A BIGAMIST who abandoned his wife to start a new life with another family is facing jail after he was caught out on Facebook.
Gosport man Peter Rigden, 48, admitted a charge of bigamy after he illegally tied the knot with another woman while still being married.
The 48-year-old’s double life was only discovered after his ex-wife – seeking to divorce him – looked him up on Facebook and stumbled on his new life.
Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court yesterday heard Rigden met Mahala Rigden while they were working together in Bolton in 1999.
Within months of sparking a relationship, a loved-up Rigden proposed, with the couple eventually getting married in January 2000.
But things soon turned sour, prosecutor Graham Heath told the court.
Rigden, wearing a black shirt and trousers, remained silent in the dock as Mr Heath described how the marriage disintegrated. He told the court: ‘They lived as man and wife up until about Christmas 2003 when Mrs Rigden said that he came home one day and, quite unexpectedly, said that he would be working away in London for a few weeks and that unfortunately really marked the end of the relationship for all intents and purposes.’
The couple lost contact, the court heard.
Then, 14 years after the relationship broke down, Mrs Rigden started to search for her ex-husband in an effort to finally divorce him.
It was while she was searching for him that she stumbled on his new wife – and their child and then reported this to police.
Mr Heath said: ‘She felt through the passage of time that there was a need to resolve this relationship and she, at a later point – quite recently – sought the defendant out through Facebook.
‘She said that through her investigations she was able to see on the face of it the defendant had a new relationship with somebody and she made contact with the defendant although he never responded.’
Rigden had in fact married his next wife Kerry Higgins in December 22, 2007 in Ramsgate, after meeting her in Gillingham, Kent, in 2006.
The relationship was blighted by problems and the couple split, with Mrs Higgins eventually filing for divorce in April 2013, Mr Heath said.
However, she had no idea her marriage had been a sham. It was only when police knocked on her door, on January 27 of this year, that she found out the truth.
Reading a statement from her, Mr Heath told magistrates: ‘She said they visited my address and they advised me that Peter had been married to somebody else when he married me.
‘She was quite shocked. However, with all the lies that he told me it would fit in with his character.’
Rigden, of Anns Hill Road, was questioned by police about the charge in April, which he admitted in court.
His defence lawyer, Simon Moger, offered no mitigation and said his client accepted his error.
Rigden’s sentencing has been postponed pending reports, until July 25, where magistrates warned he could face a custodial sentence.