knew he’d spend the rest of his life in prison. Daniel has no contact with his father and won’t read his mum’s book. A University of Portsmouth graduate, proud Cathy says he feels no connection to Tobin.
‘All I wanted to do with my son is break the cycle,’ she adds. ‘When I started the book I had to put things in chronological order. Now I can see that I was living my mother’s life. I had a child early, she had abusive men in her life, I was living everything she’d done.
‘I didn’t want my son to do the same and I have broken the cycle, very much so.’
Now Cathy says it’s time to draw a line under her past and get on with the rest of her life.
‘I understand that people will want to read about him (Tobin) but they’ve got to read about me first, my experiences as a child and how that gave me the armour to cope with Peter,’ she adds.
‘I feel like I probably shouldn’t be here – but at the same time I had a rubbish marriage and I got out of it.
‘If I can persuade someone to leave a bad marriage, help them understand that they don’t have to put up with this any more, then I will have done a really great job.’