Serial liar Stephen Davey is exposed today as one of Britain’s most heartless love rats .
Twisted Davey, 45, who has a 25-year history of swindling his wives, fiancées and girlfriends, charmed his way into lonely Tracy Cotter’s life and then…
Conned thousands of pounds from her friends by saying she was dying and needed a private operation for breast cancer.
Extracted more cash by saying he wanted to brighten up her home for her last days.
Fooled his workmates into holding a collection for his “dying wife”.
Defrauded one of Tracy’s neighbours by claiming his mum had died and he needed £2,000 for the funeral.
Duped Tracy into taking out a loan to repay pals he had conned.
Vanished an hour before the furious friends turned up.
Swindled another trusting woman out of £30,000 before the law finally caught up with him.
Tonight, as Davey began a 41-month jail sentence, single mum Tracy said: “I thought Stephen was my Mr Right. Kind, charming, considerate.
“But my life has been ripped apart by his lies. When I think of how much money he scammed from the neighbours I feel so guilty.
“Everyone knows I wasn’t involved but at the time I thought, ‘Do people think I’m in on this?’”
Tracy, 39, who has a son Sam, 14, recalled the sickening moment she discovered Davey had told people she was dying.
As she opened her front door to let her dog out, she bumped into a woman neighbour.
Tracy, who had shared her home in Plymouth with Davey for more than a year, told the Sunday People: “She looked at me really kindly and said gently, ‘And how are you?’
“I was stunned. I wasn’t ill and I didn’t understand why she was worried.
“When I replied I was fine, she looked awkward and muttered something about Stephen saying I hadn’t been well.
“That night, I told Stephen about it. I was furious. But he just shrugged it off, dismissing the neighbours as over-caring. So I felt I’d made a fuss about nothing.”
A week later, Davey came home in a panic.
Tracy said: “He said he’d promised to get football tickets for some friends but had gambled the money away. I was angry but he said it was a one-off. I agreed to take out a loan to reimburse them.”
She borrowed cash then handed him £600. Two weeks later, Davey told her he was popping out to the shops. It was the last she saw of him.
An hour later she opened the front door to a group of angry men.
She said: “Stephen had promised them football tickets but although I thought he’d paid them back, he hadn’t.
“It was then one of them said, ‘Could I ask you a question? Are you ill?’
“When I asked him what he meant, he looked embarrassed and then said Stephen had told them I was dying from cancer. ‘Listen to this,’ he said. “Stephen had left a message on his mobile saying he needed money because I was dying from cancer.
“When I heard Stephen’s voice saying such terrible lies I broke down in tears.”
But worse was to come. “An elderly neighbour said Davey had told him that I needed a private breast operation and he’d given him money for that.
“Then Stephen told him I was dying and he wanted to do up my bedroom to cheer me up. So he extracted more cash.”
Police were called. They discovered Davey had also told the neighbour he had a friend, ‘Rob’, who could fix a dent in his car. Tracy said: “After putting them in touch with ‘Rob’ he said his mother had died and he needed to borrow £2,000 for her funeral. It totalled £12,000.
“I later found out he’d told everyone at the warehouse where he worked I was dying. He told them I was his wife but we’d never married. He was so convincing that they held a collection for me.”
Davey has more than 40 convictions for fraud including plundering thousands from vulnerable women.
He was divorced by first wife Debbie Hastings, from Surrey, in 1993 after swindling her out of thousands and going to jail.
Second wife Dawn Hargreaves kicked him out after five days when she found he used stolen cheques to pay for the wedding.
Davey then persuaded Liz Noble, 23, of Hartlepool, to become his third bride.
In 2003 he was jailed for four years for stealing £8,000 from her.
Soon after, Davey’s trail of heartbreak was revealed by the Sunday People .
But Tracy was unaware when she met him in 2008.
She said: “We got talking in an internet chat room. Stephen said he was a divorced speedway racer from Newcastle.
“We seemed to have so much in common. We’d both been hurt in relationships but were ready to trust someone again.
“A few months later we arranged to meet but I already knew I loved him. As soon as I picked him up from Plymouth rail station I thought this is the man I want to spend my life with.
“Until I met Stephen I’d been so low in confidence. Suddenly here was someone who really seemed to care.”
Davey relocated to Plymouth and moved in with Tracy, getting a job with a local brewery.
But shortly after she got a shock when a pal uncovered Davey’s past.
“She’d always felt there was something not quite right and Googled him,” she says. “I was horrified when she showed me a news cutting.
“As I read it I felt sick. It said in 2003 he was jailed for plundering thousands from a woman.
“He’d also cheated on her with another woman who was the mother of his child. The judge called him a predator and manipulator.”
Shop assistant Tracy confronted Davey straight away on the phone.
She said: “He was so upset. He said he’d gone through a bad time and deeply regretted what he’d done. He begged me not to leave him. I should have kicked him out but stupidly I believed him.
“He talked about getting married in Venice and told me he was in line for an inheritance.
“We even viewed big properties to buy when the money came through.” Then in November 2009 the couple went to Newcastle for a speedway event.
Tracy said: “While we were there my mum rang in a panic. The police were looking for Stephen.
“It turned out he’d been charged with fraud over another woman. This time I’d had enough and finished the relationship.”
In 2010 Davey went to prison for a year. “But he sent me letters saying it would break his heart if we were to split now.
“His mum even contacted me to say her son was a different person since he’d met me and how much he loved me. He was so convincing that eventually I replied to his letters and agreed to stand by him.”
In 2011 Davey came out of prison and got a job in a warehouse. Tracy said: “Stephen had paid his dues for his past and we seemed really settled together.”
Over the next year Davey and Tracy got on well and he played a part in her son’s life. But soon he was up to his old tricks, telling friends she was dying.
The police later told Tracy he was a career conman.
She said: “He even lied that he was a speedway star and telling people he had links with football clubs. He’d had a lifetime of lies.
“In the past he’d posed as a player for Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest to book services and hotel accommodation.
“I felt such a fool that I’d allowed myself to be so taken in. I felt used and abused – just destroyed.”
A warrant was put out for Davey’s arrest and last August he was convicted at Plymouth crown court in his absence of frauds adding up to £12,000.
There it was disclosed that since leaving Tracy, he’d conned a woman out of £30,000.
Tracy said: “I shouldn’t have been surprised as he is just a lady scammer.”
Davey was captured and last month jailed for 41 months at Inner London crown court.
Tracy added: “I can’t help but think there must be other women out there who’ve also been conned by Stephen and they were just too embarrassed or upset to go to the police.
“It’s taken a lot of courage for me to come out like this and tell my story.
“But I want to do it to warn any other woman who comes across Stephen in future that he’s not the man he appears to be.
“Behind the loving, laidback facade lies a calculated and manipulative man who will tell any lie to get what he wants.”
How to tell if he’s a cheat
Here are five classic signs that your man is cheating, according to Jan Griffiths of global support group Women Scorned.
- You discover an unfamiliar phone in the house or he begins charging up an old one.
- He suddenly becomes glued to his tablet or laptop in the evenings and starts deleting his internet history.
- Your couch potato partner goes jogging or to the gym – an excuse for getting home later or shaping up for a potential mistress.
- He develops an obsession with his appearance and spends hours grooming.
- His working patterns suddenly change, though he hasn’t switched jobs.
- Are you one of the other women ripped off by Stephen Davey? Contact us by emailing [email protected] or calling 020 7293 3742.