Rula Lenska: I was beaten unconscious

Actress Rula Lenska has spoken out about being beaten by former husband Dennis Waterman. Picture: Getty
Actress Rula Lenska has spoken out about being beaten by former husband Dennis Waterman. Picture: Getty
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RULA Lenska has revealed she was knocked unconscious by New Tricks star Dennis Waterman during their tumultuous marriage.

The Polish-born actress claimed she was frequently beaten by her husband during their 15-year relationship.

Speaking out following Waterman’s claims that his ex-wife “made him” hit her, the 64-year-old said the Sweeney star threatened her with shards of glass he had smashed from frames of family photos.

Last week Waterman, also 64, was accused of trivialising domestic violence after he described hitting his ex-wife, but said she was not “a beaten wife”.

In an interview on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories series, he was “very, very ashamed” of the attack but said: “The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue, well. And if there is a time where you can’t get a word in… I lashed out.”

He admitted hitting his ex-wife but said she “certainly wasn’t a beaten wife. She was hit, and that’s different”.

In response, Lenska said there was never any justification for violence, and anyone who used excuses should be held responsible.

“Whatever the adjectives – strong, powerful, intelligent – they can never be used as an excuse for violence towards women. Whoever uses them should be brought to account,” she said.

“If I have to apologise for being a strong, intelligent woman then what does that mean for any woman? It is utterly irresponsible.”

Describing the aftermath of the alleged incident when she was threatened with shards of glass, Lenska said: “I ran to the phone to call a close friend for help, but when I picked up the handset, he grabbed it out of my hand and whacked me across the head. I lost consciousness briefly.”

When she came to, Lenska called the police. Waterman was cautioned but Lenska declined to take further action to halt the domestic violence.

Lenska and Waterman were both married with young children when they met on the set of Minder in 1981, and despite their differing backgrounds – she the daughter of a Polish count and he the son of a ticket inspector – they left their families to be together.

Lenska described their first six years as “idyllic”, with Waterman’s two daughters bonding well with her own daughter.

However, she said their relationship deteriorated after a spur-of-the-moment marriage while touring in Australia. Ominously, Dennis got “staggeringly drunk” on their wedding night.

“I remember being baffled by why he felt the need to do it,” she said. “Everything started losing its charm fairly quickly after that. It was almost a case of: ‘I’ve made the catch so I don’t have to try so hard’.

“In some ways, there was virtually no difference between Dennis Waterman and the character that he played on Minder. He loved getting pissed with the lads, and did it often.

“He’d promise to be home at 9pm, then roll in at two in the morning. By the time he did get home, I was a dithering mess: partly relieved, partly angry. I used to say to him: ‘Why are you doing this to us?’”

Although at this point there was no physical violence, she said, his heavy drinking weighed heavily on their family life at their Buckinghamshire country home.

“There was mental abuse to which the children were occasionally privy when they were at home,” she said.

“He’d come in at 3am and turn the music up so the house was shaking. When I’d turn it down, it was ‘It’s my f***ing house’ – nasty things like that. The following day there would be flowers and undying promises that it would never happen again.”