Bigamist who deceived Eastbourne family with terminal cancer tale is jailed

Michael Eels. Photograph by Eddie Mitchell SUS-180214-134303001
Michael Eels. Photograph by Eddie Mitchell SUS-180214-134303001

A bigamist who was juggling two families by pretending to have terminal cancer has been jailed.

Michael Eels, 59, was sentenced to three months at Lewes Crown Court this Valentine’s Day (Wednesday).

Lewes Crown Court PNL-170523-131033001

Lewes Crown Court PNL-170523-131033001

The court heard Eels told his Eastbourne wife Andrea and three young children he was suffering terminal cancer and had to travel to Newcastle for specialist treatment.

But in reality he set up a new life up north with his second wife, Sally Howard – who was completely unaware he was already married.

Eels – who gave court his Northumberland address of Hillside, Bellingham – lived a double life since getting wed to Ms Howard in Bexhill in 2009.

He met up with his wife and three young children for holidays while telling his second wife he was on ‘work trips’. This went on for years until Ms Howard ended the relationship in 2016.

The court heard the lies unravelled just last summer when Andrea Etheridge Eels opened a Facebook message from Ms Howard and they met up.

Andrea, of Hampden Park, read out a statement in court which said, “Finding out my husband had remarried came as a great shock to me. He was regularly calling me and telling me he loved me and he would be home soon.

“I genuinely believed he was suffering from cancer and was away to get treatment. This caused me a lot of stress and worry.

“I had to remain strong for our children. The fact he told me he was dying and my children believed that is disgusting.

“He never raised divorce with me as something he wanted. It seems sinister to end a relationship in such a way when he could have just told me. I was left to pay all the bills on my own, he sent no money.

“When I found out I was laughing and joking but now I have started to think I’m a total fool.My children have been left without a father and with no financial or emotional support.”

The court also heard from Eels’ second wife, Sally Howard, of Willingdon. She said, “I gave up my business and home to move up north with him. With hindsight I’m devastated he allowed me to give these things up.”

Ms Howard said when they moved to near Newcastle Eels became possessive and wouldn’t allow her to get a job, even though they were facing serious financial issues and struggled to pay the rent.

She said he has never paid back the £4,000 he borrowed from her father for their wedding, and when her mother died the inheritance money was spent on living costs.

She said, “I feel like he financially and emotionally abused me. My future is ruined because I’m unable to trust again. I feel like my life is worthless because of how he treated me.”

Before passing the sentence, QC Judge Laing said, “I have heard very moving victim impact statements.

“Nobody who enters into marriage gets a guarantee of happiness but they are entitled to believe that the person they have chosen as their life partner wants to provide those things such as happiness and security at the very least.

“Both women effectively married a conman because that’s what you are.”

She sentenced him to three months in prison and ordered him to pay £1,000 to each victim. He was also handed a restraining order not to contact either victim which was put in place indefinitely.