reality tv

Debra Newell was terrorised by 'Dirty' John Meehan for years. This is what her life is like now.

Warning – This post contains spoilers for Netflix’s Dirty John.

When Debra Newell met John Meehan for a candlelit dinner in October 2014, she thought she had met the man of her dreams.

He was charismatic, handsome, successful and he had just returned from a year working in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders.

In reality, however, John was very, very different.

Over the months that followed in John and Debra’s fast-moving relationship, Debra soon discovered John’s real side.

Watch the trailer for Netflix’s Dirty John below.

As new Netflix TV series Dirty John, based on the popular Los Angeles Times podcast of the same name chronicles, John was in actuality a compulsive liar and a master manipulator with a long history of conning and abusing women.

John Meehan was no longer the man of Debra’s dreams. He was a nightmare, set on driving a wedge between Debra and her family.

John and Debra met on an over-50s dating site, just two days after John had been released from prison for breaking a restraining order.

Debra, who was 59 years old at the time, married the anaesthesiologist in secret just two months after meeting him.

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John Meehan and Debra Newell in 2014.

Speaking to E! about what attracted her to John, Debra said: "He said all the right things. And he had a family."

"He has a picture on his dating site that is of his daughters. So I thought, 'Oh, he's a family man, this is great.' So I thought he had it all," she added.

But after discovering John's questionable history with women as well as his lengthy criminal history, Debra left John in March 2016.

According to Debra, the process of leaving John was even more difficult than Netflix's Dirty John portrayed.

"I did do an investigation into John, and I went into hiding. I had to prepare to go into hiding for seven months, which isn't just walking away," she told US Weekly.

"You have to change accounts, find another place, look at your business, get a new home, a new residence, even rental cars."

Despite going into hiding, John soon came after Debra's daughter Terra when he showed up brandishing a knife in the parking lot of her apartment building.

In an act of self defence, Terra stabbed John repeatedly. John died in hospital four days later on August 24, 2016.

debra newell real life
Debra Newell with her mother Arlane Hart and her daughter Terra Newell at the premiere of Dirty John in November 2018. Image: Getty.

Now, nearly three years on from the death of her former husband, Debra Newell has moved on from her relationship with John.

Although the businesswoman was originally based in Newport Beach, Debra has since moved to Nevada.

A month following the release of the Dirty John podcast in 2017, Debra also launched a new interior design company called Ambrosia Home, which has two American locations.


Prior to launching Ambrosia Home, the successful businesswoman ran design firm Ambrosia Interior Design, which reportedly employed up to 50 people in its heyday.

Throughout the production for Netflix's Dirty John series, Debra was heavily involved in the series based on her life – despite the fact that some of her family were opposed to the idea of the show.

"Some of the family members were not for this. So it was really hard being able to know if we should do it or not," she told US Weekly.

"They were going to do it without us so we felt like, 'Wouldn't it be better if we were able to have an opinion or share our story?' At that point it was pretty easy."

Although sharing her story was tough, Debra now views her story as a cautionary tale for other women.

dirty john cast
Debra Newell and Connie Britton, who plays Debra in series Dirty John. Image: Getty.

"I'm hoping that a lot of women will listen to [my story] and go, 'Oh my gosh. I've got to listen to the red flags, take my time,'" she told US Weekly.

"I had thought that it was more important to get this out to women, what can happen to them, so I feel that I've taken myself out of it and tried to put myself in other women's shoes."

Including her brief marriage to John, mother-of-four Debra has been married a total of five times.

Since her relationship with John, however, Debra hasn't gone on a single date.

"When I do date, it's going to be completely different," she admitted.

"I definitely won't do online dating," she added.

"But there are great men out there, also. I just happen to have [found] one of the worst ones."

Dirty John is available to watch on Netflix now.