A mum-of-one has revealed how she played dead while her monster ex raped and strangled her.

Paula Donnelly, 42, was forced to break up with James McNutt, 33, after he became obsessive and paranoid.

But just weeks later, McNutt locked Paula in her house and raped her during a six-hour ordeal.

In April 2019, James was caged for 13 years for rape.

Now, Paula has bravely waived her right to anonymity to reveal her ex’s sickening attack.

Paula, a hairdresser, from Birmingham, says: “I still suffer from horrific flashbacks from that night, I thought I was going to die.

“I never knew James would turn out to be a monster.

“I’m just relieved I survived.”

In January 2018, Paula matched with McNutt, on dating app Tinder.

Paula says: “I was a single mum and had been single for four years.

“I joined Tinder because I was ready to find love again.

“When I came across James, I loved his muscles and hazel eyes.

“We started chatting and discovered we only lived down the road from each other.

“I fancied him straight away.”

During the next five months, Paula and James texted each other every day.

Then finally, in May 2018, McNutt invited Paula to his house for the first time.

Paula says: “James was even more attractive in real life.

“He was also so charming and kept telling me how beautiful I was.

“We hit it off straight away and the following evening, we became a couple.”

But within weeks, James’ nice-guy persona disappeared and he became obsessive and paranoid.

Paula says: “James became a different person.

“If I left the house even for an hour, I’d have dozens of missed calls and angry text messages from him.

“He sent me texts like, ‘Get home now! Where are you? Who are you with?’

“He also demanded to see my phone and eventually stopped me from seeing my friends and family.

“My life had become a living hell, I felt so trapped.

“Whenever I confronted him about it, he’d apologise and act normal again.”

In July 2018, Paula finally found the strength to break up with McNutt and kicked him out.

She says: “James messaged me constantly, begging for me back.

“But I was determined to move on, so I kept ignoring him.

“Then one day he told me he was moving to Scotland and needed his driver’s license from me.

“I was so relieved that he was moving 4,000 miles away.

“I agreed to meet him to give it to him and say a final goodbye.”

The following night Paula met James at a pub.

She says: “I was on my way to my aunt’s birthday party so I had lipstick on and a nice dress.

“When James spotted me all dolled-up, he accused me of going on a date.

“I got so angry I stormed off and went home.”

But on her way back, Paula was followed by McNutt.

When she approached her house, he suddenly appeared and dragged her inside.

Paula says: “James locked the windows and barricaded the front door.

“I was petrified and ran upstairs into my bedroom, screaming.

“James caught up, pushed me onto the bed and grabbed a pillow.

“Then he began to smother me with it.

“Suddenly, James unzipped his trousers and yanked down my shorts.

“Before I knew it, he was raping me and squeezing my throat even harder.

“I thought I was going to die.”

As Paula began to lose consciousness and fear for her life, she came up with an idea.

Paula says: “I decided to trick him and play dead.

“I closed my eyes and let my body go completely limp.

“And finally, James let go.

“I heard him scream – thinking he’d killed me.

“James ran downstairs then returned moments later, trying to shake me awake.

“Eventually I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and had to fake cough.”

James forced Paula to get dressed and took her outside.

There, Paula spotted a neighbour washing his car and screamed for help.

Paula says: “I ran into his arms and James fled.

“The man called the police, and 30 minutes later, they arrived and took me to a Rape Crisis Centre.

“I was hysterical.”

Three weeks later, McNutt was arrested at his local pub.

In April 2019, James McNutt, 33 of no fixed address, was found guilty of one count of rape against Paula at Birmingham Crown Court.

He was jailed for 13 years.

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Paula says: “I was so relieved he was going to jail for a long time.

“Now, I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and my life has changed forever.

“I’m haunted by memories of that night.

“Although James ruined my life, I’m just thankful to be alive.

“If I didn’t play dead, I don’t think I’d be alive today.”