Keith Vaz's wife has opened up about her devastation following sordid revelations that her husband had paid male prostitutes for sex. Maria Fernandes said that despite her initial shock, she forgives her husband of 23 years for cheating on her.
The wife of the Labour MP, said that the reports of her husband's infidelities had come "out of the blue" and she had considered leaving him. However, the 57-year-old said that she has decided to give him a second chance to save her marriage.
The devoted wife added that she still loves her husband, but said he "needs to change or he'll be slung out".
In a candid interview with the Mail on Sunday, Maria described her shock when he first told her that he was about to be exposed in a sex scandal. "He said something was going to break [in a newspaper], that it was bad," she revealed. "He said it was going to be hard; he said it was going to be of a sexual nature.
"It was like an out-of-body experience, it was not real. There was a lot of things over the years, but this had not been one," she explained.
"It was a terrible shock and I am still processing it ... Keith is not a bad person, he's just done a terrible thing. It's absolutely terrible because it's affected all of us, because it's affected the kids. But he's a good person, a good father, he's been a good husband and nine-tenths of the time he's got things right. This time he's fallen... badly."
She revealed that she told the couple's 19-year-old daughter about the Sunday Mirror expose before it broke, and made headlines around the world. Her 21-year-old son was on holiday in Vietnam at the time and was warned not to look at the news coverage.
Maria said their daughter was "very angry with her father." "She was very upset, she was very angry with her father, and I think she was angry for me. She was picking up the anger that I should have felt. She also wanted to see he was OK because they have a very close relationship. She was worried about him."
She added that she was angry at her husband's "betrayal" initially. "I would have liked to have taken all my crockery and broken it on his head," she said. "My immediate thought was to tell him to leave then have space to discuss things. I was betrayed, my trust was betrayed and in a sense it doesn't matter whether it's a man or a woman," she explained.
"Actually, had it been within a relationship, it could have been worse as there would have been an emotional connection. In a sense it's better [because money changed hands] but I don't condone paying for sex."
She revealed that the disgraced MP had begged for forgiveness "but he's also said that whatever I decide, he will stand by that." She said that she has decided to forgive her husband for his indiscretions. "I've decided to forgive him. That's different to forgiving him right now. If I don't forgive him eventually, it is going to tear me up. It's going to destroy me and I don't want that. I don't like that feeling of anger and bitterness.
"Although I'm a lapsed Christian, there is still a Christian part of me that talks about forgiveness because you let go if you forgive. So from that point of view, yes, I've made the decision but how it will be done ... that's all to happen in the future. The forgiveness starts with the love of a person, having spent so many, many years together," she explained.
The successful immigration lawyer said that even after two decades of marriage she had no idea that her husband had been paying men for sex. "I did not suspect anything," she said.
On August 27, the former Minister for Europe was photographed at his flat with two male escorts in a tabloid sting, as they discussed their plans to have sex that night . The Sunday Mirror reported that it had seen statements showing two cash deposits of £150 paid into an account following a string of text messages between Vaz and one of the escorts discussing details of their meetings - including financial arrangements.
In the texts, reportedly sent by Vaz, he said the men should arrive at "11pm, nice and late". He is said to have added: "I want a good time please." In an effort to conceal his identity, Vaz told the sex workers that his name was "Jim" and that his job was selling "industrial washing machines."
The father-of-two is accused of paying two escorts for sex at his London flat as well as asking them to bring over the sex-enhancing drug 'poppers'. He was heard offering to cover the cost of cocaine if it was brought to the flat – but said he did not want any himself.
"We need to get this party started," he allegedly said. Vaz had at least two meetings with the Eastern European escorts and was also caught on CCTV allegedly meeting a man at the Washington Mayfair hotel.
Vaz responded to the sex scandal with a statement saying: "It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals to have acted in this way."
In the wake of the public scandal he stepped down from his role as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Maria meanwhile, revealed that after a turbulent week, she is once again sharing the marital bed at their family home in Edgware, North London.
"We've reached a very difficult point but you marry for better or for worse. At this moment, it's the worst period. You just see it through," she said. "We have to look after our own. I am angry with him but my love is greater. Yet if it happens again, I am done."