It was the most stressful time of my life. My marriage was breaking up. My husband was a famous actor who was having an affair. The press had got hold of it and, as the poor, downtrodden wife, I was seen as fair game.
One morning that winter I checked the street before I went out. As soon as I got to my gate I heard car doors slam and saw the reporters running towards me up the street, carrying their notebooks and cameras and shouting my name. I ran to my car but as I was getting in a woman held the door so that I couldn't shut it. I wrenched it away from her and sped off. She was knocking on the window: "We just want the woman's point of view." I knocked her across the street as I drove off. I just wanted to get away but it's hard to drive when your whole body is shaking with fear and anger.
When I got to work my colleagues were very sweet. I just burst into tears. It was fear and fury. I was an innocent victim going through a marital break-up, so there was a lot of anger in me anyway. But this was the end. All my private life was going to be in the public domain. My dirty laundry was going to be on display for every sweaty labourer or toffy- nosed git to read on the train the next morning.
When the stories appeared in the papers, the sense of intrusion was devastating. It's like being the victim of a whole series of burglaries or being mugged in the street. Your awareness of trouble, intrusion and hurt is sharpened. It's totally exhausting. They had printed pictures of my house and named the area I lived in, so anybody could have come looking for me if they wanted to. The worst thing was that they mentioned my children. I certainly didn't want them involved. I was terrified the press would turn up at their school and start photographing them.
I walked about with my head down, terrified that people might recognise me. It was absolute public humiliation. My friends would ring up and say : "Of course I don't usually read this sort of paper, but I couldn't help noticing this piece about you." I felt even some good friends couldn't resist having a bit of a snigger. I was angry, frightened and confused. I was a mess. I was afraid every time the phone rang or the door went. I had to monitor all my calls with my answering machine. When I came home from work, I would cruise around the block in my car to see if they were there. I shrank from the reporters as you would from someone coming towards you with a hand raised to strike you. It was like a personal assault. You're like a wounded stag with a pack of wolves gathering to finish you off. They yelled through my letterbox and banged on it. I had calls in the night. One at three in the morning. One guy put his foot in the front door and then said he was really sorry. I had my hand over the panic button in my doorway. If he had gone any further, I would have pressed it to call the police.
I had to hide in the back of my house or upstairs where they couldn't see me. I couldn't sleep, I felt sick. Some stood at the gate and shouted questions at me all day, others apologised at the door. One guy came to the door wearing an old raincoat. His clothes shrieked "reporter". "I don't want to do this job, I hate it, it's not very nice doing this kind of work," he said. I thought "Well, buddy, do something else and leave me alone."
They began calling on my neighbours, on my local newsagent, anybody they could find. One reporter called on my neighbour at 11.40pm. She was very convincing, she didn't have "press" written all over her by any means. She said she had to get in touch with me urgently about a work matter and I think my neighbour even let her into her hall. But then she said she was from the Sun and was kicked out.
They lie, you see. They went to my newsagent and started asking questions. The staff were discreet, thank God. I stuck it out for nine days and then had to leave my house. I escaped to a friend's flat for three weeks. I just couldn't take it any more.
This sort of thing isn't in the public interest, it is in the public curiosity. I imagine that's what the Princess of Wales feels like. She's right, this guy has been stalking her. Getting an injunction against him is the only thing she can do. I know that awful sense of feeling like a fugitive. It causes such pain and upheaval in a person's life. No matter how public a person, their wives' and families' lives should be private.
8 Interviewed by Matthew BraceReuse content