‘IT’S A MIDLIFE CRISIS’ Mum of nine Heidi Hepworth, 45, dumps husband and converts to Islam so that she can marry her 31-year-old Gambian toyboy.
Heidi, 45, wears a hijab and prays to Allah every day as she prepares for her big day with Mamadou Salieu Jallow, 31 – but her ex-husband says it’s she’s been ‘brainwashed’.
She is planning a wedding in a mosque in The Gambia, where most of the population is Muslim and which Heidi says is “a happier and more caring place than Britain”.
Insisting her relationship with Mamadou Salieu Jallow, 31, is the real thing, she said: “No-one imagined this would last but we love each other and are making plans to marry. I’ve never been happier.”
Heidi split with her car mechanic husband of 23 years last year when she hooked up with her lover on Facebook.
Friends reckoned it would hit the rocks within weeks.
At the time, husband Andy, 45, from Hetton-le-Hole, Tyne and Wear, said: “It’s a mid-life crisis. She’s been brainwashed.”
But Heidi, who had never been in a plane in her life, has now been to West Africa four times to see her taxi driver boyfriend.
She plans to move there after they marry next year once her divorce is finalised.
Heidi, who has six children with Andy and three from a previous marriage, said she popped the question.
“If people think I went over to The Gambia and didn’t give them a second thought, they are so wrong.
“But having said that, I make no apologies for following my heart. I’ve been unhappy for a long time and I think I have found someone to spend the rest of my life with.
“We are in love and nothing will stop me from marrying him. If other people don’t like that they will just have to lump it.”
Heidi’s African romance made her the talk of town in Hetton-le-Hole in Sunderland.
Andy blames the Facebook love affair for the couple’s split, but Heidi insisted their loveless marriage was over long before she received the friend request from Salieu.
Heidi said: “Andy and I didn’t even share a bedroom, never mind a bed, for the last two years of our marriage.
“We were both unhappy and on some days the most conversation I would get from him would be when he’d say, ‘Put the kettle on’.
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