It was the type of online romance that's become old-fashioned in the past two decades, beginning with a meeting in a chatroom around July 2015.

Kelly Hall was a 48-year-old insurance broker from the picturesque city of Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada. Billy Bayne was a 43-year-old project manager in a Sydney flooring company with a son from a previous relationship.

Hall was only looking for conversation, but it was hard to resist the New Zealand-born fitness fanatic. The pair exchanged photos and began talking on all kinds of apps, including WhatsApp and Kik. She thought he was attractive and charming.

Soon, he was calling her while he drove between jobs, sometimes as often as 20 times at night. It was her first clue something wasn't right.


"He was quite pushy," she told "He was trying to start a relationship, which I didn't want.

"I did pull away a few times, but he was very persistent. If I didn't answer, he'd call over and over. He'd call me at work."

'I was paying his phone bill so he could talk to other women'

Hall, who manages 34 people, found the relationship increasingly draining on top of her demanding job and caring for her elderly parents. But she was falling ever deeper for charismatic Bayne's charm.

When she visited him for three weeks in November 2015, he asked to borrow A$50 ($55), promising to return it in weeks. She thought nothing of it, but the requests started coming thick and fast.

Soon, she was paying his bills, covering his son's medical fees for ADHD and bailing him out of trouble when he was about to be evicted or beaten up by loan sharks.

Bayne told her he wanted to marry her, but unsettling stories were emerging, of heavy gambling, accusations of wrongdoing and a complex web of stories to gain people's trust.

In just a year and a half, she says Bayne had gone through five phone numbers and three jobs and had been evicted twice.

By the time the relationship ended, Kelly realised she had been manipulated. She says her ex still owes her almost $13,000.

"I feel stupid, taken advantage of because I have a very big heart," she says. "I found out he was talking to other women.

"He was asking me to pay his phone bill so he could talk to other people."

Hall believes she was a victim of "gaslighting" — a form of persistent manipulation that causes a victim to question their sense of reality, gradually eroding their identity and self-worth.

'He isolated me from my friends'

Looking back, she can see the warning signs were there from the start. "I don't think I realised at the time but he isolated me from my friends," she says. "I wasn't eating properly, or sleeping. He'd call me at 1am."

She now knows another woman was paying his phone bill back then.

Bayne told her of grandiose plans to "go surfing in the States and come to Canada". She knows now he had problems with the police in the past and was on probation with an employer. He didn't even have a valid passport, and would not have been able to re-enter Australia if he had left.

When Hall visited the man she'd fallen for, the reality was something of a shock. The endless pouting and posing selfies he sent her had been edited. "They were always photoshopped," she said. "He's quite proud of it. He actually weighed about 300 pounds (136kg)."

Bayne had told her he went to the gym every day, followed a strict healthy diet and occasionally went to the casino with friends. In fact, the salesman lived on a diet of instant noodles and couldn't afford a gym membership.

He probably wasn't with friends in the casino on the day she had spoken to him there, but alone. He didn't have the Northern Beaches view of the photo he'd sent, and his son certainly wasn't attending the exclusive private school he had described. But Hall didn't want to give up on him.

The second time she visited, in May 2016, Bayne was living in a holiday park. "This is going to sound snobby, but it was definitely not my kind of place," she says. "People with not much money, trailers, it was pretty horrible. On the first day, he said, 'Don't answer the door, they're trying to evict me'. I said, 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'I think they'll be happy with A$700'.

"I was ready to leave. My bags were packed and I was going to go to a hotel, but eventually I paid."

She bought food, groceries and a duvet for the friend's place where he was staying.

'He destroyed me emotionally, physically and financially'

Hall can't fully explain how she made such a big mistake. She tried to back away many times, refusing his offer of marriage and suggestion they set up a joint bank account.

But the excuses were endless. He sent her photos of the bruises on his face from a fight, telling her he was worried for his safety. He was trying to get his life back on track, he needed to feed his son, he would be fine after he started a new job. Bayne was clearly in a black hole of debt.

"I felt sorry for him," she says.

After seeing his trailer park home, she became deeply uncertain, and when her father became ill in December 2016, she cancelled her planned visit for that month. "He was really angry," she said. "He barely asked about my father.

"That was the last straw. One of last bills I paid was his phone bill, I realised he owed A$3000."

Hall began asking for the money he owed her. She hired a debt collection agency, who eventually advised her to go to court. "I do not see him sorting this debt out at all," an agent told her in emails seen by

She later spoke to a woman in the UK who said Bayne had put her through the same pattern of constant, exhausting late-night calls. The last Hall heard, he was dating a woman from Scotland, whom she tried to warn on Facebook.

"My life will never be the same," she said. "He destroyed me emotionally, physically and financially. He continues to do so even after we broke up.

"He told me I should let him dream. He has to be allowed to have dreams. I told him he's so fake he makes Barbie look real.

"It's not about the money. I hate that he'll get away with this.

"I'm a professional and well educated. This man manipulated me."

Bayne says Hall is "bitter" about their relationship ending and didn't like his new partner, whom she "stalked" on Facebook. "The only time she started asking for money was when we split up because she found out I was in contact with someone else," he tells "She got the s***s.

"I said, it's better we don't stay in contact. She didn't like that.

"She gave my number to people on the site that didn't like me. She gave people my son's number, this is my son's number that my mother paid for."

He says he is planning to pay off his debt once he gets back on track, although he denies it's as much as she says. "She gave me this figure, it's crazy. Give me some invoices. I could owe you A$8000, I could you A$15,000.

"I've been evicted, I'm staying with my aunty. I was unemployed for a while, which hurt."

He says he has had Vodafone and Telstra "come after him", and could simply go bankrupt, leaving Hall at the bottom of the list — but he's "trying to do the right thing".

At his request, she has set up a Paypal account and he promised in December to start paying A$50 a week from next month. "I'm trying to fix it," he says. "I don't want her to be short-changed. She's a really good person. It's not just her, I did the wrong thing too.

"Yes, I borrowed money from her. We were in a relationship. She never questioned it. I used to have problems with gambling, she knew that.

"I'll start paying on February 1."