Down-and-out TV newsreader finds a home

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The Independent Online

Seven weeks after the former ITN and BBC newsreader Ed Mitchell, who admitted a decade of heavy drinking, was found sleeping rough on a seaside bench in Brighton, he has moved into a flat.

Using funds from a confessional newspaper interview he gave before Christmas and with the promise of forthcoming television work, Mr Mitchell has rented a one-bedroom apartment in Shoreham, East Sussex.

The former television anchor has just completed a five-week stint at The Priory rehabilitation clinic in Roehampton, south-west London. He claims the intensive treatment he received has removed temptation, but admits he still faces a tough battle.

"There are pubs and off-licences everywhere but the craving for drink has left me," said Mr Mitchell, 54, whose new flat is above an off-licence. "I still take each day as it comes and have to be vigilant because there is no cure. Being able to give up drink and no longer being homeless means I've got my life and self-respect back.

"It's very difficult to give up alcohol when it has a grip on you but after 28 days I feel lighter of step. It makes you see more clearly and appreciate things."

At the peak of his distinguished, 20-year broadcasting career, Mr Mitchell, who was married with two children, earned £100,000 a year. His time as a business reporter for ITN, where he formed close on-screen relationships with the news anchors Carol Barnes and Alistair Stewart, made him a familiar face to many Britons. But an insatiable thirst for alcohol and mounting debts brought ruin. Divorced from his wife Judy and forced to live with his mother, he began drinking a bottle of vodka a day. The family home, in Portslade Old Village, on the outskirts of Hove, had to be sold to pay vast debts.

He continued to drink heavily and eventually his mother asked him to leave, after which he found himself homeless.He says he walked the streets by day and avoided gangs by night.

Mr Mitchells's story came to the attention of Dan Butcher, a former City trader who founded a self-help organisation for addicts called The Recovery Network. Mr Butcher had been interviewed by Mr Mitchell when he was working as a foreign exchange trader. He agreed to pay for his treatment at The Priory if he would make a video for Mr Butcher's website. That video is in the pipeline.

Mr Mitchell, the son of an Army officer, says the severity of methods used at The Priory, where patients frequently have to work for up to 12 hours a day, were invaluable. "It wasn't a holiday camp or a health spa," he said. "It was very rigorous. I went into rehabilitation about 10 years ago but I had the wrong attitude then. I thought I knew more than the therapist at that time but this time was different; I was willing to listen."

This week, Mr Mitchell's 25-year-old daughter, Alex, and 22-year-old son, Fred, saw him sober for almost the first time in a decade.

His story was the subject of an ITV documentary on 18 January, Saving Ed Mitchell, in which Carol Barnes was reunited with her old colleague. "For me it was harrowing and raw to watch," Mr Mitchell said. "I had hit rock bottom and it was watched by millions of people. It was a very public wake-up call."

He is in talks with television companies to make a series on international homelessness with his son.

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