Mary Turner-Thomson has a tattoo of a quill on her right arm that represents the things that she is proud of in her life – her prolific writing career, her black belt in TaeKwon Do and three birds in flight representing her children.
But underneath is a long, thin scar she inflicted on her outer forearm with a carving knife when the pain of being gaslit by her husband became too much to bear.
Ultimately, she discovered that her marriage was not even real, that her ‘husband’ (who she had met through online dating) was a bigamist, paedophile and psychopath.
She lost everything – her home, her business, her money and gained credit card debt of £56,000 he’d racked up by forging her name. She took up martial arts to protect herself and her children when she found out the truth.
Today, Mary, 55, from Edinburgh, is the author of two books about her horrific experiences – The Bigamist and The Psychopath. The latter was published in March and has already received over 6,000 reviews.
A large survey and audit conducted by eHarmony has predicted that by 2040, 70% of relationships will begin online. With that in mind, Mary’s books are a must-read for anyone entering the bear pit of online dating.
Mary met ‘the love of her life’ in the early days of online dating. William Allen Jordan – he goes by various other names – is a tall, mixed race, American guy who has various occupations depending on to whom he’s talking – paediatric nurse, spy, IT specialist and business owner being a few of his favourites.
He’s “no Brad Pitt”, according to Mary, but he is tall, dark and OK looking, seemingly humble, kind, loving, highly accomplished in IT and many other skills.
In reality, his greatest talent is his ability to search and destroy women, sometimes for the sheer thrill of it – the word ‘is’ being correct as, according to Mary and other victims who have formed a Facebook group to swap info and support, he’s still at it despite prison sentences in the UK and US.
Whilst married to Mary and ‘the other Mrs Jordan’ he also had five fiancées in 2006 alone. The other Mrs Jordan, her nanny, and Mary were pregnant to him at the same time. Since being deported back to the US from jail, he’s also had two wives and several fiancées.
And for anyone who dismisses these as “silly women” who were easily conned, Mary is a member of MENSA with an IQ of 152. She was a highly successful business consultant when she met Jordan. In fact, psychopaths – and it is estimated that they make up just 1% of society – often choose highly intelligent victims to prove their superiority.
Mary is incredibly upbeat for a woman who has suffered such abuse, but she says that she feels elated that he’s no longer in her life. “I’m the zebra who escaped the lion,” she says.
She was a single mum with a small child when she met Jordan on a dating site. Within weeks he wanted to marry her and she was swept off her feet with the love-bombing. They married two years later and their union lasted six years in total, because Jordan is the ultimate master of the long con.
Says Mary: “He convinced me that he worked for the intelligence services. He was an IT expert. I’d get calls from colleagues to say he’d been called away on business for the MOD. Everything was top secret so I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. He had lots of evidence to back up everything he said. I went to his offices in Westminster. I 100 per cent believed that he was a loyal and faithful husband.
“His level of deception had never entered my world before, so I was clueless. I’d known dodgy people, drug dealers and the like, but he was quiet, humble. He’d say things like ‘I can play a bit of piano’ and he’d play something amazing – and I knew because I’d been a concert pianist. Or he’d say he could do a spot of martial arts and kick so high he’d reach the light bulb. I found out later that he only knew a bit about a lot of things. He’d play the piano and suddenly stop because he was seemingly so humble, but in reality it was because he’d only learnt the first few bars, just enough to impress women.”
Will had told Mary that he was infertile following a bout of mumps as a child. When she fell pregnant with their first child his “face went pale with shock.” In reality he had many children, 14 confirmed, but Mary estimates that it is likely to be more like 40.
“He told me it was a million-to-one chance that he could become a father and that I was a miracle worker. I found out from one of his other victims that when she didn’t want to have more children he said he’d have a vasectomy. He came back to her with what looked like two cigarette burns either side of his testes, and showed surprise when she got pregnant again. That was the level of his deception.”
He regularly disappeared on ‘covert missions with the CIA’. Mary couldn’t tell anyone about his absences – another classic psychopath ploy. And when he said he’d received threats from terrorists who were intending to kidnap their children, Mary sold her house, car and everything else to raise over £100,000 to keep them at bay. She couldn’t tell the police as it would endanger the children’s lives, so she was told.
