Tragic Paula Yates died of heroin overdose despite turning her life around, say pals 20 years on from her death

WHEN Paula Yates’s lifeless body was found after a night on heroin, it seemed she had always been doomed to a tragic end.

The pain of her INXS rock star lover Michael Hutchence committing suicide and her ex-husband Sir Bob Geldof ­gaining custody of their three daughters has always been blamed for her downfall.

It was the end of a five-year spiral of self-destruction. Paula and Bob were showbiz royalty and the fallout from her drug-driven love affair with Michael both fascinated and appalled the celebrity world.

But ahead of today’s 20th anniversary of her death at the age of 41, friends reveal to The Sun that the once-wild TV presenter had turned her life around — and her overdose was an accident.

They paint a picture of a doting mum who had found peace and contentment on the East Sussex coast, away from her old druggie ways in London.

In Hastings, she would play happily on the beach with daughter Tiger Lily and became healthy once more.

What might have happened if she had not returned to London, where she was to die of a heroin overdose?

It was only money worries and an urgent need to earn a living that propelled Paula back to the capital.

According to one friend, Boomtown Rats singer and Live Aid organiser Bob tried to keep his ex-wife away from her bad influences whenever she was back in the city.

But the lack of a proper treatment regime for her addiction meant she was not ready to face her demons.

On September 16, 2000, someone tempted her to try heroin again.

Having not used the killer drug for two years, Paula’s body could not cope and she was found dead in her home in Notting Hill, West London, by a close pal the next day.

Her long-time friend and former publicist Gerry Agar told The Sun: “Being in Hastings was a search for finding herself again, but she came back to London — no one is sure why, other than to try to make money, as she was broke.

“All things were good with Bob and Paula before her death. He was desperate to keep her away from her so-called friends and the destructive influences.”

Despite spending her career in and around the world of rock ’n’ roll, Paula had not been into substance abuse during her early years.

When she co-presented music show The Tube on Channel 4 with Jools Holland in the Eighties, and later interviewed celebs on a bed for The Big Breakfast, she was known for her professionalism and diligence.

Similarly, during her 18-year romance with Bob Geldof, which produced daughters Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches and Pixie, she was a devoted mother.

Gerry says she was very intelligent and played “ditzy” as an act but paid the bills and funded Bob’s involvement with Live Aid.

She reveals: “At that time Bob wasn’t earning any money. Live Aid would definitely not have happened without her.”

It was her affair with Australian lothario Hutchence from 1994 — and her split from Bob — which led her down a perilous path.

Gerry says: “She never drank or took drugs before she ran off with Michael.

“She dabbled when she was extremely young, but after that nothing. Then she completely changed.”

Both Gerry and Bob were worried about the effect her reliance on class A drugs was having on the children.

Gerry says: “We tried everything to get Paula to wake up. Peaches was found roaming the streets late at night while in Paula and Michael’s care.”

Paula’s addictions were far greater than those of Michael and the singer feared for the safety of their little daughter Tiger Lily when she was in her care.

Even though he cheated on her, Paula was devastated when Michael was found hanged while alone in a hotel room in Sydney, Australia, in November 1997.

A month later she also learned that Opportunity Knocks host Hughie Green — who had died that year — was her true father, not Jess Yates, the man she had always called Dad and who died in 1993.

Already in a fragile state, this news tipped her over the edge into a full-blown breakdown and she almost died from an overdose just a few months later. Again, it was Bob who was there to rescue her.

By 1998 the Irishman had full custody of their three daughters and this seemed to spur on Paula to get her act together.

Not wanting to lose Tiger as well, she started taking methadone to wean herself off heroin — and moved to Hastings.

Her neighbours there — poet Fiona Pitt-Kethley and her husband James Plaskett, a chess grand-master — remember a warm, affectionate mum who had found contentment.

Fiona said: “She definitely wasn’t doing drugs there. She was in a decent state of health and wasn’t addicted as far as I could see. Life in Hastings was based on children and beaches.

"She often took my son to the beach, or Tiger would sometimes come into our house and watch videos, and they’d do pretend weddings outside our house.”

Another of Paula’s close friends, Green & Black’s chocolate founder Jo Fairley, found her the house and kept an eye on her.

Embracing a quieter life, Paula went to the Women’s Institute market, swam in the sea daily and became a house-proud mum again.

Paula had become a successful author in the 1990s, producing a series of books about parenthood, and had hoped to return to writing.

Friends say Paula and Tiger would be tucked up in bed by 10pm every night and she did not attend wild parties.

