An Army wife twice betrayed: Cheating husband moves out, then MoD fines her for leaving barracks too slowly
4th December 2010
For almost 20 years, Vanessa Finn was the perfect Army wife.
She supported her husband Alan as he rose to sergeant major, looking after their two daughters when he was overseas and entertaining senior officers when he was at home.
But her loyalty counted for nothing with him when he announced he had been cheating on her and was leaving her for his blonde mistress.
Or with the Ministry of Defence – which not only ordered her and the girls to leave their barracks home but also fined her for taking too long to leave.
MoD rules state that a wife can stay in married quarters for only 93 days following a marital breakdown before being classed as an ‘irregular occupant’ and having to pay damages for ‘trespass’ for each day she remains.
Mrs Finn, 42, was unable to find somewhere else to live in time to comply and was fined a total of £156.24 for the 18 days she overstayed.
On top of that she was also invoiced for cleaning and rubbish removal at a further cost of £973.25 – a total of £1,129.49.
‘Finding out Alan had another woman was devastating enough,’ she said. ‘But to be charged daily for trespass because my daughters and I couldn’t find another home fast enough was incredibly cruel.
‘If friends and family hadn’t rallied round, we would have been homeless or forced to live in a hostel. I am shocked the MoD are allowed to act so callously.’
Mrs Finn was given her marching orders from a detached four-bedroom house at Whittington Barracks in Staffordshire, where she had lived with her 41-year-old husband, a member of 22 Signal Regiment.
She discovered he had a mistress in May when he went on a six-week course at Deepcut Barracks, Surrey.
‘Usually when he was away he’d ring me a couple of times a day but he stopped that and became really evasive,’ she said. ‘Five weeks into the course he rang me and said, “I want to let you know I’ve been cheating on you”.
‘I was stunned and said the first thing that came into my head, which was, “I hope she looks after you and I wish you all the best”, only to hear a woman’s voice in the background saying, “Oh, I will…”.’
Mrs Finn said he later admitted it was Lesley Murphy – a former Army colleague with whom he had kept in touch.‘I felt sick and utterly heartbroken, especially when Alan went on to say he wanted me to tell our girls our marriage was over.
I know some people will say there must have been some signs our marriage was on the rocks. But I thought we had a happy marriage.’ The couple, whose daughters are Sorrel, 18, and Saffron, 17, were married in 1991 after being introduced by mutual friends.
‘It was a whirlwind romance and from then on I put everything into supporting Alan, then a Lance Corporal, who wanted to climb through the army ranks,’ added Mrs Finn.
‘As he was promoted further, I ensured I was the Army officer’s wife and mother to our daughters he could be proud of. I always ensured I was immaculately turned out.
'And if he rang me to say could I rustle up a dinner party, I did. Sometimes I had to do dinner for 30 officers or cocktail parties for many more.
‘Sometimes he was away for long periods such as when he did tours of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo. In 18 years we moved 13 times for his job. I never moaned, I was just proud he could rely on me to be there for him.’
Within weeks of announcing he had a mistress, her husband declared to the Army that he was single. This meant he no longer qualified for married quarters.
‘I couldn’t believe Alan had declared himself single as it meant the clock was ticking and we would have to leave,’ said Mrs Finn.
‘Being an officer’s wife was my life and I didn’t have the means to earn my own living.
'And it was Alan who wronged me. I even received a handwritten letter from his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sharon Nesmith, to say although Alan wasn’t being formally punished, he had been spoken to about his “inappropriate conduct”.’
Mrs Finn, who is filing for divorce, is now living off job seeker’s allowance with her daughters in a rented house in Lichfield.
She added: ‘In the civilian world no wife would be forced out of the family home like this and I believe it’s time the Army found some compassion for families when marriages break down.’
An MoD spokesman said: ‘Defence Estates will always seek to regain possession of properties so they can be made available for use by entitled Service personnel and their families.’