Emerson said it best: “All mankind love a lover.” We cherish romantic love as a transcendent force that truly conquers all. So it’s only natural that we adore love stories and revel in the thought of a “happily ever after” for ourselves and others.
But sometimes, when couples seem destined to ride off into a gorgeous sunset, life suddenly reveals itself to be more Hyde than Jekyll, eclipsing elation with agony.
10 Helen Simmons & Prince Mukkaram Jah
Cinderella herself probably couldn’t have crafted a better beginning to Helen Simmons’s story. In 1976, the 27-year-old Aussie was out of work and living on government assistance after time spent abroad. But out of the blue, things started to look up. Architect Yosse Goldberg needed a secretary to accompany him on a trip to India. The woman originally tapped for the position couldn’t go, so Simmons was asked to fill in. They boarded a plane to Hyderabad, India, where they were to dine with its mega-rich prince, Mukkaram Jah.
An unenthusiastic Simmons almost didn’t attend the dinner soiree but acquiesced in the end. That night, she won the prince’s heart. Against a backdrop of live clarinet music, Simmons and Jah danced and conversed about the prince’s life. Much to her chagrin, he was already wedded to a Turkish princess. But that didn’t stop love’s onslaught.
Simmons and Jah carried on a four-year affair before the prince divorced his wife and married Simmons. She converted to Islam, and he made her a princess. Prince and Princess Jah indulged in frequent trips to the cultural hubs of Europe and resided in luxurious estates. They had two children and more money than most people could imagine. Seven years into their marriage, the prince filed for separation. In a dark bit of karma, Jah’s wife had been unfaithful.
During the months he regularly spent away on business, Princess Jah let another man into her bed. But relationship woes were the least of Simmons’s problems. As her marriage fell apart, her health was being ravaged by AIDS. Her clandestine mate had been carrying a lethal secret of his own, and now she was paying the price. The unemployed-secretary-turned-royalty could only watch as her marriage died . . . and she along with it.
9 Lokesh & Amreen
Lokesh was a Hindu boy, and Amreen was a Muslim girl, but in their Indian village of Phaphunda, the pair would discover Cupid’s indifference to creed. Amreen’s family sold milk, which Lokesh purchased daily. Over the course of these transactions, the two crossed paths and became smitten. The union of a Muslim and a Hindu was a cultural anathema. According to interviews conducted by BBC reporters dispatched to Phaphunda, senior members of Lokesh and Amreen’s families ordered them to separate or die. But they didn’t care. Driven by passion,the young lovers eloped.
The couple’s families were mortified by the marriage. Where Lokesh and Amreen saw the bonds of spousal affection, their parents saw only religious taboo and their own resultant disgrace. The controversial lovers faced a wall of disapproval, placing enormous strain on their happiness. Here, life imitated art in the worst way imaginable, as Lokesh and Amreen sought a Shakespearean solution to their woes.
Beset on all sides by religious intolerance, the couple poisoned themselves. The village council was accused of aiding in the suicide and charged accordingly. Both the council and Amreen’s family denied that the young couple was pressured to end it all. We’ll never know the veracity of that claim. But what’s certain is that Lokesh and Amreen loved each other more than life itself.
8 Bosko Brkic & Admira Ismic
During the genocidal violence of 1990s Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brkic and Ismic were the antithesis of ethnic divide. Brkic was Serbian. His girlfriend, Ismic, was a Muslim. Their relationship began when they were teens and flourished for nine years. But by 1993, their native Sarajevo had become a cesspit of cultural turmoil. Determined to stay together and escape the bedlam, they planned to run off together. But Sarajevo was pocked with trigger-happy snipers, making travel perilous at best. Luckily, sympathetic friends in the city’s Muslim-run military promised to help them exit unscathed.
