Alex Hall: 'Only Jeremy Clarkson and I know the truth. Now we can both put our side across'

Recently freed from an injunction imposed by her ex-husband Jeremy Clarkson, she wants to make known how her name has been blackened. Matthew Bell meets Alex Hall.

Alex Hall has made plenty of mistakes. Falling in love with Jeremy Clarkson as a teenager was, you might say, the first. Ending their marriage by leaving him for another man was, she now says, the worst. But as the Top Gear presenter's 46-year-old ex-wife prepares to write a book about her life in his shadow, you can't help feeling she's about to make yet another.

Ann Widdecombe has called Hall the "latest in a long line of kiss 'n' tell merchants ... looking to turn her revelations into filthy lucre". Others have wondered why anyone would be interested in her story, were it not for her association with Clarkson. Her motive, you have to assume, is money, self-promotion or revenge. Perhaps a mixture of all three.

Where Hall's story takes on a wider significance than the average salacious red-top tale is in her experience of being the subject of a super-injunction. It should disturb anyone who cares about freedom of expression and the age-old assumption enshrined in British law that someone is innocent until proven guilty. For since September last year, she has been legally gagged from saying anything about their relationship, simply because Clarkson could afford to persuade a judge that his right to privacy was greater than hers to free speech. Until two weeks ago, when Clarkson abandoned the highly expensive injunction, Hall could have gone to prison for merely speaking about their relationship. In April, she wrote an article for this newspaper, but her identity had to remain hidden.

Now she is talking freely, though it's not easy to work out who Alex Hall really is: a bullied victim of a rich and powerful man, or a shameless opportunist. We meet at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall, a £300-per-year club for business directors where she bases herself when in London. She is tall and, on first impressions, confident, though the events of the past year have taken their toll. She reveals herself to be emotionally fragile, and when she talks of her feelings for Clarkson, she breaks down in tears. She still loves him, she says, and is unable to find another man like him. Because of her feelings for him, she has been unable to hold down a meaningful relationship with another man. The irony is that she left him in the first place.

All she wants now is to put across her side of the story. The obvious cold-hearted response is: who cares? But in the Surrey circles in which she moves she says her name has been sullied by years of rumour and innuendo. "Our network of friends turned against me, not because of anything I had done, but because of what he and other people said about me."

It began in 2003, when news of Clarkson's indiscretions with another woman broke. A newspaper then approached Hall and offered her £150,000 to speak about her ex-husband, which she turned down.

Given that she had by then divorced her second husband, Stephen Hall, and was a struggling single mother of two children, rumours started swirling that she had blackmailed Clarkson with a threat to sell her story, prompting mutual friends to turn against her. "It was about perception. I was shut out and I need to get some kind of closure on it."

Born in Hampshire in 1965, Hall met Clarkson two weeks after moving to London in the late summer of 1982. She was 17, he was 22 and working as a rep and living in a squalid white room in Onslow Gardens, a leafy square in South Kensington. "It was just a bed in the middle of the room, beneath which he kept this enormous casserole full of cigarette butts. It stank, but he was proud of those fag ends."

Only two weeks after meeting they were living together. Hall was instantly attracted to Clarkson's self-confidence and forthright views. "He is just as seems on TV. He's a northerner, so he calls a spade a spade, and comes from a big, boisterous family where you were encouraged to have strong views. He also has a fantastic sense of humour. Life was just about having fun and laughing."

In 1989, after seven years together, they got married. But in 1991 she left him for his friend, Stephen Hall. Clarkson was devastated. After four months with Hall, she realised she had made a mistake, but by then it was too late, for reasons she will not elaborate. "I can't go into that because I have to think of my children and other people, but leaving Jeremy was the biggest mistake of my life. I still love him – I always have – but I believed that if you make your bed you've got to lie in it."

She remarried in 1993, and had two children, though the marriage lasted less than four years. Clarkson married a mutual friend, Frances Cain, who became his manager. Then, in 1999, Hall resumed contact with Clarkson, and so began their alleged 10-year affair. They would meet at his Fulham flat for curries and romps on the sofa. "It didn't feel wrong because he was my ex-husband," she says.

But in the age-old tradition of mistresses who long to be wives, Hall tired of being treated as a second-class citizen. "He would walk on the other side of the road so that we weren't seen together. In the end I felt I was being used. After 20 years, I got fed up with being the one who quietly supported him and put up with everything."

Plagued by the rumours of blackmail, and wanting to move on from her years in love with Jeremy, she decided to write a book as a process of catharsis. But says she had no intention of writing about the affair. "I admit that I had been given a voice by being Jeremy's ex-wife, just as his mother Shirley had when she wrote her book. But my intention was not to hurt him. I wanted to write a book to get over Jeremy and put all that behind me."

Although the book is not yet written, she has 20 years' worth of notes, and says it is now just a matter of putting them in order. If the book is about catharsis, why not write it but not publish? "That's exactly what Jeremy said. But I want to clear my name in Surrey." She likens her story to that of Prince Charles and Camilla, a series of cock-ups that meant she and Jeremy ended up with the wrong partners. But unlike that soap opera, which, despite the obvious tragedy has had a happy ending, there's no likelihood of Hall and Clarkson living together happily ever after. "Only Jeremy and I know what the truth is. Now we can both put our side across." As for who to believe, that's for us to decide.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us