Soap opera actress in courtroom scenes to rival TV drama

Top libel QC counts another victory as 'EastEnders' star collapses after losing case against 'Sun' newspaper with £500,000 bill for costs

THE scriptwriters of EastEnders would have been hard-pushed to produce an episode as dramatic as the end of Gillian Taylforth's libel action against the Sun newspaper yesterday.

The collapse of Miss Taylforth, the screams of her distraught family, and the wailing of the ambulance siren were scenes never seen before in the High Court. The real lives of soap opera stars are increasing resembling their stage dramas.

From the start, the action brought by Miss Taylforth, who plays Kathy Beale in EastEnders, and her fiance Geoff Knights, had been an irresistible combination of sex and soap with plenty of twists in the plot.

Here was one of the best-known stars of EastEnders suing over allegations that she and her lover, a wealthy businessman with a criminal record, had been having oral sex in their Range Rover when they were spotted by a policeman.

During the first week of the case a bizarre reconstruction was staged in the Range Rover in the court car park. The judge, jury and journalists watched as the couple showed what position they said they had been in and then two Sun journalists simulated a rival version.

At the beginning of the second week, like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, George Carman QC, counsel for the Sun, produced startling new evidence. Two days previously two men had arrived at the newspaper's offices with a video.

It showed Miss Taylforth at a party five years ago simulating oral sex with a large German sausage, making sexual motions with a wine bottle and saying to camera 'I give very good head'.

Miss Taylforth, who had wept in the witness box and said that she was not a sexual exhibitionist, was recalled to give further evidence. She told the court that the episode had merely been drunken high jinks with friends.

Peter Carter-Ruck, a leading libel lawyer, said on BBC radio yesterday: 'I think that the video evidence was very damaging in two respects. First of all it went to the witness's credibility and secondly it went to the issue of damages.'

The couple's case was not helped by the fact that Mr Knights signed a caution admitting the offence of indecency after being taken to the police station. He claimed that he had been too drunk to know what he was signing but officers said he seemed reasonably sober.

The criminal past of Mr Knights, who runs a chain of photocopying shops, was revealed to the jury. He has convictions for assault, burglary and criminal damage and last year beat up an EastEnders scriptwriter who gave Miss Taylforth a lift home.

Eventually the jury had to confront the fact that either the police or the plaintiffs were lying. PC Terry Talbot was adamant that he had seen Mr Knight's erect penis through the vehicle window.

By a majority of 10-2 they chose to believe the police. The jury stared straight ahead as the foreman announced the result, unable to look at the tense couple a few feet away in the packed courtroom.

EastEnders was never far from the minds of the protagonists in the case. When Miss Taylforth said she felt unclean and ashamed after reading the Sun story, Mr Carman accused her of re-enacting the aftermath of a rape scene in the soap opera. Miss Taylforth gripped the rail of the witness box and replied: 'No, Mr Carman, that was Kathy Beale. I'm Gillian Taylforth.' She denied that she had rehearsed her evidence.

High drama involving the real lives of actors and actresses in soap operas seems to be becoming almost as routine as it is for the characters they portray.

Leslie Grantham played 'Dirty Den' Watts in EastEnders, a character who served time in jail and was eventually murdered. In real life Mr Grantham had spent 11 years in prison for killing a taxi driver in Germany in 1966.

The string of personal tragedies suffered by Mike Reid, who plays Frank Butcher, in EastEnders, has been worse than those he has portrayed on screen. His son Mark accidentally killed a friend in a mock duel and later burned himself to death; his granddaughter Kirsty suffered a cot death; and Mr Reid himself lost pounds 240,000 in a Spanish nightclub venture.

But none can equal Julie Goodyear, who plays Bet Lynch, now Bet Gilroy, who has pulled pints at the Rovers Return in Coronation Street for more than 20 years. She has had three disastrous marriages, one husband walking out on her at the wedding reception.

In 1979, Miss Goodyear underwent surgery for cervical cancer and decided to set up a charity to help sufferers. She then found herself accused of defrauding the charity by fixing a raffle result but was acquitted.

Anthony Hayward, author of The Who's Who of Soap Operas, said soap stars were no different from other actors and actresses. 'In the end it is down to how popular the programmes are and the press scrutiny that results.'

Kathy Beale, the cafe owner, has suffered rape, a nervous breakdown and the suicide of her daughter. But even she has never been faced with a pounds 500,000 legal bill and the torment of cross-examination by Mr Carman.

(Photographs omitted)

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam