STACEY Lennon* met Mick Hughes when he was still in jail.

Stacey heard about Mick through her sister Beck. Beck's boyfriend was also in jail and said he had a mate in there named Mick who said he liked bigger women - Beck's boyfriend showed him photos of Stacey. Mick said he wanted to meet her; his eight-year sentence was coming to an end.

Stacey was 21 and had never had a boyfriend. She was pregnant with twin girls and the father - a one-night stand - was nowhere to be seen. Stacey thought about it for a few days and then passed on her number via her sister to Mick.

Mick, then 32, rang Stacey's home.

"I know people are going to judge for me this, I know it's hard to understand but he was very sweet," Stacey tells news.com.au.

"Obviously I asked him why he was in jail," she says.

Mick told to her that when he was young and on drugs he got involved with bikie gangs and one guy told him to kill someone.

"He told me if he didn't kill that person, Mick himself would be killed and also the man would kill Mick's mum. So he had no choice and he was younger and sillier and had such a tough life. He told me he still had nightmares about it and he wished he could restart his life again, and that I was the person who could help him do it … even Mum spoke to him on the phone and said he deserved a second chance."

"He was an outsider like me ... I was the middle child, people weren't very nice to me at school because I am very overweight, my sisters were often bitches to me and they all had their own boyfriends," Stacey says.

Just over a year after his release they were married, and rented a house together in the outer-suburbs of Melbourne.

"I THOUGHT SHE WAS THE DEVIL, SO I ATTACKED HER"

About three years after their wedding, Stacey received a call on her mobile as she sat in a doctor's waiting room with their two-year-old daughter (her third, their first). It was a police officer who said they had Mick with them at the station. He said, "we have reason to believe Mick tried to kill himself, can you check to see if there is a rope on the back seat of the car."

She had been driving his car that day.

Stacey found a long, untied rope inside a cheap black sports bag on the floor in front of the back seat. She cancelled her appointment and drove straight to the police station.

"I then went to pick him up at the station after cancelling my appointment and when he got into the car Mick told me he had a meth addiction and was coming down and had gone crazy."

He said he had headed down to a local lake where he was going to end his life when he saw what he thought was the devil coming towards him - that somehow he had 'already crossed over into hell' he grabbed 'the devil' and wrestled it to the ground.

"I believed him ... Because I thought about how he used to have these dreams. He would scream and thrown punches and it seemed just terrifying for him. I always felt very sorry for him."

But Mick would eventually be charged with assault over the incident after it emerged that the "devil" he claimed to have seen was in fact a female jogger.

Mick pleaded guilty to the attack but his lawyers argued the incident was the result of a "psychosis".

However, two witnesses - following the jogger's screams - caught Mick on top of the woman, punching her in the face. They said he only ran off when he saw them.

Police said when Mick drove off, he stopped before he got home, removed the number plates off his car and threw them in the bushes. Police also told the court that when Stacey found the rope in the back of the car it was not tied in a noose, and that he carried it so he could tie the woman up.

Mick was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months in prison.

IT WAS ALL A LIE

"We had a meeting with his lawyer after he was charged and the lawyer said: 'Mick you know it's going to look very bad that you served a long jail sentence for rape'," says Stacey.

This is how Stacey discovered what Mick was really in prison for when they first met. It was for rape, not murder, as he had claimed. It was the first she heard about it.

"To be honest I had this feeling about him at times before ... He never took an interest in sex if I initiated it and he always wanted me to act scared or in pain when we did it … but he never raped me, I mean, I am far larger and taller than him."

A few weeks after she discovered the truth, Stacey found out she was two months pregnant with his child; their second and her fourth.

"I ended the relationship, but he still rang. He would tell me I would never have another boyfriend because I am a 'fat and disgusting pig'. He made all sorts of threats if I said I would block him from calling me," Stacey tells news.com.au.

When his 12 month sentence for assaulting the jogger ended, Mick moved into a boarding house near the factory he returned to work at.

Then Stacey heard news that Mick had been charged with another rape.

HE RAPED A PROSTITUTE AT KNIFE-POINT

Stacey didn't go to the trial. She read the news report about it: Mick had raped a St Kilda sex worker while holding a knife at her throat and threatening to kill her in his car. A jury convicted him of rape, attempted armed robbery and threatening to kill.

Mick was jailed for nine and a half years.

As it turned out, Mick had committed the St Kilda rape before the earlier lake attack - it just took several years to identify him as the St Kilda prostitute's attacker.

By the time he was sentenced, Stacey had finally secured a housing commission flat. She remains single. She has finished a TAFE diploma in criminal justice and is now enrolled in a double degree in psychology and criminology.

"People always asked me in class why I still take the kids to see him. It's hard to explain … I am not sure how to tell them what he did. I mean, what do I say? They all call him dad. 'Oh by the way, your dad's a rapist'? And for the youngest, they have half his genes."

"I realise now how young and stupid I was getting together with him … but I still feel very manipulated by him. I have trouble saying no to him and I am actually scared of what he might do when he gets out if I stop taking the kids to visit him."

Michael Walter Hughes is now six years through his nine-and-a-half year sentence. He maintains to this day the prostitute was lying about the rape and she cheated him on a drug deal.

*Stacey Lennon is not her real name.

If you need to talk to someone about sexual assault or domestic violence you can call 1800Respect on 1800 737 732

If you want to report a sexual assault or domestic violence you can contact Crimestoppers 1800 333 000.

Luke Williams is a journalist and author of the Ice Age: A Journey into Crystal Meth Addiction.

News Corp Australia

Why you should change your iPhone passcode

Why you should change your iPhone passcode

Do you use a six-digit passcode for your iPhone?

Splendour tickets sold out in minutes

Splendour tickets sold out in minutes

If you missed out, don’t panic and read on

The joy is in the giving, and giving, and giving

The joy is in the giving, and giving, and giving

The joy is in the giving, and giving, and giving

Local Partners