THE first time Tina Ritchie’s partner attacked her, punching her in the stomach, she was five months pregnant with their son. Her only ‘offence’ was that she had refused to give him money to buy cannabis. 

This was only the beginning of her ordeal at the hands of Sean Armstrong, who was jailed in September 2018 following the most shocking catalogue of domestic violence authorities in Copeland have ever seen. 

But now this courageous 53-year-old mother is speaking out to encourage other survivors of domestic violence to seek the support they need to rebuild their lives. 

She said: “I feel now’s the time to tell my story because if I don’t, how are people going to know about the help you can get?” 

Tina was driven to attempt suicide before she finally escaped, with her attacker made the subject of a highly unusual lifetime restraining order.  

During their 23-year relationship he beat her repeatedly, tried to strangle her and threw her down stairs, breaking her ankle. He also kept her as a virtual prisoner in her own home, threatened her grandchildren and denied her access to a phone. But even close members of her own family were unaware of the situation, because Armstrong, now 44, prevented Tina from seeing them.  

In one of the worst attacks, he punched her so hard her sternum burst through the front of her chest. But because her abuser insisted on accompanying her to the surgery, she could not reveal how she came by her horrific injuries.  

When Tina was later prevented from seeing their son she tried to end her own life in 2017. She had been sent to the garage to get milk but instead made her way down to Whitehaven harbour, with the intention of throwing herself in. Tina was saved by a Good Samaritan and her Jack Russell terrier both pulling her back from the brink. 

Tina finally left her partner in January 2018 after eight previous attempts to get away. She says: “If I didn’t get out this time, I knew I was going to die.”  

But when Armstrong realised she was determined to leave he started burning everything she owned, including pictures of her dead father and precious baby pictures.  

Later that day, she spotted workmen on a neighbour’s roof and attracted their attention by hammering on the window. But Armstrong heard the commotion, stormed inside and pushed her out of the house. 

Tina had only the clothes she was standing in, no phone, not even the bus fare into Whitehaven. But remembering a TV advert from Copeland council advising victims of their support services, she made her way into town. From that moment, the long road to recovery began.  

She met the council’s prevention and crisis support officer, who found her a safe place to stay. Tina believes the intervention of Copeland council helped to save her life and admits she would have returned to her abuser without their ongoing support. 

Armstrong, whose address at the time of the offence was Seven Acres, in Parton, Whitehaven, was found guilty of arson, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault at a hearing in Carlisle Crown Court on August 3, 2018.


  • To contact the council’s prevention and crisis support officer email or call 01946 598300.
  • Anyone who believes they are in immediate danger of abuse or exploitation should call 999 immediately.
  • Those who are affected by these issues but are not homeless or at risk of homelessness should call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or email