When Heidi Hepworth left her home to be with a toyboy in Africa, she wasn’t just deserting her husband. No, she was also leaving behind nine children. Inevitably, then, her decision sparked a ferocious response back in her native England. However, Heidi has now defended her actions in the most vocal of ways.
Heidi Hepworth comes from Hetton-le-Hole in the north-east of England. For 23 years, she lived there with her partner, Andy, and their large family. You see, when the couple met in the 1990s, Heidi already had three kids of her own – and the pair have since had six more children.
Like most couples, then, Heidi and Andy had experienced plenty of ups and downs during the course of their relationship. Andy had even moved out of the family home in 2012. But it seems that he soon regretted his decision because the pair later reconciled and tied the knot.
And for almost five years, their marriage outwardly appeared to be settled. However, Andy, a former Navy officer, claimed that Heidi changed in March 2017. He subsequently told The Sun that he was worried when she started “wearing more makeup and dresses” and began “going out all the time with friends and was always on her phone.”
They weren’t the only things to arouse Andy’s suspicions, however. “She has strange friends on Facebook, men from Africa and Asia,” he explained. When Andy asked if there was another man on the scene, though, Heidi said there wasn’t. But then he found messages from an unknown male on their shared computer.
Shortly after Andy’s shocking discovery, Heidi left her heartbroken husband and their children to jet off to Gambia, West Africa. It was there that she first met in person Salieu Jallow – the man whose messages Andy had found on his family’s computer.
Salieu was 12 years younger than 44-year-old Heidi. Nonetheless, the pair had struck up a relationship online over the preceding months. Before long, they were chatting every day, and Heidi later admitted that she soon started to fall in love with him. And that was when she decided to go to meet him in real life for the first time.
Her decision to leave her family naturally sparked a backlash in her hometown – not least from her husband, Andy. He told The Sun, “It’s a mid-life crisis. The person she has become is horrible. A caring mum wouldn’t go off gallivanting around Africa with her new boyfriend.”
Heidi’s actions also provoked a police investigation. Indeed, after discovering that the mom-of-nine had left her three youngest children – then aged six, nine and 11 – at home, someone contacted their school to express concerns about the kids’ welfare.
However, police later said, “There are no concerns for the children. They were left with an appropriate adult.” Heidi came to her own defense, too, stating that she’d asked her 29-year-old daughter to care for her little ones while she was away.
Speaking to The Sun in December 2017, she also defended her relationship with Salieu. Heidi claimed that her marriage to Andy had already broken down before she found love online. “Andy and I didn’t even share a bedroom, never mind a bed, for the last two years of our marriage,” she said.
“We were both unhappy. On some days, the most conversation I would get from him would be when he’d say, ‘Put the kettle on,’” Heidi added. She also claimed that she’d found messages from two women on Andy’s phone, and Heidi said this had damaged her self-esteem.
So when she started talking to Salieu online, he became her shoulder to cry on. And before she knew it, she’d fallen head-over-heels for him. What’s more, according to Heidi, it was love at first sight when she first spotted her toyboy at the airport in Gambia.
“I ran into his arms and gave him a big hug,” she recalled. “He was everything I had dreamed of and more. He was tall and handsome and was so nice. It just felt right. We had fallen for each other before I even reached Gambia, but after a short time with him I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.”
Heidi revealed that the pair have already made plans to marry when her divorce from Andy is finalized. She has even met Salieu’s parents and stated her willingness to convert to Islam for her lover. Moreover, Heidi added that she’ll “make no apologies for following [her] heart.”
“I’ve been unhappy for a long time. I think I have found someone to spend the rest of my life with,” Heidi continued. “We are in love and nothing will stop me from marrying him. If other people don’t like that, they will just have to lump it.”
For her part, Heidi seemed more concerned about figuring out how to unite her kids with her new love. After all, she claimed going to Africa without her children was one of the most difficult things that she’d ever done. “It was really hard for me to leave my kids, but they couldn’t come with me, so I had no choice,” Heidi said.
“Anyone who knows me would confirm that my children are my world and always have been, but I believe Salieu is my future,” she added. “I’ll do whatever it takes to be with him, but it has to mean we are all together — me, him and the children.”
Heidi suggested that one way the family could be together in the future would be if Salieu moved to the U.K. However, this led some cynics to insinuate that Salieu was only after a British passport. Heidi denied that this was the case, saying, “He fell in love with me, not the idea of a new life abroad.”
The mother-of-nine now plans to visit Gambia next year to cement her and Salieu’s marriage plans. And her husband-to-be couldn’t seem happier with the arrangement. “I like her kids, and they love me so much, as I always speak with them on the phone,” he said. “Now we are planning to get married and live as a happy family together in the future.”