Abusive ex-husband of ITV Wales presenter Ruth Dodsworth jailed

ITV Wales presenter Ruth Dodsworth said she was left feeling "broken" by her ex-husband's campaign of abuse. Credit: South Wales Police / ITV Cymru Wales

The former husband of ITV Wales presenter Ruth Dodsworth has been jailed after a nine-year campaign of controlling behaviour, harassment and stalking against her during their marriage.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Jonathan Wignall, 54, fitted a tracking device to Ms Dodsworth's car, used her fingerprint to access her phone while she was sleeping and was physically abusive towards her.

Ms Dodsworth is one of the main faces of ITV Wales and presents weather and factual programmes, including Coast & Country.

But she said her ex-husband's jealous and controlling behaviour affected every aspect of her life, leaving her "frightened and broken" and physically ill.

The court heard how Wignall would call the mother-of-two incessantly, turn up at her workplace unannounced and insist on travelling to filming locations with her.

He was "totally obsessed" with accessing her phone and laptop, Ms Dodsworth said, and repeatedly questioned her on her whereabouts, even forcing her to spend her lunch hours with him in the car.

On Wednesday, a judge told Wignall he was an "unrepentant, possessive bully" and a "fantasist".

Ruth is one of ITV Wales' main presenters, working across weather and factual programmes. Credit: ITV Wales

Cardiff Crown Court heard the couple met in 2001, a year after Ms Dodsworth began working as a weather presenter for ITV Wales, and were married in 2002.

But Wignall's controlling behaviour began around 2010, when the couple moved from Swansea to Cowbridge and she became their main breadwinner as his nightclub business started to fail.

Prosecutor Claire Pickthall said: "The shift in the dynamic of the home was not an easy one for the defendant to take.

"His alcohol intake increased, as did his controlling and coercive behaviour towards Ms Dodsworth."

The court heard that on one occasion in October 2016, family members witnessed Wignall pushing his wife over, causing her to fracture a rib. On another occasion, he was seen pushing her and grabbing her by the neck.

At home, he would open her mail and stand outside the door while she used the bathroom, the court was told.

He was financially controlling, would accompany her to doctors' appointments and quizzed contacts on her phone about the nature of their relationship.

Ms Pickthall said: "On one occasion, she woke during the night to find him pressing her fingertip against her phone to access the fingerprint ID feature, and ultimately her phone, while she was sleeping."

Because of my television career I've had to try and portray a smiley, happy, sunshine-like personality every day, when how I felt was everything but.

Ruth Dodsworth

The court heard that when Ms Dodsworth eventually decided not to return home after a work shift on 17 October 2019, Wignall called her more than 150 times and threatened to take his own life.

When Wignall was arrested the following morning on suspicion of harassment, he told police: "Harassment? But she's my wife."

He was released on bail on the condition he did not contact Ms Dodsworth, but his behaviour later raised suspicions he had planted a tracking device on her car.

The tracker was found, and police discovered an app on his phone and laptop linked to the device. In addition, an alarm on his phone was set to go off when Ms Dodsworth was presenting the weather on television, the court was told.

Wignall pleaded guilty to one count of coercive and controlling behaviour and stalking before he was due to stand trial last month.

Ms Pickthall said Wignall's controlling behaviour charge could only be drafted as starting in December 2015, when the offence was created, but in reality it had lasted since around 2010.

Jonathan Wignall was jailed for three years after admitting his offences. Credit: South Wales Police

Reading out her victim personal statement to the court, Ms Dodsworth broke down as she said: "I look over my marriage to Jonathan and I feel I have been robbed of what was meant to be the happiest times of my life. The birth of our children, family gatherings, achievements in my career, and associations with friends have been tainted."I have lived my life feeling nervous, frightened, and broken. Life with Jonathan was like walking on eggshells. His temper would turn in an instant. He was frighteningly unpredictable and extremely volatile.

"His regular alcohol abuse caused him to be verbally abusive and physically violent towards me. He became bitter and hostile to me over the years and his frequent outbursts of hatred to us all was exhausting."Jonathan made me entirely dependent on him. There was an atmosphere of fear at our so-called home – a place we should have felt safe, secure and loved. Home was often the last place I wanted to be. There was barely a day I did not leave for work in tears and arrive back fearful of what was waiting for me."He was an incredibly jealous and possessive husband from early on. I could not speak to men without accusations of being unfaithful."He was totally obsessed with my phone and asked where it was at all times of the day. He would delete contacts he was paranoid of. If I left my work laptop at home I would get emails saying someone was trying to access it. This was Jonathan trying to check up on me."

I feel I have been robbed of what was meant to be the happiest times of my life.

Ruth Dodsworth
Ruth has been a popular presenter on ITV Wales for two decades. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Dyfed Thomas, defending, said Wignall previously ran a "phenomenally successful business" with both the Escape nightclub in Swansea and the city's annual Escape In The Park festival, before both came "crashing down" and affected his relationship with Ms Dodsworth.

He said Wignall had been "besotted" with his wife, and that he was "sorry for his behaviour".

But Judge Daniel Williams told Wignall: "It is clear you have no remorse for that which you've done.

"You affect the air of a respectable and beleaguered but successful businessman.

"You're not. You're a fantasist with a fragile ego, which makes you an unrepentant, possessive bully."

Wignall was sentenced to three years in jail, of which he will serve half before being released on licence. He was also given a restraining order preventing him from contacting Ms Dodsworth.