Printer Friendly

I gave Jonah a kiss goodbye, then I switched on his phone to hear a teenager telling him `I love you' RUGBY STAR'S WIFE TELLS OF THE HEARTACHE AS SHE REALISED HER MARRIAGE HAD FALLEN APART AND HOW HE WALKED OUT WITHOUT A WORD.

THE jilted wife of rugby giant Jonah Lomu told last night how she found out he had a new romance - after a teenage girl left a message on his mobile phone saying: "I love you".

Just hours earlier Tanya Lomu, 22, and the 6ft 5in New Zealand star had kissed and cuddled as she wished him well when he left for the Commonwealth Games with the All Blacks.

But she'd had nagging fears that Lomu, the man she married at the height of his international rugby career two-and-a-half years earlier, was having a secret affair.

Urged on by a friend she tapped in the answerphone code and heard for the first time the voice of 19-year-old Teina Stace, an office clerk, who had left four messages.

Tanya said: "I just couldn't see my marriage coming to an end. And that's the worst thing. If I'd seen it coming I could have prepared myself. Maybe I was oblivious to the signs. I don't know."

The signs had been there as Lomu's behaviour became more erratic last year.

Tanya said: "He started getting really funny about his mobile phone. He was guarding it with his life, whereas until then I was used to answering it if I had to.

"I took one call from a girl who hung up. I later found out it was Teina, although at the time I thought nothing of it."

But on August 31 Tanya was to discover who that mystery voice was.

"He was due to travel to Singapore to acclimatise for the heat of the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games," she said.

"I packed his bags and he went into camp at about 6am. I did the washing and got his medication for him. We said goodbye at the airport and it didn't feel any different.

"I was supposed to meet up with him in Kuala Lumpur when the games began and we were both looking forward to that - I thought.

"But just before we left he said that he was going to get something from the car and for some reason he didn't want me to go with him. I suppose now that he was speaking to Teina."

Jonah left on his flight and even called his wife from the plane, but despite that she was not reassured.

Urged on by a friend, she made the call to his answerphone. Teina had left four messages.

"She thanked him for some music tapes and said that she loved him and missed him," Tanya recalled.

"Then she said something like, `I know you are not used to your friends falling in love with you'. I didn't know who she was and she sounded so young. But that for me was the crushing moment - when she could tell someone that she knew was married that she loved him.

"After that you can't rebuild trust.

"Jonah rang me that night but I didn't tell him what I had heard. I just wanted to listen to his tone and what he said to me. He was normal and telling me that he had bought a new CD and was looking forward to me coming out."

Two days later Tanya decided that the moment had come to confront her husband.

He just shifted the blame on her. "Tan, you don't trust me," he said.

But despite his claims of innocence the affectionate phone calls to Tanya stopped at that point.

She only spoke to him once more while he was in Kuala Lumpur - to ask for advice when the couple's pet Labrador Muttley, a 23rd birthday gift from Tanya, was taken ill.

The warmth that had been the hallmark of their long-distance chats had evaporated.

But when he returned to New Zealand Tanya decided to give the marriage her best shot.

She said: "I hadn't given up the marriage at that stage. I was still in love, but Jonah was different."

It devastated Tanya who had spent 15 months of their marriage helping Lomu, 23, recover his status as the world's Number One rugby player.

He had been struck by a career-threatening kidney disease which saw his weight balloon from 18 to 25 stone.

Critics said he would never recover the combination of pace and strength which had helped the All Blacks to a rugby World Cup Final success in 1995 - including the four try demolition of England in the semi-final.

But he had proved them wrong and had forced his way back into the national side, with Tanya's help. This second blow, however, pulled them apart.

They spent two weeks living together but the atmosphere was so strained that Tanya realised there was little hope for the marriage.

She said: "I was very hurt, but I tried everything to get him to open up."

In early October, as they lay in bed Lomu looked his wife in the eye and said coldly: `I don't love you any more. I don't care for you.'"

Tanya's schoolteacher mother Maureen had flown fromSouth Africa to comfort her daughter and on October 4 Lomu took his wife and mother-in-law for lunch.

Tanya said: "It was as pleasant as it could be, but we had an intense conversation later in the day. I went to bed and left Jonah and a friend watching a video.

"When I woke up the next morning he had gone without a word." Days later she did what she had never done since her beach wedding at Manukau Harbour in New Zealand - she took off her engagement and wedding rings.

"I'd never taken them off before, not in the shower or anything, but there was nothing left for them to symbolise," Tanya said. "I've never touched them again."

It took 10 days before news of Jonah's departure was flashed around the world in newspaper headlines and two days later Tanya went into hospital for a planned operation.

