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Wednesday 20 November 2019

'He's a monster' - ex-girlfriend of hammer rapist 'thought she was going to die on forest camping trip'

Sonya Johnston who was in relationship with covicted rapist Michael Gilbert. (Photo: Sunday Life)
Sonya Johnston who was in relationship with covicted rapist Michael Gilbert. (Photo: Sunday Life)

John Toner

This is the traumatised mother who said a notorious rapist duped her into a relationship before threatening to throw acid in her face.

Bangor woman Sonya Johnston (36) fled to England in June to escape hammer horror rapist Michael 'Micky' Gilbert (29) who she says kept his horrific past secret from her.

Hairdresser Sonya claims monster Gilbert threatened to permanently disfigure her by throwing acid in her face and also threatened to kill her.

She says he also stabbed her and beat her up during their near two-year relationship.

She told Sunday Life: "I absolutely want to warn other women, I wouldn't want another woman going through what I did.

"He's a monster and he is gonna continue hurting people.

"If I can help another person by speaking out about Micky Gilbert then I will do that. If any woman out there is thinking about getting into a relationship with him, I'd say run in the other direction."

Sex beast Gilbert was convicted in 2005, at the age of 15, of carrying out a prolonged and horrific sex attack on a woman who had been sleeping in her north Belfast home.

Sonya Johnston who was in relationship with convicted rapist Michael Gilbert. (Photo: Sunday Life)
Sonya Johnston who was in relationship with convicted rapist Michael Gilbert. (Photo: Sunday Life)

Gilbert had been sniffing glue before he and an accomplice broke into her home, stabbed the terrified woman in the neck with a screwdriver, repeatedly smashed her over the head with a hammer, forced her to perform sex acts and raped her before leaving her for dead.

Despite his gruesome past Gilbert managed to strike up a relationship with unsuspecting Sonya in December 2016 after the pair met on a night out and later bonded over his pet Staffordshire bull terrier.

She said: "When I first met him he seemed genuine, he had his dog with him and that's how we struck up a friendship.

"He told me he had just split up with his partner and was having a hard time.

"I didn't have any idea about Micky's past, he soon started getting aggressive, telling me that I couldn't go out with my friends, always accusing me of cheating on him and from there it went downhill. He threatened to throw acid in my face and threatened to kill me on numerous occasions.

"Then it started to unfold about his horrible past. It was one of our mutual friends that told me about it and that I should Google him.

"I didn't want to believe it at first but then I went on the internet and I found out about his horrendous past.

"Initially he did deny it, I was really hurt because I thought how can somebody do that, and I was in a relationship with him. I was hurt, let down and disgusted. I was horrified, I felt as if I was going to faint, I couldn't believe it. The more that I read about it I felt sick to my stomach, especially as I had started to grow feelings for him.

"He said it was his co-accused and that he never hurt that woman but after what he put me through, I believe he did hurt that woman and he is going to hurt other women."

In the summer of 2017, Sonya says their initially pleasant relationship began to deteriorate, describing an incident in which the sex beast locked her in a house and threatened her with a knife.

She said: "In his friend's house he held me hostage for several hours at knife point and took my shoes off me and threw them out the bedroom window so I couldn't get out of the room and was just pacing up and down.

"The relationship went downhill but I couldn't get away from him because I was vulnerable at the time. He was very controlling and he preyed on my vulnerability but I can see that now I'm in a better place but I didn't realise it then, I felt as though I had nobody.

"He would always beg me for a second chance and it took me nearly two years to make that break from him."

The final straw for Sonya came in May when the couple went camping in Tollymore Forest, Co Down with friends.

Sonya says Gilbert became violent and aggressive before stabbing her in the leg - a wound which required 15 stitches.

Sonya stumbled out of the forest to safety in the dead of night after Gilbert's fit of rage subsided and she decided to flee to England, fearing he would kill her.

She said: "I thought I was going to die in that forest. On the way up he was pulling my hair and getting in my face and accusing me of cheating, he was always insecure saying I'd cheated on him.

"After we got the tents up, when it got dark, Micky took my phone off me and put me through a horrendous attack.

"He kicked me about my head, my eyes were black and he stabbed me on my left leg.

"He was volatile, he was vicious and he was wicked. It was just terrible. I was considering ending my life. He made me feel horrible, he made me feel worthless but I am in a better place now."

She's currently living in England but hopes one day to be able to return to Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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