‘My love rat fiance was on holiday with his secret family while I was planning our wedding’ Heartbroken Jo Sleet discovered her mechanic lover had been making a fool out of her for months and admitted “I was ‘the other woman’ and hadn’t even known it” Jo Sleet was distraught to discover her fiance had a secret life with another partner and their family Texting her fiance to reveal she had flown to Ibiza to surprise him should have been the most romantic gesture of Jo Sleet’s life. But she was seeing red – not love hearts. Because the mum of one had just discovered her mechanic lover had been making a fool out of her for months. While she was at home planning their wedding, he was on holiday with another woman. Now heartbroken Jo, 40, who fell for love rat Simon Kirkham after he repaired her car, fears it won’t be long before someone else finds themself in her position. “I’m telling my story to warn others,” she says. “If you get your car fixed by Simon, you might end up with a broken heart like me.” Jo met the mechanic, 46, when she went to his garage for a spare tyre. He insisted on looking at her Vauxhall Meriva’s bodywork to help it pass its MOT and told Jo to call him if she had any trouble. So when the car started playing up, she phoned him up. Simon said it needed a new part and he would call Jo when it was in. But minutes after she got back to her house in Birmingham, her phone began to vibrate. Jo says: “I thought it was pretty quick to hear back from him and hoped there wasn’t a problem.” Instead, Simon told Jo he liked her and invited her to join him for a cup of tea at the garage when she went back in. “I was flattered, but not looking for love so said I’d be happy to meet as friends,” the weight-loss advisor recalls. When she took the car back, they got chatting and dad-of-one Simon asked Jo about her slimming club bumper sticker. Love rat mechanic Simon Kirkham fixed Jo’s car but then broke her heart “I explained I had recently lost 10 stone ,” she says. “I wasn’t used to compliments, having been big all my life, so when he told me I looked great I was flattered.” The pair kept meeting for tea as friends and love soon blossomed. “He’d pop round to mine most days,” says Jo, who has a 12-year-old daughter. “He was funny and kind and I admired his dedication to his job and daughter. One day he told me he wanted to be more than friends and I had to admit I did, too.’ They began dating, and Simon soon won Jo’s heart. “I used to joke he was too good to be true,” she says. “Being big all my life, I hadn’t ever had much luck with love. I’d wonder why he was interested in me.” Jo had suffered with low self-esteem due to her weight, so when she questioned why Simon couldn’t spend much time with her, he convinced her she was being paranoid. “My head was still catching up with my body in some ways,” she says. “I still felt like the old, big Jo and, because of that, my confidence was low.” But a few weeks later, Simon dropped to one knee holding an engagement ring. Jo says: “We had only been dating three months, so I was shocked but very happy.” She accepted and asked Simon to move in with her. He said he would when his business was making more money. In the meantime he stayed at his rented place near the garage so he could be on hand for breakdowns. Jo lost 10st and said she wasn’t used to flattery and compliments. But the couple rarely spent time together. Simon was either busy at work or looking after his daughter by his ex. “As a single mum myself I knew children came first, but sometimes I was lucky if he popped round once a week for a cuppa,” says Jo. “But when I talked to him he always had an explanation and made me feel like I was being silly.” Then he told her his ex was furious about him getting married and had stopped him seeing his daughter. “I felt so guilty that I broke it off,” says Jo. “I didn’t want to come between a dad and his daughter.” She gave back her ring and they were apart for four months. But when Jo’s mum went to get her car fixed and Simon did the work for free, she texted him to say thanks. He told Jo he missed her and they agreed to meet. Both admitted they were still in love and soon Jo was wearing her engagement ring again. They started planning their big day and Jo bought her dream gown. But Simon would still cancel dates at the last minute, blaming work. Other times he would turn up with his young daughter, saying he was looking after her for his ex, but Jo became more and more convinced he was hiding something. Once he brought along a dog he claimed to be selling for a friend, but Jo was struck by how well the animal seemed to know Simon and his daughter. She says: “I asked him if it had ever been his dog, they looked that familiar, but he swore not.” Jo told herself she was being paranoid again, but her suspicions were growing. “I confronted him and asked if there was anyone else,” she says. “He told me not to be silly. He convinced me I was being paranoid because of my low confidence.” But then Simon revealed a close friend was dying of cancer and the lads had arranged a last-minute final holiday in Ibiza, leaving the next day. I was shocked, but when I questioned him I felt mean,” she says. “After all, his friend was dying and he looked upset.” But unable to recall ever meeting the sick friend, Jo grew suspicious again. When he texted the next day to say he was in Ibiza, Jo could not shake her gut feelings. She logged on to Facebook, looked at the profile of Simon’s ex and found her address. She drove around and found her house seemed to match the description of the home Simon said he rented. Simon chatted Jo up after she lost weight Jo had never been there because he said he shared it with other tenants so it was easier to come to her house. It appeared empty, as if whoever else lived there was away on holiday too. Desperate to know the truth, Jo messaged a relative of Simon’s ex and explained she had been seeing Simon for more than a year. Minutes later she got a reply. It said Simon and the woman he’d claimed was his ex were a couple – and had been for four years. They were currently on holiday in Majorca with their daughter. “Suddenly it all made sense,” says Jo, “why he couldn’t move in and the short-notice holiday. “I was at home dreaming of our wedding with a gown hanging in the wardrobe and he was on the beach with another woman. Except I was the other woman and hadn’t even known it. “I was shaking as it hit me. I was engaged to a man hiding a secret family.” The relative said she would break the news gently to the other woman after the holiday, but furious Jo couldn’t wait that long to vent her anger. She decided to make Simon sweat and texted him to say she had flown out to Ibiza to surprise him. Moments later she received a panicked reply asking where she was, and then his phone was switched off. Four days later, after he returned to the UK, Simon rang Jo and said his ex had stopped him seeing his daughter again, and wanted to know if Jo had been talking about him to anyone. “As soon as I said yes, the line went dead. He knew his game was up,” she says. Despite her heartache, Jo’s thoughts were with the other woman, who was only just learning about Simon’s betrayal. Days later she received a text message from her and the pair arranged to meet. “I wanted to say sorry to her in person,” says Jo. “I wouldn’t have gone near him if I had known he was with someone. He had hurt us both.” The women worked out Simon had been visiting Jo when his partner was working shifts. The dog he’d brought along once had been their family pet. Days later, Simon rang begging for another chance. Jo said: “No chance.” When the allegations were put to him in full, Simon said: “I’m a typical man. I made a mistake. I’ve lost everything because of this, but it is my own fault. “I loved both women, but that’s my problem, isn’t it? Now I just want to get on with my life.” Ends.