Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

'My young Sri Lankan husband left me with nothing'

Diane Peebles and husband Priyanjana De Zoysa Image copyright Diane Peebles
Image caption Diane Peebles married Sri Lankan man Priyanjana De Zoysa

When 60-year-old Edinburgh woman Diane Peebles married a man less than half her age and went to live with him in his native Sri Lanka, she called it her "one shot at happiness".

Six years later, she is homeless, penniless and a widow after spending an entire £100,000 inheritance on Priyanjana De Zoysa.

Diane moved to the island to be with her husband and make a new life.

But after he was murdered "for having wealth", Diane discovered he was also married to an 18-year-old woman and she was left with no money to get back to the UK.

Now she is determined to warn other women against risking their financial future for an unattainable dream.

Diane, a former council worker from Musselburgh, met Priyanjana De Zoysa while on holiday in Sri Lanka in 2011. She was in her late 50s and he was 21. He cleaned rooms in the hotel where she was staying.

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Kaye Adams Programme it was not an instant love story.

She said: "He asked for my mobile number and then my address to write to me. We became friends on Facebook and tried to Skype now and again.

"I just thought it was a friendship. I didn't have romantic feelings for him."

Image copyright Diane Peebles
Image caption Diane's husband Priyanjana was gunned down in 2017 leaving her a widow with nothing

She kept in touch and in June 2012, went back over to see him. He had mentioned getting married in a phone conversation but Diane did not take it seriously.

She explained: "I went back over and after a few days we ended up getting married.

'Strong feelings'

"He had mentioned marriage in a phone call. I had told him to slow down as we hardly know each other. He said he was looking at photographers and dresses and cakes etc. When I tried to stop him he got really upset, so I guess that's why I went ahead with it.

"But I had developed strong feelings for him by then."

She thought she was getting engaged and went with Priyanjana to a registrar's office. When he started to recite wedding vows, she realised what was happening.

Diane said: " I was in a T-shirt and shorts. The night before he was excited, saying tomorrow we get engaged.

"I thought I just had to register as a foreigner to get engaged. But it was a blur really."

Diane was married.

Image copyright Diane Peebles
Image caption Priyanjana and Diane a few days after they were married

After two-and-a-half weeks, she returned to Scotland and for the next three years went back and forward for a few weeks at a time before she moved there permanently in February 2016.

But things started to go wrong almost immediately.

Diane said: "At times he felt like my husband, other times he didn't. A lot of the time he didn't come home at night and I didn't know where he was. I just felt so alone."

Diane was not allowed to go out without a member of his family.

She bought Priyanjana a minibus to generate an income and paid for their house to be built. But he took money and never brought any back.

"I shouldn't have had to support him because he had the minibus," said Diane. "He said he would be earning money and pay for everything but he didn't pay for anything, I paid for everything.

"I gave him about £100,000 in total. I bought the minibus and sent money to get the house built."

Image copyright Diane Peebles
Image caption Diane paid for a house to be built and bought her husband a minibus
Image copyright Diane Peebles
Image caption The vehicle was supposed to generate an income but Diane never received any money back from Priyanjana

Then, last year, Priyanjana was shot dead.

Diane believes he was killed for his cash by people who had seen the things she had given him. He was seen as being wealthy.

She then discovered that he had another wife - he had married her in 2016 when she was 18, and was living in her mother-in-law's home with Priyanjana's family.

Diane was unable to leave Sri Lanka for 18 months after her husband's death.

She had no money, her in-laws did not help and she relied on strangers she met online to help her buy a plane ticket.

Image copyright Diane Peebles
Image caption The funeral procession in Sri Lanka for Diane's husband Priyanjana

Back in Scotland, Diane is trying to piece her life back together.

She explained: "I am trying to sort out housing and get a job because my small pension from my old work is not enough to live on."

And she has a warning for any other women - or men - who could find themselves in the same position.

"I would say don't do it, don't get involved. A lot of people are looking to marry European women to better their lives.

"They don't earn a lot of money there."

'We all want to be loved'

Lloyd Figgins, travel safety expert and author of "The Travel Survival Guide", told BBC Radio Scotland this situation is more common than people think.

He said: "The sad fact is it is all too common a story. It starts as messaging and develops into asking for money.

"We have vulnerabilities - we all want to be loved and liked. If someone shows that to us it is something we can respond to.

"Ask yourself if it is what it seems to be or if there is something more sinister behind it."

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