Brkic and Ismic trekked through Sarajevo to the Vrbanja Bridge, which led to Serb-controlled Grbavica. If all went according to plan, they’d eventually make their way to Belgrade and finally unshackle themselves from the suffocating ethnic strife. But at the bridge, the pair felt the piercing finality of snipers’ bullets. Brkic died first. Ismic, grievously wounded, dragged her body over to Brkic, wrapped a nearly lifeless arm around him, and perished by his side. The lovers’ lifeless bodies remained on that bridge between enemies for eight days before Serbian troops retrieved them in the dead of night. They were initially laid to rest at a Serbian barracks, but Ismic’s father felt that the couple belonged back in Sarajevo and had them interred at the Lion Cemetery.
Both Muslims and Serbs denied responsibility. But in a way, knowing who pulled the trigger is unimportant. The heartbreaking impact of Brkic and Ismic’s story rippled across the world and offered a poignant glimpse at the senseless bloodshed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Twenty years after the world first mourned them, the slain 25-year-olds are remembered not as the victims of an unnamed killer but as emblems of unprejudiced love extinguished in its prime.
7 Nicola & John Mansfield
Sober cynics scoff at the notion of love at first sight, but Nicola and John Mansfield knew better. The instant the couple crossed paths, matrimony seemed inevitable. After what Nicola described as a “whirlwind romance” ripped straight from the big screen, the two promised to spend their lives together as husband and wife. But in a cruel twist of fate, death would soon sunder them.
John Mansfield unexpectedly collapsed two weeks after their honeymoon. In January 2012, the happy couple discovered that John had a brain tumor, whichhad become cancerous. He wouldn’t live to see 2013. Confronted with looming loss, Mr. and Mrs. Mansfield tried to make the most of their time together.
Becoming a father was the biggest item on John’s bucket list, and Nicola wanted to make that happen. Given her husband’s rapidly failing health and chemotherapy, Nicola’s best shot at motherhood was artificial insemination. Against the odds, John held on long enough for Nicola to become pregnant with twins. But before she could tell him, he became incapacitated. The most John could manage was a weak grunt of acknowledgment when Nicola broke the news. Two days later, he died. But life wasn’t done tormenting Nicola Mansfield.
Throughout her pregnancy, Mrs. Mansfield was besieged by headaches and hearing loss. Eventually, her doctors made a jaw-dropping discovery: Nicola suffered from deadly brain tumors. Just 23 weeks into her pregnancy, the grieving widow and expectant mother had to undergo surgery to save her life. Despite incurring facial paralysis and hearing loss, Nicola survived and successfully gave birth to Archie John and Ella Kate Mansfield. The children will never know their father’s touch, but Nicola makes sure they blow kisses to his picture before bed.
6 Mahmoud Ayazi & Kataun Safaie
In 1985, Mahmoud Ayazi was pursuing the American dream. The former automobile electrician had abandoned his job in Iran to start anew in Sacramento, California. He spent eight years studying and working as an electrician for the Campbell Soup Company. He was to enter into an arranged marriage with Iranian national Kataun Safaie. Despite the circumstances, they harbored sincere affection for each other. According to one of Ayazi’s friends, “They were in love.” After tying the knot in Iran, they wished to leave for America and never look back.
Resettling in the Land of Opportunity, however, was much easier said than done. During a stopover in Germany, US embassy officials relayed the demoralizing news that Safaie would have to wait at least a year for her visa approval. A deflated Ayazi would have to go back to Sacramento without his blushing bride. Sick with mutual longing and determined not to reenter Iran, the newlyweds hatched an acutely flawed plan to smuggle the 150-centimeter (5’0″) Safaie into America via Ayazi’s checked baggage. Safaie packed her diminutive frame into a large suitcase for an unimaginably cramped, 11-hour flight. She didn’t make it off the plane alive.
Coroners would later conjecture that bags jostled about in the pressurized luggage hold fell atop Safaie’s suitcase, suffocating her. Whatever the case, when Ayazi went to retrieve his wife at the airport baggage claim, he was greeted by her breathless corpse. Ayazi hurriedly ripped the tags off the bag and fled in a panic. But he couldn’t evade the suffocating guilt he felt. Ayazi would later lament to friends that he’d “lost everything.” His will to live began to evaporate. In the meantime, police attempted to identify the unfortunate woman he had left at the airport. The truth wasn’t uncovered until after Ayazi was discovered motionless in a parked car. He had shot himself to death.
