Jacqui: life and Michael Laws

By David Fisher

Jacqui says her past upsets her. Photo / Doug Sherring
Jacqui says her past upsets her. Photo / Doug Sherring

Jacqui Sperling is a mum-of-three with bad taste in men and the need for a new job.

But she says she isn't the way she is commonly portrayed - a convict, P-addict or prostitute even though former lover radio host Michael Laws asked if she would return to selling sex for money to cover the bills.

Sperling, 40, has spoken to the Herald on Sunday of her fight back from her time as a "crack-ho' hooker" in the hope it will inspire others to turn their backs on drugs.

But she has also spoken of her relationship with Laws because she believes he encouraged her - when they were a couple - to get back into the sex industry.

Sperling moved to New Zealand from the United States in 1989 at age 18. She married young, had three children and two divorces before looking for short-term financial relief in 2008 working as a prostitute.

"It was meant to be a three-week thing to make a quick fast buck before I got a real job.

But the whole thing consumes you. It took over my life."

Sperling said she began work at a brothel, and just a few weeks later was crying after "a really bad client" when she was offered methamphetamine.

It was her first time taking serious drugs. Methamphetamine made her feel "great". "And it made sex fantastic."

She used it casually with work for a month and then compulsively for the 14 months following, as an addict.

Sperling left brothels and worked solo, selling sex for $200 an hour.

But there was also the impact of P on her mental health. Sperling said she was driven into deep depression and hid away from life.

That year - between January and September 2009 - she saw her children only twice.

Police raided her apartment in June 2009 and charged her with possession of methamphetamine.

Appearing in court and described as a "self-employed sex worker" was the first time Sperling had been out in daylight for months.

After her arrest, Sperling contemplated suicide.

"There was this voice in my head. It said 'you have to fix this'." She moved house overnight and shut herself off from drugs.

She lay in bed for two weeks in withdrawal, suffering muscle cramps, feeling sick and sobbing.

"I was just crazy." Recovery was gradual - she planted a vegetable garden, began a blog and walked 10km every night.

The blog was her "only friend" and led to building an online network of supportive friends - and eventually meeting Michael Laws.

In September, she met with her children and began the process of rebuilding their relationship.

In February this year, Sperling pleaded guilty because "I wanted my children to see me suffer for my actions" and was sentenced to home detention.

By April, she had moved to East Auckland with her children to serve her home detention sentence.

She said Laws made contact after she described her experience with drugs and prostitution online.

"He said it was a really interesting story...'do you want a coffee'."

A few days later, she contacted him with her address. Within hours of arriving at her home, the couple had consummated their relationship.

For Sperling, it was her first physical contact with a man since leaving prostitution.

Sperling texted Laws later to tell him he had no obligations but he responded saying he wanted a relationship.

In July, Laws stayed the night.

Then she began getting online messages that created the fear he was seeing other women.

Sperling said she ended it and was astonished a week later to see Laws on the 6pm news saying he was involved in a relationship about to be made public in the papers.

Sperling said Laws turned up at her home on the Saturday of that week promising there was nobody else.

He wrote a statement in her name on her laptop, later sent to journalists, in which the affair was played down.

She said Laws would not even let her type it, saying: "I've typed three novels with these two fingers."

Sperling said Laws then hid in her daughters' bedroom to avoid being seen by a Herald on Sunday journalist who arrived at her home to speak to her.

After Laws left and media attention passed, Sperling said the relationship continued and included spending a week with him in Wanganui. She met Laws' children and went out with Laws and his friends.

But on returning to Auckland she said Laws called to let her know he considered himself single. She broke it off.

They continued texting, but the final straw came when Laws texted saying he needed to "get a good mate laid" and asked: "Suggest a hooker in Wgtn...know anybody :)."

She said frequent references to her time as a prostitute caused a rift and forced her to decide to never return to Laws.

"He kept at it. 'You'll never get a job in this economy so will you go back to being a hooker?' Whenever the topic came up, I didn't say much. It upsets me to think about it.

"I needed somebody in my life to say 'you're fantastic'."

Sperling blogged about it last week: "I wondered at the time how someone that says he loves me, could want me to be having sex with different men."

In a text on November 2, Laws said: "I accept what you say about the hooker thing and I apologise for assuming that was a short-term expedient. I'm sorry Jack. I misunderstood and I apologise unreservedly."

In a statement yesterday, Laws said he did not believe that his private life, or the details of his previous relationship with Sperling, were anybody's business.

Laws said he did "suggest" Sperling go back and work in the sex industry. "I enquired as to if she might. My recall is that we discussed a number of potential career and vocational options."

"It is my experience that Jackie is a strong willed and independent woman who knew exactly what she wanted and what she didn't want. I wish her well.

"I have never paid for sex in my life nor, knowingly, had a relationship with a sex worker. However, I did publicly support the legalisation of prostitution, and believe such issues are matters of personal choice."

- Herald on Sunday

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