A WOMAN was left brain-damaged after her thug boyfriend beat her so hard with a baseball bat it broke in two – all because she wanted an early night.
Donna Finney, 48, from Leigh, Lancs, told how Martin Laithwaite, 51, had cooked her a romantic meal complete with music, wine and flowers prior to the vicious attack in October last year.
But when she headed up to bed, Laithwaite saw red and launched his brutal assault while she lay sleeping.
Bizarrely, he then placed her unconscious body in the bath and dressed her in black boots.
Thankfully his neighbours had heard Donna’s screams and called the police. In May this year, Laithwaite, 51, was jailed for nine years - while Donna was left with a fractured skull and lasting injuries.
Donna, 48, said: “One minute, I was off to bed after a lovely, romantic meal. The next, I was fighting for my life.
“I have no idea what sparked the attack, but I wonder whether Martin had planned the evening to try to seduce me, and instead I annoyed him by going off to bed early.
“I think perhaps he wanted to have sex, but I was so tired after work that I went to sleep.
“I cannot believe that a man I loved would do that to me, no matter what the reason. Nine years in jail seems nothing for what he has done.”
Donna had known Laithwaite since she was six years old.
“Martin lived in the next street and so we grew up together,” she explained.
“I was friends with his sister at school.”
Donna later married and had two children, Rachael, now 26, and Ben, 24. But after her marriage ended she hooked up with Martin two years ago.
“We were connected on Facebook and he invited me for a drink,” she said.
“That night, I saw him differently and I started to fancy him. Martin was good mates with my brother, Les, so I felt he was trustworthy.”
The couple began dating. But though they were happy, Martin suffered with anxiety and depression.
“Some days he would tell me he was feeling a bit low,” Donna said.
“I wanted to cheer him up, so I’d go round and spruce the flat up for him. Looking back, he was using me.
“I worked long hours and I had a good wage, and he took advantage. But at the time, I thought he loved me.
“He was possessive too; he didn’t like other men looking at me, even when we were out shopping. But I just thought he was insecure and I hoped he would settle down over time.
“He was never violent at all, he was always really gentle towards me, and I never felt threatened by him.”
Speaking about the night of the attack, Donna, a care worker, explained how she’d just finished a double shift at 8pm when she went round to Laithwaite’s.
“He was busy cooking dinner with some music on,” she recalled.
“He handed me a glass of wine and told me he had run me a bath. It was so thoughtful and romantic.”
The couple then popped out to their local supermarket to buy baby clothes for Donna’s new grandson, before returning to Martin’s flat to eat.
She recalled: “Martin was complaining about a bet he felt had been underpaid at the bookies.
“He was very agitated, dropping things, and I wondered what was wrong with him.
“I told him to forget about it and I went off to bed. I was exhausted.”
But while she was asleep, Martin crept into the bedroom and battered her so hard with a baseball bat that it snapped in two.
The attack lasted several hours. Donna pleaded with him to stop – and her screams were heard by worried neighbours - but she has no memory of it.
She said: “I went to bed in a pink nightie and woke up in a white nightie. I had no idea I was in hospital or what had happened. I had been in a coma for two weeks.
“My daughter explained that Martin had attacked me and I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing.”
She was left with serious injuries to her head and body, including deep cuts, bruising, a fractured skull and bleeding to the brain.
Donna also had damage to her kidneys and her sense of taste and smell were damaged. She has permanent scarring and will need medication for life.
Laithwaite was arrested for attempted murder but pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm.
Donna said: “Even after I came home from hospital a month later, I couldn’t walk or move without crying in pain. I had to give up my job.
“My memory was badly affected and I was treated for PTSD. I felt like my whole life had been snatched away from me.”
Laithwaite appeared before Minshull Street Crown Court, where a witness told how they’d heard Donna’s desperate pleas of “don’t” and “stop it” followed by groaning.
Police found Donna unconscious, collapsed in the bath of the flat, where there were bloodstains on the furniture and walls.
Laithwaite had dressed her in a pair of black boots.
The brute, who was “slurring his words and significantly intoxicated”, was arrested and a baseball bat, also covered in blood and broken in two, was recovered from the scene.
Timothy Becker, defending Laithwaite, said the incident was due to an “unfortunate combination of pills and alcohol”.
Mr Becker said Laithwaite had never been violent or aggressive to the victim before and added that his client was remorseful for acting in a “violent and frenzied way”.
Sentencing Laithwaite to nine years, Judge Maurice Green described the attack as “sustained and vicious”.
He also handed Laithwaite a restraining order, prohibiting him from making contact with the victim.
Donna said: “I really don’t feel that nine years is long enough. I won’t ever get my old life back. I don’t feel safe falling asleep any more, not even in my own bed.”
We previously told how a mum, 21, relived the horrifying moment her violent ex held a gun to her head because she dumped him.
Meanwhile a girlfriend who was forced to flee her home "wrapped in bedsheets" after being battered by her "monster" ex has slammed his two-year jail-term.