Jonah visited her laden with expensive gifts of silk pyjamas, robe and slippers.

She said: "He was lovely that day, which did help. He'd chosen everything himself."

But a week later her 22nd birthday went unnoticed by her husband.

By then lawyers and the practical realities of breaking up all they had built in their marriage had taken over.

The couple have now not spoken for two months. All his clothes and possessions were packed into a black bin liner and taken away by a friend.

Tanya herself is preparing to leave their pounds 300,000 five bedroom home on a secluded private estate in Auckland. She said: "We still have a lot to sort out legally, but I'm looking forward to building a home for me. That's the most important thing.

"I think I was supposed to just disappear back to South Africa, but New Zealand is my home now.

"I love it here. It is a safe country, a lovely country with a good standard of living and not the high crime rate that South Africa has.

"The only reason I'll go back will be to see family. I thought this separation would make me feel isolated, but I have contact with people I now know I can trust."

The summer of 1995 when she and Jonah met at a barbecue during the South Africa World Cup now seems miles away.

The couple had a whirlwind romance and when Lomu returned as the hero of the All Blacks he hit the headlines again by dumping his then shopgirl fiancee, Leanne Russell, and moving Tanya into his home.

It was the second engagement he had broken by 20. He had already left childhood sweetheart Elaine Makiha to devote himself to rugby.

By 1996 Lomu was so sure of his love for Tanya they married - twice. Once in a quiet New Zealand ceremony and a second time in South Africa.

She relished life as the star's wife and gave their home and gardens a style not normally associated with rich young sportsmen, although Jonah insisted on a giant TV, state of the art stereo and jet ski.

She said: "He says to people he wasn't happy in the marriage, so I probably wasn't the best wife, was I?

"I was probably the best I could be, or the best that I knew, and we did have great times together.

"He was a great person. He wasn't a very responsible person, but if I needed him he was there for me - and he was a very tender person.

"He would always cuddle me at night and always kiss me in the mornings before he left to go anywhere. His fame did take his life away from him to an extent and he had to accommodate that, we both did.

"He had a lot of commitments which took him away from home, but he'd ring me five times during the day telling me what his movements were and where he was and what time he'd be home.

"I don't know when that love ended.

"We would have about four real arguments a year, if that. For instance we rowed about spending pounds 20,000 on a stereo in his new car.

"He's a Taurus, he's stubborn and he's a big kid. But we weren't a couple that used to shout and rant and rave at each other all the time.

"In hindsight I don't think he was a happy-go-lucky guy and he was probably experiencing problems he never discussed. It's hard to know what Jonah's really thinking. He's deep."

But Tanya still treasures memories of gentle giant Lomu's antics.

She said: "He once threw a rugby ball so hard indoors that it embedded itself through a wall. It left a huge hole which he had to explain to everyone." Lomu would make five trips a week to his gym to keep in shape and after his kidney infection he had all his body hair waxed off to prevent infections in cuts.

Tanya said: "He had a great body and an amazing six-pack stomach. He was so smooth to the touch."

But despite his fitness regime Lomu loved to binge on junk food. Tanya said: "He can eat about six eggs at a time.

"He loved McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken and would eat up to 10 pieces at a time, despite the doctor's advice."

Jonah's other passions were his stereo and TV. "It was just as well we had two and a half acres because Jonah would have his stereo cranked right up. The bass on his car stereo rattled the house windows when he got to the end of the street."

While she still has her memories of happy times with Lomu her eyes are focused on her own future. She said: "I've applied to start a degree in law or speech therapy in March. I think it is part of going back to being the person I was before Jonah, before rugby." While Jonah spent Christmas and the New Year with teenage Teina at his new luxury apartment in Auckland, Tanya saw in the New Year with friends in Australia.

There is no new boyfriend, but she has clear ideas on what she wants. "The next man for me would be a better communicator, very truthful, totally different.

"And although I don't blame rugby for what has happened, because a lot of marriages have survived rugby, he definitely would not be a sportsman.

"I hope Jonah is happy and good luck to him. I don't want to be vindictive about it. Doing that would only destroy me.

"But I know now that I am not a crumbler. My husband might have left me for another woman, but I'm not a victim in this. I don't want to be seen as a victim, not at all.

"I suppose I'll always be Jonah Lomu's ex-wife, or estranged wife, but if I could choose a label for myself a few years down the track perhaps it would be Tanya Rutter,my maiden name ...and then QC."

Tanya Lomu and Stephen d'Antal
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 3, 1999
Previous Article:Star Saskia has got my husband while I live on food parcels.
Next Article:Your Wealth: Why the Darren Army is looking so bleary-eyed.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters