Bigamist exposed through Facebook is sentenced at Chichester court

Andrew O'Clee outside Chichester Crown Court PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL
Andrew O'Clee outside Chichester Crown Court PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL

A BIGAMIST convinced his wife he had joined the witness protection programme and had to live in a safe house so that he could marry a second woman.

But his double life was uncovered when he was tagged in an ice bucket challenge video shared on Facebook.

A TANGLED web of ‘lies and forgery’ caught up with 36-year-old Andrew O’Clee when his bigamy was uncovered on social media.

The deception went on for a number of years before his first wife Michelle saw a video of his ice bucket challenge on Facebook in August last year, captioned ‘uncle Andrew and auntie Philippa’.

She then saw photographs of her husband’s second wedding and reported it to the police.

O’Clee was arrested in September, 2014.

After pleading guilty, O’Clee, of Wildwood Close, Chiddingfold, was sentenced to eight months in prison at Chichester Crown Court, and will serve half in custody.

The court heard Andrew met Michelle in 2000 and the pair married in West Acton in 2008.

They began trying for a baby in 2011 – the same time he met his second wife, Philippa.

He got engaged to Philippa in 2012 and they married in August, 2013.

Prosecuting, Rachel Beckett said Andrew forged a decree absolute, purporting to have divorced his first wife.

He told Philippa they had separated after he caught his wife being unfaithful. The document was accepted by the church when the pair married in Kirdford.

His mother and brother attended the ceremony under the illusion he had divorced his first wife.

In 2014, Michelle and Andrew’s daughter was born.

Michelle O’Clee said: “Thinking back, as I do every single minute of every single day, I had no reason not to trust Andrew.

“In 2012 he told me he had a new job and work was involved in fraudulent issues.

“I was told he would have to be taken to a safe house with his colleagues for his and my own safety. He was taken to a safe house every night and I wasn’t allowed to know the location.

“I was told by him not to tell my family or friends. I became paranoid and constantly fearful for my safety. In the daytime I believed he was at work.

“Looking back I feel completely stupid and naive for not thinking something was wrong. I believed my life was in danger.

“He sent me a photo of flooding at the ‘safe house’ and told me they were being relocated to somewhere else.

“I later discovered the photo was taken from the internet.

“I lived like this for a year and six months. When I went into labour he was five hours late to the birth. He cut the cord and left again. He said the police were waiting outside to take him to safety.

“The day I found out about the bigamy was the day my world fell apart and the violent betrayal unfolded.

“To add insult to injury he instructed me to take a paternity test.”

Defending, Patrick Duffy said he had a 15-year-old son from a previous relationship and had ‘abandonment issues’.

Mr Duffy said: “Why did the defendant embark on this ludicrous series of conduct?

“It’s hard to answer. He has abandonment issues. When he was 15 his mother and father broke up.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when he doesn’t regret the stupidity of his actions.”

Mr Duffy said Philippa O’Clee planned to retain her relationship with Andrew and wished ‘to draw a line under this and get on with her life’.

Judge Christopher Parker QC said there ‘had to be an immediate prison sentence’.

“You began to develop a complicated and absurd lie,” he said.

“All of which was a complete nonsense but it enabled you to lead a double life.

“The question is, why on earth would you do it? You are a shameless liar, happy to have as much comfort wherever you could find it. Bigamy is an offence against the institution of marriage, an institution founded on complete trust. This was simply a selfish act.”