A mother who moved to the Devon countryside to start a Good Life smallholding was attacked by her new boyfriend after she told him to leave.

Circus worker Matthew Boughen has a decade long record for domestic violence and has already served one prison term for strangling a previous partner until she was unconscious.

He left his victim with two black eyes and bruising around her neck where she told the jury he had strangled her to the point of death.

His victim, who organised ghost-hunting tours in Cambridgeshire before she moved to the eight acre field at Ashwater, near Beaworthy, said she thought she had died and had an out of body experience during the attack.

She had been in an on-off relationship with Boughen, who had returned to Devon to live with her shortly before the attack on October 30 last year. He gave up his job as a tent erecter with a travelling circus and was working at a quarry in Yelverton.

She asked him to leave after accusing him of not helping enough in her efforts to grow food and keep chickens on the land, which she bought after her marriage broke up. She was living on a converted bus with no power or running water and sleeping there or in a bell tent which contained a double bed and a woodburning stove.

She said that after a short argument he threw her against her car, punched her repeatedly in the face as she tried to cover up and fend off his blows, and then strangled her.

She said Boughen told her ‘you can’t kick a dog when it is down and expect it not to bite’ and then told her he was going to kill her. He then strangles her despite her screaming and begging for her life.

Boughen, aged 44, of no fixed address, denied intentional strangulation and assault causing actual bodily harm. He was found not guilty of strangulation but guilty of the assault.

Judge David Evans remanded him in custody and ordered a probation report which will assess his level of dangerousness.

Mr Greg Richardson, prosecuting, said Boughen returned to the smallholding and resumed the on-off relationship in September 2022 but his partner asked him to leave on October 30.

He packed his things and drove off but returned shortly afterwards because he had a puncture which he could not get repaired. His partner went to a nearby pub with a friend and an argument started when she returned and found he was still there.

It led to him throwing her against her car, getting on top of her, punching her to the face and strangling her.

The victim, aged 38, told the jury: “He threw me on the floor and continued to punch me and said he was going to kill me and spend the rest of his life in prison. I was screaming and begging for my life.

“I was scratching him and trying to put my thumbs in his eyes. I was doing anything to get him off. He was strangling me with one hand and punching me with the other and then started strangling me with both hands.

“I died. I literally went black. I felt my arms on the ground. I was dead and looking at my body from outside and begging and praying to get back into my body. I was dead. He had murdered me.

“When I came around, he said ‘you’re not f***ing dead, you are breathing, get up and call the f***ing police.”

Boughen said he met his girlfriend at a ghost hunting event which she ran and contacted her afterwards but was told she was married. She got back in touch after breaking up with her husband and they started a relationship.

He claimed that he had worked hard on the smallholding and helped sort out power for the bus. He said: “She moved to Devon because she wanted the Good Life and I was happy to go along with it.”

He said they broke up and got back together several times and argued about money before she asked him to leave the smallholding on October 30. 

He said he had pushed her once but not punched her or strangled her and claimed she had exaggerated her injuries.