5 Dave & Patti Stevens
Patti Stevens never forgot her first impression of her future husband, Dave: “He was just such a quiet, polite, not verbose, very humble, non-assuming kind of person.” They had managed to go the entirety of their time at Michigan State University without getting acquainted. But on graduation day, they said goodbye to student life and hello to each other.
Their relationship was marked by gentle smiles and thoughtful gestures. Dave was the kind of husband who would rather drive for days than make his aviophobic wife worry about him traveling by air. Patti adored and admired her husband, who was not only a thoughtful soul but a brilliant engineer with seven patents under his belt. For a quarter-century, he was the love of her life. Then, one day in 2015, the rug was unceremoniously ripped from under her.
Dave kept a rigid schedule but one day didn’t come home from work. Gripped by worry, Patti raced to the place where he often parked and found his vehicle unattended. The anxious Patti didn’t realize it at the time, but she would never see her husband alive again. In an instance of freakish misfortune, Dave just so happened to be present when former college football marvel Thomas Johnson decided to vent his anger about “a situation.” Johnson had schizophrenia and found himself at the mercy of his hallucinations. Psychological instability had driven him to drop out of Texas A&M University. He wandered the streets armed with a machete, ready to pounce on a stranger. He chose Dave. The attack was so gory that Dave had to be identified by his fingerprints.
Patti’s heart was torn to tatters. Food, sleep, and life itself lost their meaning. Soon, she fell completely off the radar. Authorities sent to search for Patti found the woman lying motionless in her garage, the apparent victim of self-inflicted carbon monoxide poisoning.
4 Bill & Dianne Bordeaux
Call it kismet or a self-fulfilling prophecy, but from the moment Bill Bordeaux met Dianne, he knew she’d be his wife. And the California construction contractor did his best to literally and figuratively sweep Dianne off her feet, whisking her off to a swanky Santa Monica restaurant via helicopter on their first date. Cupid’s arrow hit its target on New Year’s Day 1990. As Bill recalled: “She wouldn’t let me touch her, but then at midnight, we hugged and didn’t let go of each other for about an hour and a half.”
That 90-minute embrace prefaced their eventual marriage that same year. But their new life was interspersed with turbulence. Although Bill initially had the appearance of a businessman with airtight finances, his business began struggling. The prospect of persistent debt worried Dianne, leading to tensions in the couple’s relationship. But the birth of their daughter, Kori, gave the couple plenty to smile about. Then heartbreak reared its callous head.
Two months after Kori came into the world, Dianne’s three-year-old daughter from a previous marriage suffered severe brain damage after almost drowning in their backyard pool. The child died in her mother’s arms after being taken off life support. Insurmountable bitterness consumed Dianne. She accused Bill of carelessly letting her darling daughter die. They got into caustic arguments that escalated into increasingly toxic behaviors. Bill once decimated Dianne’s favorite vegetable garden. When riding with Bill, grief-ravaged Dianne would sometimes wrest control of the steering wheel or jump out into traffic.
Bill sought to regain his wife’s affections, even having her name tattooed on his back in a loving declaration. But Dianne’s pain proved insurmountable. During a particularly stormy fight, Bill attempted to drive off in the family van. His wife latched onto the vehicle briefly before tumbling off. Dianne’s cranium cracked against the pavement below, ultimately killing her.
3 Mary & Earl Myatt
She learned the truth at 17, that love was meant for her, it seemed. For that was the tender age at which Mary met her future husband, Earl Myatt, at a party. The young New Yorkers were immediately immersed in each other, forging a bond that spanned decades. They worked at bookstores for the same community college, became enthusiastic parents and grandparents, and remained ever enamored with each other. As one of their sons would describe it, Mary “was [Earl’s] world.” But 42 years into their enchanted romance, the couple’s world started crumbling.
