A Ramsgate district nurse who has dedicated her working life to the health service has been left homeless and was driven to a suicide attempt following an attack by her ex-partner.
Jacqueline Nichols-Carter is sofa surfing, with occasional stays at the nursing accommodation at QEQM Hospital, and has been signed off work due to ill health in the wake of the assault last December.
The mum-of-two, who works from Newington clinic, says the aftermath of the assault has left her life “in pieces.”
Jacqueline met her former partner Steven Webster in July 2016 and by September she had given up her flat to move into Steven’s Ramsgate home.
The 49-year-old said there was no sign of the violence that would eventually destroy the relationship.
She said: “It was a loving relationship, everything was good.”
But the mum-of-two soon found that family tensions meant she felt the need to end the relationship. In December 2016 Jacqueline told Steven it was over and that is when her nightmare began.
She said: “The relationship had come under strain. Steven had lost his wife to cancer three years before and there was tension with the family.
“In the end, I said I was leaving and he just snapped. I went upstairs to pack and one minute he was telling me to do it and then he was trying to stop me. That’s when he smashed up my TV and phone and started throwing mirrors and pictures at me. He grabbed my hair, pulled me back and was grabbing at my breasts.
“I had never seen anything like that from him before, I was terrified and phoned the police. It left me very bruised and battered.”
Steven, of The Cuttings in Ramsgate, was charged with assault by beating ,sexual assault and criminal damage.
Despite the arrest Jacqueline suffered further harassment and Steven ended up in Elmley prison for breaking bail conditions that meant he was not to contact her.
In the aftermath of the attack Jacqueline moved out of Steven’s house and had to put all her belongings in storage because she had nowhere to go. She ended up with some temporary accommodation at the nursing quarters at QEQM and sofa surfing at friends’ houses. During this time, she was receiving support from Oasis domestic abuse service and was part of a witness protection programme.
Steven was sentenced at Margate magistrates on May 4. He received three sentences of 180 days in custody, suspended for two years, a two-year restraining order banning him from the nursing quarters area and car park at QEQM and from Newington Road Clinic and was placed on the sex offenders register for seven years.
‘My life had been turned upside down’
But Jacqueline, who has bravely waived her right to anonymity to enable her to speak out, says just 15 minutes after he was released by the court he had started texting her again.
The nan-of-two said: “He was just carrying on and no-one seemed to be taking any notice. He’d had his phone taken away by the police twice but he’d just go and get another one. He was breaking all the conditions yet still walking around while I had nowhere to live and all my stuff in storage. My life had been turned upside down.”
The final straw came just five days later when Steven appeared in the nursing quarters car park and started to damage Jacqueline’s car.
Desperate for help Jacqueline called the witness protection team but found there was no longer any support available because the case was considered to now be solved.
Jacqueline took a massive drugs overdose and collapsed. A member of the witness protection team alerted staff at the hospital quarters where Jacqueline was discovered close to death. CPR was administered and she was rushed to accident and emergency.
She discharged herself three days later but the trauma left her struggling to work and she was signed off sick after bosses decided she was not coping.
She said: “I had just had enough of everything, of wearing a panic alarm every day, of always looking over my shoulder, of being anxious and scared. My life had fallen to bits and I just wanted it all to stop.”
Steven was arrested and jailed for 180 days because of the breach of his sentencing conditions but he was released after just 28 days.
‘I feel like I am the one being punished’
Jacqueline said: “I feel like I am the one being punished. I was told that he was in prison and I could get on with my life but I have no home, I can’t work so there is no money and I feel trapped.
“I have spent my whole life working and helping others, I’ve never claimed benefits, I spent 20 years in the ambulance service and then went into district nursing but how can I go into someone’s home and make an holistic assessment for them when my own life is in pieces? This has destroyed me. I need help to get my life back. I need my own front door so I can start putting my life back together again.
“I just feel the system is all wrong, where is the deterrent if he just keeps getting released? I’m the victim but my life is still in pieces.”
The Isle of Thanet News contacted Thanet council about Jacqueline’s homelessness situation and action is being taken by the authority to find her accommodation.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “We cannot provide details on an individual case but can confirm that a housing application was received and verified earlier this year. However, a homeless application was not made so one of the team has made contact to trigger one and also offer support and guidance with this process.”
Jacqueline is also receiving ongoing help from mental health services and is taking a Freedom programme with Oasis domestic abuse service.
She said: “Oasis have been such a great help all the way through. I really just want to make people aware that if it happens to them, man or woman, they must report it.”
Kent Police statistics
From July 1 to December 31, 2016, Kent Police received 10,332 domestic abuse complaints.
Of those 1,629 people were charged with an offence.
488 adults received a caution
3012 cases hit evidential problems despite support from the victim for a prosecution
4637 cases hit evidence problems and the victim did not support prosection
For local independent domestic abuse advice in Thanet and Dover call the RAISE taem on 07718657160
open Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm, there is an answerphone outside these hours.