A SALISBURY woman said her husband has "stolen her life from her" after finding out he had a secret wife and family for 20 years.

Neil and Susan Rattue married in Wiltshire in 1983, after meeting in 1980.

But in October, Susan Rattue received a letter, claiming that Neil had in fact married another woman, Rebecca Rattue, and that the couple had two children together.

Despite the fact the pair had not seen each other for 17 years, Susan Rattue said her husband would call her on the phone every day and that in her eyes they were still a married couple.

In a statement, she said he was "manipulative, deceitful and devious", adding: “Neil preyed on my quiet nature and as a result I have been paying for this emotionally and financially ever since."

Neil Rattue, of Eason Road, York, admitted one count of bigamy at Salisbury magistrates' court on Friday.

Prosecuting, Kate Prince said Rattue and his first wife had bought a house together in Salisbury in 1993 but “they were living separate lives because of his work”.

By 2001 he was "pretty much living away full time, but they were still together," Ms Prince said, but Rattue told his wife they needed to sell the house as he was in debt.

The couple moved in with her parents in Downton, but shortly afterwards he moved away full time.

The court heard that she had paid off £30,000 worth of Neil Rattue's debt and the couple still had a joint bank account by the time she found out about his second life in late 2017.

In the 1990s, Neil Rattue met his second wife Rebecca, and he told her he was married but in the process of separating. They planned to marry in 1998, and when they went to the register office, he produced a forged divorce certificate.

Ms Prince said he later told police he had "borrowed it from a friend, unbeknownst to them," and doctored it.

“Clearly a false document that was produced to carry on his deceit,” she added.

The couple now live in York and have two children together.

In a statement, Susan Rattue said: “I have been struggling to understand things. Why he would lead me on and not ask for a divorce years ago?

“He’s gone off and started a new life and left me with my mum and dad, with nowhere else to live.

“I could have remarried and moved on, I could have had children. It hurt more when I found out he had had children with someone else.

“He has taken away my trust in men. I don’t think I would be able to trust anybody new.

“Even though I now know he has a job, a wife, children and his own house, he would still make me pay off his debt and pleaded poverty.

“This whole thing has been a prison sentence, since 2001 when he left, and he has stolen my life from me.”

But defending Rattue, Ann Ellery said it was his second wife who was the "true victim" of the case, as "she's the person who has been deceived into believing she was married", but that she had forgiven him.

"Had Mr Rattue left [Susan] and taken up with somebody else and had children, but never married them, Susan Rattue would be in the same position she is today."

But magistrate Mr Wells said he was "not convinced" by Ms Ellery's argument, and that both women were victims.

He said the length of time that the "deceit took place", and "the fact you spoke every day to your wife [Susan], giving her the impression that you were still married" would be serious factors in deciding a sentence.

"Had [Susan] known about this separate life in 1998, she may have been able to do something different with her life, and move away from you."

Rattue will be sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court on May 5.