An aneurysm had developed in Mary Myatt’s brain. Her condition required multiple surgeries to treat. During that time, Earl was a constant fixture at her bedside. He departed for work at 3:30 each morning to ensure that the bulk of his days were devoted to Mary. But his steadfast dedication came at a cost. The aneurysm had wreaked havoc on Mary’s cognitive faculties, and once-simple tasks became obscured in a haze of confusion. She could no longer follow entire conversations or even use the restroom unattended. Earl could do little but watch as his exasperated wife grappled with her new limitations. It gnawed at him constantly.
Eventually, what little remained of Earl’s composure evaporated, and he succumbed to incredibly dark impulses. On a Sunday afternoon in April 2014, Earl called one of his sons, said one last “I love you,” and cryptically apologized before hanging up. Having said his goodbye, Earl drove his wife to a set of train tracks and led her onto them. They were struck dead by an oncoming locomotive. Police ruled it a murder-suicide.
2 Arianne Willinger & Bunty Sharma
In late 2013, 35-year-old yoga instructor and all-around Indophile Arianne Willinger exchanged marital vows with her husband at a rooftop restaurant, as the Taj Mahal stood majestically in the distance. It marked the magical culmination of a September trip to Agra, India, with fellow Americans. While basking in Indian culture, Willinger came across a 32-year-old auto-rickshaw driver, Bunty Sharma. So taken was Willinger with Sharma that she refused to return home with her friends, instead settling down with him. That October, they were moving to the rhythm of wedding bells.
The couple soon regretted their hasty marriage. According to neighbors, after Sharma became Willinger’s husband, he began to take issue with her Western proclivities. He consistently chastised her for smoking, leaving the house too often, and interacting too liberally with other men. Willinger recoiled from her husband’s alleged cruelty and unfaithfulness. Neither had disclosed that they were previously married, leading to later tensions.
Willinger walked away from Sharma but continued to live in her beloved Agra, where she began working to improve the residents’ quality of life. All the while, the two continued to see each other intermittently. That is, until Sharma went murderously mad. In 2014, the rickshaw driver drove his wife to a deserted part of town and began spearing his wife to death with a knife. After dumping her body by the roadside, he returned home and promptly blew himself up with the aid of a gas cooking cylinder.
1 Zackery Bowen & Adriane Hall
They were like broken-winged birds learning to fly together. Zackery Bowen was a handsome but war-hardened veteran of Kosovo and Iraq, who bore the mental scars of a traumatic experience involving a child. Adriane “Addie” Hall was a poetic soul who had endured horrific sexual abuse as a child and survived a spate of abusive relationships in adulthood. But on the night that Hurricane Katrina began battering New Orleans, Hall was just a woman who needed shelter, and Bowen was the man who provided it. That acquaintance of necessity would soon evolve into ardent companionship.
When crews arrived to rescue the stranded pair from the French Quarter, Hall and Bowen declined. Instead, they eked out a charmingly Bohemian existence in their little enclave of the city along with a few other stragglers who couldn’t bear to leave. They burned tree branches and mattresses for warmth and cooking. They drank cocktails that Bowen snagged from a local bar. Addie flashed her breasts at passing police cars to make sure their area was well-patrolled. While the rest of the nation reeled from the utter devastation wrought on New Orleans, Bowen and Hall could be seen holding hands as they cycled down the street together.
Hall and Bowen’s unusual arrangement was media catnip. They provided a welcome speck of beauty amid the vast ugliness. But their chaos-born bliss didn’t last. As New Orleans began to rebuild, Bowen and Hall moved into an apartment above a voodoo shop. But after more than a year together, Hall handed Bowen his walking papers. She had purportedly caught him cheating and decided to kick him out of their apartment, which was in her name. Bowen did not react well.
The former serviceman would later write that he “calmly” strangled and dissected Hall. Following Bowen’s written instructions, police would find her charred head in a pot and other parts of her body roasted in the oven. There is no evidence that he’d ingested any of his late girlfriend’s body, but Bowen did leave ample evidence of his remorse. In a suicide note to authorities, Bowen admitted that the surgical coldness with which he’d murdered and mutilated Hall deeply troubled him.
Bowen partied voraciously for two weeks after killing Hall. Then, in October 2006, he perched himself atop the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, took a final drink, and jumped off.
10 Beautiful Love Stories That Turned Grotesquely Tragic