‘Over six years from 2000 to 2006, he brainwashed me. He was an expert in gaslighting, questioning my reality. Whenever I doubted him, he would come up with some evidence to prove me wrong’
“Over six years from 2000 to 2006, he brainwashed me. He was an expert in gaslighting, questioning my reality. Whenever I doubted him, he would come up with some evidence to prove me wrong. He’d worked in Palestine and it was announced on TV that Yasser Arafat was dead. When I told him he said, ‘he’s not, he’s still alive’. Some hours later, the BBC retracted the story to say Arafat was ill but not dead. I don’t know where he got his information, but it always seemed to stack up.
“My brother got him really drunk one time, to the point of alcohol poisoning and he stuck by his story. Everyone believed him after that.”
Jordan also used his family to back up his stories. His parents called Mary to express their delight about their first grandchild. But it wasn’t until she met the other Mrs Jordan and compared notes that she found out that they’d actually been staying with the first Mrs Jordan and five of his other children just months before.
But his cons started to unravel after telling wife number one that wife number two was a co-worker in the intelligence services and vice versa. It all worked perfectly until the killer phone call, when wife number one found and contacted Mary.
“She jumped in the car and came to see me in Edinburgh and we spent 12 hours comparing notes, times, dates, experiences and little by little we pieced the massive deception together. Her children looked just like mine. There was no mistaking it.
“The walls finally came tumbling down and reality kicked in. My life had been so awful and I’d been living in fear for so long that it was just an incredible relief. I was 40 with no home and no money, but I was relieved that it was over. I had made marriage vows and I would have kept on trying, but I realised that they didn’t actually exist.”
Mary discovered that her husband was also a convicted paedophile and social services waded in, but when she explained that she’d discovered his alter egos they checked the kids were fine before supporting her to get back on her feet.
Jordan was imprisoned in the UK in 2006 for five years. He was deported three years later back to the US.
“Within two weeks of arriving in the US he’d forged his passport changing his name and age, and was back on Match.com.” He was also on several other websites including pregnantdating.com and interracialcouples.com.
Since publishing her two books, Mary has been contacted by numerous other women who have fallen foul of Jordan, most of whom had been ripped off for thousands of dollars.
Mary’s second book The Psychopath incorporates research into the psyche of the Psychopath and the techniques they use to manipulate people. She highlights love-bombing, word salad, projection, ‘poor me’ syndrome, gaslighting and the many other tools in their armoury.
“It’s key to learn early signs of manipulation. Not everyone online is a psychopath, but every psychopath is online, because that’s where they perform best. It is an easy hunting ground for them and allows them to target numerous people at once.”
She advises not to overshare too soon as psychopaths can use past events and experiences to assess vulnerability of potential victims. Another red flag is that they are often not on social media so they can’t be tracked.
‘Victim shaming is a big part of keeping the targets of this type of con, silent. And as women we have a tendency to shame ourselves. But there is no shame in believing that someone loved us’
“But the biggest red flag is the love-bombing, seeming too interested too soon. If someone is proposing to you in three weeks or sending flowers to work and calling you their soulmate, there’s something wrong.
“Relationships need to be taken at a steady pace. You need to meet in person, and over time meet their family, and their friends, before you can piece it all together. I never met Will’s family or friends in person. I went to his office once, but it was on a Saturday so there were few people there. I mostly spoke to his colleagues on the phone – which could have been anyone.”
Mary had a brief relationship after Jordan, but it didn’t work out. Today she’s resolutely single, happy with her dog and three children.
“Victim shaming is a big part of keeping the targets of this type of con, silent. And as women we have a tendency to shame ourselves. But there is no shame in believing that someone loved us. People who are empathic and caring find it hard to comprehend someone can be so calculating and callous – and that in itself makes empathic people vulnerable to those that are toxic.
“I chose not to shame myself, and to stand tall. After all, nobody should be made to feel bad about having been a victim of a crime. We need to have the conversation about this stuff, to let people talk about it without embarrassment. So from the moment I discovered the depth of his deception I vowed I wouldn’t waste another moment of energy punishing myself for having been caught by a predator. I use the energy to educate others instead and hopefully prevent them from going through what I did.”
And the quill tattoo on her arm is testament to that.
To read The Bigamist and Psychopath click here.