Who is the real Jill Kelley?

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The Independent Online

On day one, she wore a bright yellow dress with diamond ear-rings and a stratospherically expensive handbag. On day two, a pink designer outfit complete with killer heels. All week long, her hair, nails and make-up have been so consistently immaculate, and her catwalk strut so polished, that grizzled paparazzi at the bottom of her driveway are calling her the "Tampa Kardashian".

Pretty much every loose end to the freewheeling scandal that has rocked the White House, claimed the career of CIA director David Petraeus, below, and may yet take down General John Allen, the US commander in Afghanistan, now leads to the vast red-brick mansion, a short drive from Florida's MacDill Air Force Base, that the 37-year-old Jill Kelley calls home.

The expansive lawn is where Mr Petraeus and his wife, Holly, draped "party beads" around their necks before posing for a now-notorious photograph with Ms Kelley and her husband, Scott. The office is where Ms Kelley read emails that spawned the FBI investigation exposing Petraeus's extra-marital fling. The living room, below a vast oil painting of herself, is where Ms Kelley stood to dial 911 when reporters began knocking on her door on Sunday.

"I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property," she told the operator, according to a tape of the ensuing conversation released by local police. "I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well, because that's against the law to cross my property because, you know, it's inviolable."

Since that bizarre phone call, Ms Kelley has been elevated to the role of key player in a convoluted saga which is sending ripples through the military establishment. Her social relationship with several senior Army and intelligence figures is now under the spotlight.

To all outward appearances, Ms Kelley is the well-heeled wife of a successful Tampa surgeon who moved to the city a decade ago and has since become one of its most energetic socialites. A fixture on the local party scene, she became an unofficial "social liaison" for top brass at MacDill, where the military oversees its operations in Afghanistan.

When she isn't bringing up her three children, Ms Kelley, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, devotes her life to raising money for charity and brightening up the cocktail circuit. She is also South Korea's "honorary consul" to Tampa, a purely ceremonial role which, contrary to the claim she made to the emergency services, does not give her any form of diplomatic status.

The editor of Tampa Bay, a society magazine, has called her the city's "hostess with the mostess". One Army officer told The Washington Post that she was famed locally as a "rich socialite who likes to hang around with four-star generals".

Yet behind her well-kept façade, all is not what it seems. Despite the outward appearance of wealth, Ms Kelley and her husband appear to be millions of dollars in debt. And while she has presented herself as a well-intentioned friend to top military brass, her relationship with several senior men in uniform is now at the centre of an FBI investigation.

Trouble began in May, when Ms Kelley and several of her contacts began receiving emails from someone writing under the pseudonym "Kelleypatrol". One sent to General John Allen warned that she was "trouble". The messages sent to her directly were more threatening and reportedly contained such phrases as: "I know what you did" and "keep off my man".

Ms Kelley flagged them with Frederick Humphries, an FBI agent she had met in 2011. He passed them to the cyber-crime unit. Concerned that someone apparently had inside information about the movements of General Petraeus and General Allen, the FBI launched a full investigation. It was this inquiry that uncovered that the threatening emails came from Paula Broadwell, General Petraeus's biographer, and then revealed she was his lover. It also turned up 30,000 pages of what the FBI called "potentially inappropriate" email messages that Ms Kelley had exchanged with General Allen.

As the scandal deepens, reporters have also started digging into Ms Kelley's chaotic finances. She and her husband appear to be underwater on the mortgage for their house, purchased for $1.5m (£950,000) in 2004.

Yet Ms Kelley appears to be relishing her moment in the spotlight. Dressed to the nines, she has kept the curtains of her home open and enjoyed several outings in her distinctive Mercedes, which has a personalised plate "honorary consul".

She has also announced the appointment of a Washington lawyer, Abbe Lowell, and a "crisis management" PR person, Judy Smith, who had Monica Lewinsky as a client. Mr Lowell previously represented disgraced presidential candidate John Edwards and jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Given the questions that continue to be asked about Ms Kelley, they seem to have their work cut out.