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ON THE COUCH

Aug 7 2003

Top psychologist probes minds of Leslie Affair players

By Susan Quilliam

 

YOU'VE seen the pictures and read the interviews. But what's really going on in the minds of Britain's most talked about couples?

Since John Leslie was sensationally cleared of sexual assault allegations, all eyes have been on him and fiercely loyal girlfriend Abi Titmuss. Attention is also focused on Ulrika Jonsson, whose allegations of date-rape against an unnamed attacker triggered the furore, and her fiance Lance Gerrard-Wright, who she is to marry next week.

Here, relationship psychologist and agony aunt SUSAN QUILLIAM puts each of the main players on the couch and reveals their inner-most thoughts...

THE FALLEN STAR

AFTER 38-year-old Leslie was publicly outed as Ulrika's alleged attacker by Matthew Wright last October, a string of women came forward with allegations of sexual assault.

The former Blue Peter presenter was arrested in December and later charged with two indecent assaults against a woman at a party in 1997.

Leslie was also sacked from his 250,000-a-year job as a presenter on This Morning after pictures of him snorting cocaine appeared.

The case against him collapsed when his alleged victim belatedly told police she had spoken to a newspaper before making her allegations.

What he said

ON ULRIKA: "I was damned by her silence. With one statement she could have resolved this one way or another. She's as marked by this as I am."

ON CATHERINE ZETA-JONES: "It was the real thing, all right. I was in love with her and she was in love with me."

ON HIS ORDEAL: "If I had known back in October that it would take this long to clear my name, I would have taken a gun and shot myself."

Psychologist's verdict

"As his ordeal worsened, all the pictures of John showed someone getting very depressed and in need of support.

"He really looked like a man who believed his life had come to an end.

"But after being cleared, John has gone for heavy-duty publicity. This attention-grabbing behaviour shows he is lashing out, blaming someone in a way that is quite worrying.

"He seems to want revenge on Ulrika and has revealed intimate details about their relationship and attacked her for staying silent.

"Psychologically, this could help John to feel powerful in the short-term - he needs to feel in control again - but people who seek revenge often find it rebounds on them in the long-term.

"At no stage have we seen concern for the women involved. He has never said he didn't mean his behaviour to be aggressive and he is sorry if they understood it to be that way."

What the future holds

SUSAN QUILLIAM SAYS: "As the charges were likely to be dropped, he grew in confidence and has started to look like the John Leslie of old.

"He is now trying to build himself up, particularly by using his association with Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is as if he's saying: 'I could have had one of the most beautiful women in the world - why would I need to force myself on anybody?'

"He wants to regain his status in society and is keen to portray himself and Abi as a happy couple.

"Problems do make couples stronger so John and Abi could build on what they've got but there is a real danger that the reason they were brought together has now disappeared.

"He doesn't need her any more."

THE DEVOTED GIRLFRIEND

ABI TITMUSS, 27, met John in a London club in 1999. In the couple's four-year relationship, they have split on numerous occasions and weren't seeing each other when the allegations broke. But Abi stepped in to offer her support and has played the loyal girlfriend ever since.

What she said

ON HER IMAGE: "They think I'm an idiot, don't they? They think I'm either stupid or so desperate that I'll put up with anything to be with my celebrity boyfriend."

ON THE ACCUSATIONS: "I was devastated. I'd been perfectly happy with him as a strong, attractive man with a successful career. Even if I'd been insecure, I could never have wished to see the spirit crushed out of him like that."

ON JOHN: "I had no fear of him being convicted because I love him and believe in him and was confident justice would prevail."

Psychologist's verdict

"In the beginning, Abi was mousy and shy but she has grown into a confident woman who is not afraid to use her sexuality.

"Initially, John was the celebrity and she was in the background but now she is at ease with the publicity and appears to be enjoying it. It seems when he hit the rocks, she genuinely wanted to help and, possibly for the first time, he was able to let her.

"This is the first time he has really needed her and she has thrived on it. She has stuck by him because she truly loves him but you have to ask yourself where that love came from.

"As John got weaker, Abi seemed to get stronger."

What the future holds

SUSAN QUILLIAM SAYS: "Whatever happens, I could see her wanting to retain her new-found celebrity.

"She will be feeling vulnerable now - wondering what will happen next and what the future holds. She needs to be careful that she doesn't slip back into the little woman role.

"The relationship can survive with Abi as John's equal but it can't go back to the way it was before.

"John knows Abi is his passport to respectability but as he tries to reassert himself, I think she might get fed up with the power struggle and could even walk out on him."

THE SILENT ACCUSER

ULRIKA claimed she was raped by an unnamed TV celebrity 15 years earlier in her autobiography, published in October.

Speculation surrounding the identity of Ulrika's attacker came to end when Matthew Wright blurted out John Leslie's name on his C5 show.

Ulrika, 35, has since remained silent, refusing to confirm or deny Leslie as the attacker.

What she said

ON HEARING THE CASE HAD COLLAPSED: "I have never made any comments about it and don't intend to. I will not be making a comment today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year.

"This is getting on my f***ing t*ts."

Psychologist's verdict

"She's probably wondering if it was wise to mention the date-rape in the first place. My guess is she didn't realise it would have such an effect. "She has never named John Leslie but it is clear there is some kind of business between them - whatever that may be.

"Throughout this whole affair, she has seemed relaxed and at ease with herself whenever it looked like he was going to be taken to court and she wouldn't do that if she felt she'd done something wrong.

"Whether she was justified or not, she obviously feels that she was. When the other women came forward, she would have felt that her actions had been vindicated."

What the future holds

SUSAN QUILLIAM SAID: "Now the charges have been dropped, Ulrika appears to be under immense strain.

"She is a very unhappy person who knows people could now see her as a liar and she can see her reputation going down the drain. She will be scared for her career and scared for her relationship with her fiance.

"This is all incredibly bad timing for her. She is supposed to be getting married next week and this is hardly the ideal run-up to your wedding.

"She will have asked Lance whether he still believes and he will have told her that he does - or the wedding would have been called off.

"She is going through a rollercoaster ride of emotions and is probably feeling very wounded and filled with unhappiness and self-doubt."

ULRIKA'S MR RIGHT

LANCE GERRARD-WRIGHT met Ulrika when she presented Mr Right, on which he attempted to find his dream woman. The pair fell in love but did not publicly reveal their affair until January this year, after the allegations against Leslie had surfaced.

Ulrika and Lance were engaged in May and plan to marry in Sweden next week. Lance has always stayed silent about the allegations.

What he said

ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH ULRIKA: "The degree of attention we have attracted has been disconcerting. It's new to me and difficult to come to terms with."

Psychologist's verdict

"Lance wouldn't have got involved with Ulrika if he didn't believe her in some way but he has never spoken out publicly.

"I think he believes her but there will always be an element of doubt in his mind when he lies awake in the middle of the night. He'll be wondering what he is getting into."

What the future holds

SUSAN QUILLIAM SAYS: "The strain is showing on his face and the stress must be enormous. But I think he'll continue to support Ulrika.

"It has probably crossed his mind to postpone, or even cancel, the wedding. But he loves Ulrika and he will not want to let her down now.

"Putting off the wedding would be a sign to the world that they are wobbling and Lance wouldn't want that."

 
 

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