James Plaskett recalls: “There was just nothing showbizzy about them. They were quiet people. They were early-to-rise, early-to-bed people.”

Paula’s idyllic time in that cottage on the coast lasted for only eight months, though, before she decided to go back to her house in Notting Hill.

It was a risky move because she soon found herself back in her old social circles.

Gerry reveals: “Paula was in the clutches of really, really shy friends. If she had been airlifted out of there and given proper treatment, I think there would have been hope.

From kid rebel to tragedy

APRIL 24, 1959: Born in Wales, to showgirl-turned-erotic-novelist Elaine Smith, Paula is brought up thinking Elaine’s husband, Jess Yates, who hosted ITV religious show Stars On Sunday, is her dad.

1967: Parents split when she is eight, and Jess leaves. She stays with her mum, who Paula will later claim was absent for much of her lonely childhood.

1971: Age 12, Paula loses her virginity and snorts heroin, she claimed.

1973: Age 14, she is a regular on the London club scene.

1976: Age 18, Paula starts dating Boomtown Rats frontman Bob, who is eight years older.

1979: Poses for men’s mag Penthouse and gets columnist job at music paper Record Mirror.

March 31, 1983: Her first child with Bob, Fifi Trixibelle, is born.

1982: Starts hosting C4 music show The Tube alongside Jools Holland.

1985: Meets INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, interviewing him for The Tube, and says: “I’m going to have that boy.” Starts showing up at his gigs.

1986: Marries Bob in Las Vegas, with Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon as best man.

March 13, 1989: Peaches born.

September 17, 1990: Third daughter, Pixie, is born.

1992: Paula starts hosting new C4 TV show The Big Breakfast, made by Bob’s production firm, and interviews stars while in bed.

1994: Her Big Breakfast interview in bed with Hutchence sets tongues wagging. She says on air: “For the first time, this is a guest I want to have my leg over.”

1995: Paula leaves Geldof for Hutchence, who dumps model Helena Christensen. Public angry at her humiliation of Bob.

July 22, 1996: Paula gives birth to Hutchence’s daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

Autumn 1996: Nanny finds a Smarties tube full of opium in Paula and Hutchence’s home. Paula is held but not charged – she and Hutchence claim the drugs were planted. Geldof tries to win sole custody of his kids.

November 1997: Hutchence is found hanged in Sydney hotel. Paula says he was ground down by the fight with Bob and angry she was not allowed to take Tiger Lily to see him in Australia.

December 1997: DNA tests prove Paula’s real dad is late Opportunity Knocks host Hughie Green, not Jess Yates. She says: “I’m horrified. I thought I was at the darkest point – now this.”

1998: Paula attempts suicide and is admitted to the Priory for rehab. She insists Hutchence’s death was an autoasphyxiation sex game gone wrong. Geldof wins sole custody of their kids.

February 2000: Paula leaves London for Hastings with Tiger Lily, to live a quieter life.

September 17, 2000: On Pixie’s tenth birthday, Paula dies at home in Notting Hill, aged 41, after a heroin overdose. Tiger Lily, four, is in house at the time.

“But she didn’t have a load of money to pay the necessary, to airlift her away to a decent treatment centre — although I know Bob was up for paying for it.”

Gerry believes that what Paula needed was to be placed on a monitored rehabilitation programme. Instead she tried to fight her demons alone.

Tiger’s godmother, Belinda Brewin, realised Paula had taken drugs when she turned up at her house on September 16, 2000.

She asked Paula: “What have you been doing this for?” and she blamed the pressure of living in London.

When Jo Fairely rang Paula at 8.30am the next day, the then four-year-old Tiger answered, saying her mum was still asleep.

Half an hour later, Jo called again, got the same reply so went round to investigate.

Tiger had to stand on a chair to let Jo in — and as soon as she looked into Paula’s bedroom, she knew her friend was dead.

The police found a wrap of heroin on the bedside table and a rolled-up £5 note containing traces of cocaine.

Bob became Tiger’s legal guardian and now, aged 24, she is living a quiet life in Australia.

Peaches, though, followed her mum by dying of a heroin overdose in 2014 — at age 25.

Paula’s friends agree there was nothing deliberate about her final moments. The coroner also ruled it was not suicide but the result of “foolish” behaviour.

Gerry says: “I believe her death was definitely accidental. She would never have killed herself while Tiger was in her house. It was a massive mistake on her part. She took the amount (of drugs) she had been used to.”

But 20 years later, for her family and friends, this makes the tragedy no easier to bear.

Gerry Agar was not paid any money for this interview.

Additional reporting: CHRIS WHITE

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