Malcolm Applegate, 62, went to extreme measures to get out of what he describes as a “controlling” relationship.

Applegate left his wife for the woods one day without telling anyone and lived there for five years, staying hidden for a total of 10.

“I camped in thick woodland near Kingston, and made that home for five years while maintaining the gardens at a local community center for the elderly,” says Applegate.

Gardening is what started the problems in his marriage. He says his wife didn’t want him working so many hours and would get upset over any time he spent outside of the house.

“The controlling behavior started to get out of hand and she demanded that I cut my hours. After a long time trying to stay in the marriage, I decided to leave for good,” says Applegate.

He set out from Birmingham, U.K., to London by bicycle and later on foot after his bike was stolen. The journey took nearly three weeks.

Applegate eventually moved into Emmaus Greenwich Center, a South London homeless shelter, where he works odd jobs and raises money for the homeless in his spare time.


"I’d like the people who donate to Emmaus to know that I am grateful for being given a second chance at life; my life is…

Posted by Emmaus Greenwich on Tuesday, October 10, 2017


“My day-to-day involves working in the shop or driving the vans; I’m not fussy what jobs are given to me as long as I’m working,” says Applegate.

Family and friends had no idea what had happened to him until he finally broke his silence to his sister. “It had been a decade since I’d last seen her, and in that time she had been to all of the Salvation Army hostels in the South trying to find me,” he explains. “I think she assumed I was dead. I wrote her a letter once I was settled in Greenwich and she phoned me up, in floods of tears. We now have a great relationship again.”

There’s no word about Applegate’s wife.

“I’d like the people who donate to Emmaus to know that I am grateful for being given a second chance at life,” says Applegate. “I have a lovely room, I am able to work, and I can still lead an active social life — I love it here — my life is officially back on track.”