George Carman was a wife-beating drunk, says son

Matthew Beard
Monday 14 January 2002 01:00 GMT

The son of George Carman has accused the celebrated libel lawyer of being a wife beater and a drunk.

In a scathing biography, Carman's only child, Dominic, said his father forced him to watch as he humiliated and beat his mother. He also says his father drank and gambled heavily.

In the book, No Ordinary Man, he writes: "From the age of four or five, I was made to watch each punishing performance as he degraded her [Dominic's mother, Celia] with violent, caustic language and blows from his fists."

Dominic, 40, a publisher, says he has written the book as an "exorcism" but also on the orders of his father.

He tells how his father, who won court victories for Mohamed Al Fayed against Neil Hamilton and The Guardian against Jonathan Aitken, punched Celia in the stomach when she was pregnant and threatened her with two knives, saying: "Which one do you want in you first?" Later in life, Dominic tried to stop the beatings and, sometimes, neighbours called in police. But, according to the book, the barrister handled the situation by "letting it be known exactly who he was, and whom he knew. Portraying himself as the innocent victim of a 'neurotic wife' ".

His third wife, the chef Frances Atkins, also tried to reform Carman's heavy drinking and gambling but her efforts ended in domestic violence. "During one argument, he threw her down the stairs, cracking her hip," Dominic wrote, claiming she suffered epileptic fits as a result. In the book, which is to be accompanied by a BBC documentary starring David Suchet, it is claimed Frances never had a proper sexual relationship with Carman and he suspected her of infidelity. His first wife, Ursula Groves, tells how their marriage was never consummated and how he wanted her to dress in the same style as showgirls in the clubs he visited. "I would not have been surprised if he had told me he was bisexual but he didn't," she says.

His drinking and gambling binges often left his wives penniless. Dominic recalled hiding with his mother when the milkman called for money. Later, when Carman moved to London, he would visit casinos with up to £50,000 in cash.

Carman's final companion, the barrister Karen Phillips, is believed to be writing her own version of the advocate's story.

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