Friday, June 29, 2007

Anatomy of a Deception - Part 1

In 2000 Mary Turner Thomson met a man named Will Jordan via an internet dating site. They hit it off and, despite his being unreliable, frequently disappearing for great lengths of time, they got married and had two children. Prior to the wedding Will revealed the reason behind his absenteeism and poor time-keeping; he was a CIA agent. Throughout their relationship Will slowly extracted himself from the agency, an expensive process that involved an unending flow of money, largely provided by Mary, her family and credit rating. In 2006, following his arrest and trial, she finally woke up to the fact that he was a bigamist, a convicted sex offendor, and a fraudster. Mary Turner Thomson is an intelligent woman. Prior to meeting Will Jordan she was a single mother with a good job; independent with a clear idea of what she wanted out of life, both for herself and her daughter. That she came to be duped and defrauded in such a dramatic way serves to demonstrate how easily one can find oneself believing the unbelievable, and the abuse to which such beliefs can be put.

Jordan initially admitted to being a workaholic, claiming that he had been guilty in the past of putting his work above everything else, with relationships suffering as a result. He claimed that this was something he wanted to rectify in himself. He also stated that he was infertile following an attack of mumps. This groundwork was explicitly set in place, but other foundations were also lying in wait, ready to be made use of. Initially Mary was not without her doubts.
In the back of my mind ... I had a feeling that something wasn't right. ... Gradually I grew suspicious. There was something very odd about all of this and by the end of January [2001] I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

He had created a personal website for me, so I looked it up on WHOIS and found details of his business and an address in Lancashire. I pulled the Company House records for his business and found he was the company secretary and a woman named Michelle Hayward was listed as director. Her address was in Lancashire but his was listed in a village just outside Edinburgh. I agonised over what to do but I had to know, so I got in the car and drove there.
What she found was a large house with Will's car parked outside. In the garden were children's toys. When Mary confronted him about this she was first told the CIA story, that he was an agent, that the house outside Edinburgh was part of his cover. Will claimed to gain security clearance for Mary, and told her of his CIA work, all while her mobile phone received data messages from ODCI RELAY. These messages, Will explained, were software downloads, allowing her phone to be tracked. She was being pulled into Will's secret world. Mary's discovery of Will's home clearly forced him to carry out a maneauvre he had already planned in order to safeguard the relationship, the creation of a coherent cover story that could be deployed should Mary get too close to the truth.

In The Other Mrs Jordan Thomson speaks about the emotional truth of Will Jordan, his overwhelming love for her and belief in monogamy. She describes how earnest and powerful Will's declarations of love were. These lies were just as important to the maintenance of Will's cover story as the various other "proofs" that Will provided:

...the emails he sent me from the field, which when I checked the path came through and (the CIA website); the cash he produced sealed in plastic wallets prointed with the Ministry of Defence logo; the gun that I had often felt through his jacket and the holster that I saw; the pass and parking permit for Brize Norton air force base; the gadgets and mobile phones; the secret calls; the language he used...
In Mary's telling of the narrative, and invariably when she reached a point in life where she had to choose what to believe in, the emotional truth of Will Jordan proved to be key, with the above more tangible evidence of Jordan's reality being secondary.

Will stated he was infertile, and more of his "emotional truth" concerned how badly he wanted children, how guilty he felt in not being able to give Mary a child. When the "miracle" happened, that it was a chance in a million in the first place cemented the relationship further. It also put further distance between truth and reality, a distance Mary herself refers to as the "gulf". Mary was sold a fairystory - a brave, loving husband, and a miracle pregnancy. When doubts came in, Mary would have to choose between that fairystory and a much uglier reality.

A further tool at Jordan's disposal in maintaining his fiction was the level of stress and fatigue that Mary was placed under. Whenever he was absent (which was more often than not) he was working in the field, was in possible danger. Will would often text Mary to say that he was on his way to meet her, only to never arrive, and only text a day or two later, always to say that he had been followed, or was ordered away on CIA business. He created a conspiracy, that the CIA were trying to drive a wedge between them. Mary described herself as an army wife lacking in the usual network of support that exists for them. The stress and the worry that she was constantly under (Will repeatedly claimed that she and the children were in genuine physical danger, and had trained her in self-defense, how to spot if she was being followed, and showed her how to use the Taser he had bought for her) meant that she was never afforded the mental space and the calm with which to take a step back and assess what her life had become.

She describes a holiday at Centerparks, the longest time they ever spent together. Will was called away before the holiday ended, and after he had left Mary found, in the bedroom, a wedding band that was not the one she had bought him, along with documentation referring to another marriage and children. This event seems to be hugely significant. It is almost as though Jordan was seeing how far he could take Mary's belief in him. He talked her round once more, and it seemed at that point his requests for the money he needed to escape the control of the CIA became more frequent and insistent. One is tempted to think that it was a challenge to her - if she could see concrete evidence of his other wife and children and be convinced of their forgery then she didn't want to wake up. Her commitment to the fiction became all the clearer.

The use of the CIA is itself fascinating. The agency, and the less-than-pleasant elements that Will had to deal with were blamed for his absenteeism, his insatiable thirst for cash, the emotional turmoil and stress that Mary had to deal with constantly. It was the motivation for Mary not being open with her family about her own situation. Will briefs her to be aware of being pumped for information by those around her, putting a tension and guardedness into every new friendship she would make. Mary at one point mentions to her family the real nature of Jordan's work, and Jordan receives a beating at the hands of his colleagues, a punishment by a third party on the second party to discipline the first party. Every action that the CIA take within the narrative that Will concocts serves to push Will and Mary together, strengthening their bond.

Hope is always dangled in front of Mary. Things are always about to get better, but of course they never do. Payments and compensation that Will expects to arrive in his account fail to appear. Contracts for his IT firm are won only to be lost later when he is dragged back into service. Even when Jordan is arrested, it is not enough for Mary to realise she has been duped. One reaches a point where the length of time that a belief has been held serves to maintain that belief further. By the time Jordan is charged with illegal possession of an offensive weapon, bigamy, fraud, and failure to notify a change of address with the sex offenders' register, Mary was five and a half years into the relationship, and had passed on about £300,000 to Jordan. Such a level of investment in both time and money creates a strong mental trap. As Jordan was facing trial, Mary was still holding on to the reality that Jordan had presented to her, that the pervious conviction for the molestation of a girl between the ages of nine and thirteen was a cover to allow him into a sex offenders prison in order to get information from another convict, that the other marriage was his cover, and that the credit card fraud was an honest mistake; that he would at worst be sent to prison for a few months, and once released would be able to rid himself of the CIA once and for all, allowing Will and Mary to finally set up home together properly.

Waiting for a phone call from Will's lawyer, Mary answers the phone instead to Will Jordan's other wife, and at last reality begins to break through.

Readers who believe they may have been a victim of Will Jordan or someone like him can find help and support at the Love Fraud website. The Other Mrs Jordan is available in paperback.

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