Revealed: Bristol research scientist is real 'Belle de Jour'

Part-time prostitute, blogger and author unmasks herself – ending six years of literary speculation
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A respected research scientist seems to have ended years of intense speculation over the identity of the prostitute blogger Belle de Jour by unmasking herself as the call girl whose explicit descriptions of her encounters garnered such a passionate following that they were adapted into books and a television series.

Dr Brooke Magnanti, 34, who specialises in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology, works for the Bristol Institute of Child Health, a hospital-based research group.

She turned to prostitution six years ago when she ran out of money while working on her PhD thesis for Sheffield University's Department of Forensic Pathology. She charged £300 an hour while working for a London escort agency. Her blog courted controversy, attracting criticism for suggesting that prostitution could be glamourous, while the quality of her writing led to intense speculation that she was an established author.

In the end, anonymity had become "no fun", Dr Magnanti said. She told The Sunday Times: "I've felt worse about my writing than I ever have about sex for money. I couldn't even go to my own book launch party."

She contacted the paper to reveal her identity of her own volition. Until then, not even her agent had known her real name, and she was preparing this weekend to confess everything to her parents.

The revelations bring to a belated end the literary parlour game that was all the rage a few years ago: Guess the identity of the author. Back in 2005, The Sunday Times – confident as ever – wrote that the sex diary was "largely the work of Lisa Hilton, a British author based in America, who has written about her own steamy sex life in the past". Other newspapers, The Independent among them, carried various theories. Names put briefly in the frame included: Sarah Champion, a Manchester-born writer on matters of Nineties alternative culture; Andrew Orlowski, an author who had collaborated with Ms Champion; and Michel Faber, whose novel The Crimson Petal described the life of a Victorian call girl.