A wife accused of having a sham marriage with her Pakistani husband told a jury: “I have never loved anybody like I loved him.”
Tracy Coulstock allegedly accepted £7,000 in instalments from Sheffield taxi driver Gul Khatab to keep up her end of the bargain in the ruse.
The pair are accused of fooling the immigration authorities into thinking they were living a happily married life together in Hertfordshire, when Khatab was actually living 150 miles away in Sheffield.
Jurors at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday heard Coulstock and Khatab first got talking at Coulstock’s birthday party in May 2009 at her home in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
The court heard they went on dates to the cinema and out walking before agreeing three months later that they would get married.
Coulstock, aged 48, said: “I had never loved anybody like I loved him, so I had never got married before.”
The couple tied the knot on Khatab’s birthday in February 2010, but Coulstock told the court his family and her mother disapproved.
She said: “My mum didn’t come. She knew about it, but she didn’t come because she didn’t like what I was doing.”
Of Khatab’s family’s culture, she said: “They’re supposed to marry who their mum and dad want them to marry – but obviously we got married.”
Despite this, Coulstock said the couple had a ‘wonderful’ time as newlyweds.
After a period of time, Coulstock said the relationship became long-distance because Khatab had to go back to work in Sheffield, where he was a driver for City Taxis.
She said the marriage started to breakdown when her mother became ill at the beginning of 2012.
She said: “He kept saying he wanted to come down and I kept saying, ‘Don’t come down, I can’t see you’.
“I wasn’t interested in him – I know that sounds bad, but I wasn’t interested in him, I was more interested in my mum.”
After her mother’s death that August, she said the relationship further deteriorated. By the end of 2012, she had entered into a relationship with her lodger.
Khatab, aged 36, of Scott Road, Pitsmoor, was arrested in 2012 after authorities became suspicious the marriage was simply a way for him to gain leave to remain in the UK.
The couple both deny conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law by an individual who is not a citizen of the EU.
The trial continues.