Maybe I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be 19 years old, and perhaps I was as impressionable and naïve as Leanne McCarthy, the subject of this Channel 4 film, but watching it as an objective outsider, it seems incredible that she didn’t see through her ‘MI5’ boyfriend, Wayne Gouveia.
But of course, it’s very easy for me to say, sitting here and not being in Leanne’s shoes.
And I guess he must’ve seemed like the ‘dream’ boyfriend; apparently rich and generous and seemingly very protective, I suppose to a vulnerable and trusting young girl, he may well have been utterly believable.
Certainly Leanne believed Gouveia’s lies as he developed a relationship with her and then told her that he was in fact an MI5 agent – not a humble sales assistant; that was just his cover he said – and was working to stop Leanne being kidnapped as part of an elaborate robbery on her Aunt’s jewellery shop where Leanne worked.
So, with this huge secret to keep and a with Gouveia’s increasingly bizarre behaviour and acts, the final straw for Leanne came while the pair were on holiday and Gouveia convinced Leanne that the gang of thieves he’d been trailing had found them and intended to kidnap Leanne.
Not unreasonably, she was terrified, and Gouveia’s plot spiralled into unimaginable realms of lies and deceit. He even took her on what he told her were surveillance watches and she accompanied him as he followed the ‘suspects’ car. It was intimated too that he’d drugged her and held her effectively a prisoner in a hotel room.
And still his lies about himself escalated. He even went as far as hiring an up-market apartment for the day and convincing Leanne that it was his.
But in reality, Gouveia was a fraudster and a dreamer with ambitions his own cheque book couldn’t support, and it transpired that he had in fact run up debts of £14,000 in Leanne’s name to pay for their lavish and bizarre lifestyle and the hundreds of expensive gifts he showered her with.
He was clever though because of course, he had to ensure that Leanne didn’t open her mail; if she had, she’d have discovered dozens of demands for payment to card and loans that she supposedly owned.
Gouveia got around that problem by telling her that there was a high risk that her post may contain anthrax, so he ordered her to bring it all, unopened, directly to him.
However, the game was finally up when, in desperation to free herself from Gouveia, Leanne opened her mail and confessed all to her family.
Gouveia was sentenced to just 18 months in prison and is now, apparently, due for release, and at the end of the film, the narrator and Leanne speculated on who may be his next victim, for Leanne wasn’t the first, and I’m sure she won’t be the last.
Pathological liars do not suddenly stop being that way simply because they were caught out.
Overall, this was a fascinating film, and I hope that Leanne and her lovely family and friends can find some solace in knowing that her story will serve as a warning to others.