Pregnant mother left 'unable to breathe' after years of abuse from MMA Fighter boyfriend

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Emma Sweeney.

A mother was left fearing for her life after her MMA fighter boyfriend subjected her to years of domestic abuse, including while she was pregnant with their child.

Bekah Smith, from Kirkby, was left "terrified she was going to lose her baby" after her then-boyfriend 23-year-old Karl Draper left her "unable to breathe".

The mum-of-three has now set up a petition calling for more support for victims after their abusers are charged, after Draper repeatedly ignored his bail conditions.

The MMA fighter admitted engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour and five counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was sentenced on Monday 4 March to two years in prison and banned from contacting his ex-girlfriend for five years.

During his sentencing, Liverpool Crown Court heard about the "years of abuse" Bekah Smith was subjected to during her relationship with Draper.

Karl Draper was sentenced to two years in prison, and is not allowed to contact Bekah for the next five years. Credit: BPM Media

The relationship ended in September 2023, when Bekah told the police that she had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse at his hands throughout their time together.

The first such incident was on 15 April 2021, when Draper kicked the puppy the couple had bought just a few days earlier, causing the dog to "yelp in pain".

After attacking the dog, he grabbed Bekah by the throat.

Bekah said: "It sounds bad because obviously any abuse is wrong, but in the beginning it wasn't as bad as it would be."

At the time, she "put it down to the fact that he had been smoking cannabis", and the relationship continued.

Shortly after this, Bekah confronted Draper after receiving a picture of him with another woman. She ended the relationship, but soon received messages from Draper in which he said he "was going to kill himself".

Bekah was worried if she left Draper he would take his own life.

She was left "feeling emotionally blackmailed into resuming the relationship" as a result.

By 6 September that year, Bekah was "in the early stages of pregnancy", but her boyfriend became "seemingly jealous" after a friend told him that she had been "talking to another man".This led him to believe that the baby was not his. And Draper responded by throttling her once more before throwing her onto their bed.

Throughout her pregnancy, Draper continued to strangle and abuse her.

She said: "Every time he did it, it felt like the next time he was doing it harder and stronger."

When Bekah was eight months pregnant, Draper once again grabbed her by the throat and "pressed hard".

She said: "I can't even remember what the argument was about, but he pushed me really hard onto the bed and strangled me by the throat.

"That was probably one of the worst ones he did."

She was left "unable to breath" and "terrified she was going to lose the baby".

She said: "The baby's movement decreased, so I had to go to the hospital and make up an excuse for why I wanted them to check on me.

"I think I said I fell down the stairs."

On 21 March that year, the couple's son was born by caesarean section.

Bekah has started a petition calling for more support for victims during the legal process.

Bekah said: "After that, I thought things would get better but it just seemed to get worse."

Just a few days later, Draper threw Bekah into their bedroom during an argument. She landed on her side, and her C-Section scar reopened as a result.

Every time Bekah tried to leave, Draper not only threatened her but also said he would take his own life.

Bekah said: "That was continuous. I felt like I couldn't leave because I was scared he would actually do it. I was scared he might take my life as well."

Over the next two years, Draper continued to abuse and threaten Bekah. On one occasion, he told her she would "end up in the morgue".

Their relationship came to an end on 6 September 2023, after Draper damaged Bekah's belongings and punched a hole in the wall. When Bekah tried to end the relationship, he once again threatened to harm himself.

Bekah "felt she could no longer continue" with the relationship, and reported Draper's relationship to the police.

She told police how she had previously "made excuses for his behaviour" and "stayed with him because she loved him", but "kept photographs and recordings" evidencing his numerous assaults.

Under interview on September 13, he told detectives that the "relationship hadn't been good for a while due to her going out and leaving him to do most of the childcare".

He also denied having assaulted Ms Smith, and said that marks around her throat in photographs had been an "allergic reaction or make up" and claimed that "she was a liar". Draper has no previous convictions.

However, he would later go on to plead guilty to all charges including assaulting Bekah Smith and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Bekah said: "A lot of people get suspended sentences, so I'm just relieved he got something.

"Maybe they'll be able to help him, and it gives me and the children time to move on."

Bekah has now set up a petition calling for greater protection for victims of domestic abuse after the alleged perpetrator is charged.

She said: "[Karl] continued to flout the bail conditions. He would loiter outside the children's' schools, he would send messages to friends getting them to contact me.

"Because he wasn't specifically saying 'tell Bekah...' the police couldn't do anything about it."

Sentencing, the Honorary Recorder of Liverpool Andrew Menary KC said: "People who use this type of abuse, of putting their hands around the throat, are committing serious offences, and that type of behaviour will always be regarded by the court as a real warning sign - a red flag that something more serious might happen in the future.

"Anyone who puts their hands around somebody else's throat and squeezes is to be regarded as a high risk.

"All of this has had a significant and profound effect on Rebecca Smith. I am perfectly satisfied that the consequences of your behaviour towards her have caused her very significant psychological harm.

"Often, people such as you who engage in domestic abuse have two faces - the one presented to the public and the more sinister one which emerges in the context of an intimate relationship. You cannot claim to be someone of good character when your conduct has spanned a period of three years.

"However, I do take into account your immaturity and your struggles with your mental health. I am perfectly satisfied that, despite the mitigation available to you, immediate imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence to represent the serious nature of the abuse committed by you."

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