Ms Rowe said he lied about his name, and the fact he was married.

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He said: “The police told us ‘It’s the equivalent of going into a bar in the 1980s, [and] claiming you’re a millionaire when you actually work on the bins.’ I disagree.

If I’ve told someone I’m a millionaire and I’m not, I haven’t stolen someone else’s identity to do so.

A lot of them had mental health problems and had opened up about their domestic abuse histories.

To say I was ‘sickened’ is an understatement.” Yet Mr Peacock claimed that when he and the private detective presented police with 30 pages of evidence and the catfish’s videoed “confession”, officers took no action.

“My catfisher didn’t just take my face, he gave me the persona of a person [who] is manipulative, deceitful and in my opinion mentally abuses women for his own sexual gratification.

In no way do I want any association to that kind of person.” He was backed by Ms Coffey, who said: “Without a specific offence, ‘catfish’ who cause so much distress to individuals and their families will continue to exploit and harm other people.

But I gave him presents and bought many things that come with being in a long-term relationship.