I spent months finding out why men have secret wives and how they got away with it – here’s eight red flags to look for

“WHAT do you call a man with two wives?” “A glutton for punishment.”

That’s how the joke goes. In fact, the answer is a bigamist — the crime of marrying someone while wed to another person.

It can get you up to seven years in prison and on average 70 people — mostly men — are charged with bigamy in the UK every year.

While researching the storyline for my latest bestseller Both Of You, about a female bigamist, I had to climb inside the minds of the real people who have secret wives and families.

Believe me, that’s a confused, complicated and calculating place to be. I spoke and corresponded with bigamists and their victims.

I looked for patterns as to what makes a person have secret spouses. I found it takes all sorts.

Statistics reveal men are three times more likely than women to be prosecuted.

I encountered a bus driver, police officer, scuba-diving instructor and a biochemist — all of whom had been caught out having secret wives.

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I suppose the thing they have in common is a lot of brassneck. All bigamists seem to ooze confidence in their invincibility. They think they’re such good liars that they’ll fool everyone all the time.

Some of them depend on travelling with work to create an opportunity to run two (or more) lives in parallel. For instance, in one case I researched, a former security guard had two wives ­living just 16 miles apart.

In early 2015 it was revealed that Adrian Linham, who was then 43, had been married to Liz Linham, then 37, for seven years, when she discovered that, four years into their marriage, he had started ­sharing a home with Hayley Totterdell, a ­nursery teacher.

For those three years, he’d been telling Liz he was travelling away from their home in Bristol, to work in South Wales.

In 2014, Adrian had flown ­Hayley out to a paradise beach to marry in front of her family and friends. They were all unaware he was already married. He even persuaded Liz to decorate ­Hayley’s holiday home, saying it was his boss’s flat.

Liz knew nothing about the romantic beach ceremony until she got a letter from her mother-in-law saying she was sorry they had divorced and Adrian had remarried.

In February 2015 Adrian was jailed for four months and two weeks, after admitting bigamy. Of course, these bigamists keep their partners a dark secret.


A husband or wife discovering another family or spouse exists is a HUGE, devastating shock. This sort of deception leads to incredible hurt and humiliation for those tricked.

There are also financial, legal and emotional complexities that can tear families apart. Often, the shame seems to fall on the victim, which is cruel and unfair. They are naturally left with trust issues.

Lisa Curran, a support worker for people with learning disabilities, was married to former policeman Martin Curran for 25 years. But for more than six years he led a double life with another woman, culminating in marriage.

About ten years ago, Lisa, from Yorkshire, discovered the betrayal, and Martin, then 52, was sentenced to 250 hours’ community service after admitting bigamy.

At the time, 45-year-old Lisa said: “He’s barely been punished, yet I must live with a lifetime of looking like a gullible idiot. I’ll never be able to trust any man again. This has ruined my life.”

One of the most shocking cases I encountered was that of William Allen Jordan, 55, a bigamist who had three wives, 13 kids and was a sex offender.

Mary Turner Thomson, 55, an author, from Edinburgh, met US-born William on an online dating site when they were both 35. After a whirlwind romance of three weeks, he proposed.

Mary got pregnant with their daughter Eilidh within six months of them meeting, and they had a son, Zach, three years later.

But Mary’s world collapsed when, after six years of marriage, she was contacted out of the blue by “the other Mrs Jordan” — William’s wife for over a decade. During their marriage, Mary was manipulated by William.

He convinced her he was a CIA operative on secondment to MI5. I write fiction but you couldn’t make this stuff up. Oh hang on, he did!

Mary said: “When he first told me that he worked for the CIA, it was really thrilling . . .  it felt a bit like dating Superman.” Super rat more like!”

Their marriage was not only a sham but William convinced Mary to sell her flat and possessions, claiming their children’s lives were in danger from kidnappers and they had to pay ransoms. William conned Mary out of £200,000.

Possibly, that money was spent on supporting his other wives and children. His spy story was just a cover to allow him to spend time with his other families.


William was unmasked as a scam artist and jailed for bigamy, fraud and illegally possessing a stun gun. He served two and a half years of his five-year jail term, then on release, was deported back to the US.

“Psychologically I was so manipulated,” Mary said. “He stopped me being involved with my family, friends, everybody. In just over a year, he took everything from me.”

Clearly, she’s been left with incredible emotional trauma. Short sentences leave victims feeling powerless, vulnerable and let down.

In one instance, a bigamist who was being tried committed bigamy a second time before his case came to court. Unbelievable.

It is worth noting that in 2021, bigamy rates fell dramatically. Lockdown may have proved a problem for anyone with two spouses and potentially two families.

Bigamists are dismissive of the institution of marriage and create chaos in its place.

  • Both Of You by Adele Parks, published by HQ HarperCollins, is out now in paperback, eBook and audiobook.

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