A mother-of-nine said she ‘doesn’t regret’ leaving her husband of 23 years and her children behind.
Heidi Hepworth said she met her new partner, Salieu Jallow, after he randomly sent her a friend request on Facebook.
After chatting online and getting to know Salieu, the 44-year-old flew to his home country of Gambia to meet him.
Heidi has six children, aged between six and 23, with her husband Andy, as well as three children from a previous relationship, who are aged 24 to 29.
She said the three youngest were left with her eldest daughter, who moved into the family home while she was away so they were ‘disrupted as little as possible’.
Speaking to The Sun, Heidi said she had been ‘unhappy for a long time’ and makes no apologies for following her heart.
She also defended her decision to visit her boyfriend in Gambia saying:
I don’t have a single regret. I’m not a terrible parent.
I went online every night and we video-chatted. They seemed happy and I know my kids well.
They also chatted to Salieu and have become very fond of him through talking online over the past few months. If people think I went over to The Gambia and didn’t give them a second thought, they are so wrong.
But having said that, I make no apologies for following my heart. I’ve been unhappy for a long time and I think I have found someone to spend the rest of my life with.
We are in love and nothing will stop me from marrying him. If other people don’t like that they will just have to lump it.
Heidi spoke to the press after her husband Andy blamed her online romance for ‘killing their marriage’ – something she denies, saying the relationship was over before Salieu even sent her the friend request.
She also claimed Andy was messaging women online.
Andy and I didn’t even share a bedroom, never mind a bed, for the last two years of our marriage. We were both unhappy and on some days the most conversation I would get from him would be when he’d say, ‘Put the kettle on’.
At the end of last year I picked up his phone to look up a number my daughter wanted and saw messages from two women. It was a big shock.
We drifted even further apart and I was so unhappy. I started volunteering at the children’s school, just so I had some contact with other people and could feel better about myself.
In February I started to talk online to Salieu after he sent me a friend request out of the blue. At first we were just chatting, asking about each other’s lives and hobbies.
But as I got to know him I started to confide in him about how badly things were going wrong in my marriage, he was there for me to talk to.
Andy has claimed I sent sexy pictures to Salieu, but I didn’t, that simply isn’t true.
Each to their own.