Marquess jailed for possessing drugs: Rhys Williams charts the decline and fall of a junkie aristocrat who squandered millions of pounds on life in the fast lane

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The Independent Online
THE MARQUESS of Bristol, once one of Britain's wealthiest aristocrats, was yesterday jailed for 10 months after a judge said he had thrown away the chance to kick his drug habit.

Lord Bristol admitted five months ago to possessing heroin and cocaine, but had his sentence deferred to allow him to seek a cure for an addiction stretching back 20 years. He was admitted to the Charter Clinic in Chelsea, west London, but when Dr Gerald Woolfson, the medical director, went on holiday one month into the treatment, Lord Bristol discharged himself and relapsed into taking hard drugs.

George Carman QC, for the defence, told Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London that Lord Bristol had an inadequate and fragile personality, which had its roots in his childhood. 'My instructions are that until the age of 13, Lord Bristol was not allowed to dine with his parents. He was compelled to wear on a daily basis long white gloves and received no normal family or parental affection.'

Dr Geoff Lowe, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Hull, said last night: 'The white gloves might have something to do with having very strict family rituals - if the domestic environment is highly stylised, rigid and ritualistic, it could lead to problems later on in life.'

In October 1991, police raided Lord Bristol's family home, Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, and found containers used to store the drugs he snorted every two hours. He became a registered addict in 1984 with a habit that cost him pounds 1,500 a week.

He has been banned twice for drink-driving and in 1988 served a 12-month prison sentence in Jersey for smuggling cocaine in his helicopter. Barely had he been released than he was arrested and fined pounds 3,000 for possessing heroin and cocaine. In 1990, he became the first British aristocrat to be deported from Australia after failing to tell immigration authorities about his spell inside.

Family role models have been scarce - his father, the sixth marquess, was jailed for three years in 1939 for his part in a pounds 6,000 jewellery theft.

The marquess - family motto Je n'oublierai jamais (I shall never forget) - inherited pounds 4m on his 21st birthday. That year, he arrived at Ickworth to find that his father was removing the contents for auction, forcing his son to raise a further pounds 2.6m to buy them back anonymously.

The young marquess was reportedly so attached to Ickworth House that while living in New York, he commissioned an artist to paint scenes of the house on 15- foot panels, fixing all 16 of them to an adjacent apartment block so he could see the view from his window. It was the kind of behaviour that transformed him into a gossip columnist's long lunch. On another occasion, unable to open his fridge to fish out a bottle of champagne, he blasted the door off with a 12-bore shotgun.

After a number of astute business deals, including the sale of a 57,000-acre sheep farm in Australia, his personal fortune climbed to pounds 20m. At one stage he was said to be earning pounds 22,000 a day. But he soon dissipated his wealth, spending pounds 7m in 10 years. He bought a home in Mayfair with 14 servants, a pounds 350,000 yacht from King Baudouin of Belgium and owned 25 luxury cars. His stepmother, Yvonne, Marchionness of Bristol, issued a pounds 100,000 writ against him in connection with a long and unsuccessful court battle he and his half-brother fought to invalidate their father's will.

He now proposes to sell the remainder of the ancestral seat his family has occupied since the 15th century. The sale to the National Trust, which already owns a large part of the 4,000-acre estate and allows Lord Bristol a life tenancy in one wing, would raise about pounds 2m and help meet 'profound' tax problems.

He once told the society magazine Tatler: 'You can buy something that is self-gratifying but self-gratification does not last long enough, and it does not turn into happiness. I can tell you, I've tried it for a long time.'

(Photographs omitted)