ON THURSDAY night the Queen found herself the latest candidate for the Andrew Morton special kind of treatment, in an hour-long documentary on ITV. Morton, as everyone knows, was catapulted to fame with his book Diana: Her True Story. This revealed, for the first time, the misery of her marriage to Charles, that Charles had a mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, and that Diana had tried several times to commit suicide. It earned him upwards of GBP 7 million.
He didn’t need to work again, but his special brand of disclosure seems to have become a compulsion.Since then the 46-year-old, former Fleet Street royal correspondent has written books on President Clinton’s mistress Monica Lewinsky and, more recently, David and Victoria Beckham. The golden couple tried to prevent the book’s publication in court, but Morton won. Yet, only the bare facts are known about Morton himself, while his motivations and techniques for getting people to talk have remained largely guesswork.
Instead, he has presented himself as a man of beguiling charm, happily married for more than 20 years to his childhood sweetheart, Lynne, who he met when he was 17. They have two teenage daughters.
Morton initially achieved worldwide fame by unearthing the truth about the Princess’s life, but what is the truth about his own life?
The first cracks in what now seems to have been a carefully constructed facade occurred in August this year with the publication of photos of him passionately kissing a woman who was not his wife.
His appalling behaviour since has convinced this woman, travel writer Debbie Gaiger, 42, to tell the truth about the man who has been her lover for more than three years.
MORTON, whose charm seems to be irresistible to some women, comes across as a deceitful, predatory man who enjoys gaining the confidence of women only to humiliate them.
More than anything it is the tale of a selfish and manipulative man, and a gullible, if somewhat confused, woman who is not nearly so innocent as she makes out.
The saga’s value, however, is that it provides a fascinating insight into how Morton persuaded two of the most famous women in the world to open their hearts to him – making him a millionaire.
Again and again in her talks with me, Debbie provided a searing insight into how Morton managed to gain the trust of Princess Diana by exploiting her vulnerability.
She reveals his inner coldness when, on the day of Diana’s death, he persuaded Debbie to meet him for a night of passionate lovemaking.
She tells how he frequently spun that cliched, old yarn of how his wife didn’t understand him, but how their sordid romance was conducted in a double bed at his office as well as his home and in hotels round the world, and how he made her engage in bizarre sexual practices.
Of course, such things take two. But Debbie, who comes out of this sorry tale almost as badly as Morton, claims she was persuaded to pander to his demands by his technique of persuasion, sulks and coercion.
She admits, in retrospect, that she has been naive and downright stupid. But she says: ‘I was really in love with him. I thought he loved me, too, and needed my support and guidance to get out of what he told me was his desperately unhappy marriage. Instead he destroyed my self-respect.
‘I now realise what a total, unscrupulous hypocrite he is. He criticises others, but his behaviour is far worse than the people he writes about.
‘He always takes the woman’s view and goes on endlessly about how Diana and Monica Lewinsky were so badly treated. Yet, in his own life he is manipulative, has no conscience and has behaved appallingly badly to me and his wife. I think he is a very damaged human being.’ Debbie was born in London in 1958 into a middleclass family. Her father is a retired estate agent.
She left school at 17 and, after working in programme sales at the BBC, became a director of the Camerapix magazine, a company run by the late, legendary TV cameraman Mohamed Amin, whose work with Michael Buerk highlighted the 1984 Ethiopian famine and prompted the Live Aid campaign.
Amin lost an arm during the Ethiopian war when an ammunition dump exploded, but worked until he was killed in an air crash in 1996.
Debbie first met Morton, who lives in a mansion which overlooks Hampstead Heath in London, in March 1997 when a photographer friend called Duncan came over from Nairobi for Amin’s memorial service.
‘I picked him up from the airport and he told me he was staying with Andrew in Highgate,’ she says. ‘I drove him there and Andrew invited me for a glass of wine. I also met his wife, Lynne.’ DEBBIE, then 39, admits she was ‘instantly attracted’ to Morton.
‘He was charming, good looking and entertaining. I fancied him from the moment we met.’ No doubt Morton, with his ultra-sharp antennae, recognised a certain vulnerability in her too. Debbie had just been dumped by her American boyfriend after a two-year relationship following her admission that she wanted to get married and have a baby.
‘I’d given up my job with Camerapix and my London home to be with him in the States. I’d only recently come back to London. I didn’t have a job because Amin had died. Nor did I have a home to go to. I went back to live with my mother in West London.’ She, Morton and Duncan attended Amin’s memorial service, and the next day went out for dinner. Andrew’s wife was away at a health farm.
Debbie says: ‘During our meal Duncan left the table for a few moments.
Andrew seized the moment, leant over and kissed me full on the lips. I was shocked and then flattered. He had such an enigmatic charm, and talks to you as if you are the only person on the planet.
‘My ego needed boosting, too, after such an unhappy time, and my emotions were extremely raw. I was also upset about Amin’s death, and at one point burst into tears at the table.
‘Andrew took great pains to talk to me about my feelings as a woman, and I found myself telling him all about my broken romance. He asked lots of “How do you feel?” sort of questions, which most men never do.
‘In retrospect I realise he kept bringing the conversation round to sex, but in a way that didn’t make me feel uneasy.’ A month later he called and invited her to lunch. They met at a French restaurant in London’s Charlotte Street. ‘He’d offered to give me some friendly advice about possible jobs, so I saw no harm in going,’ says Debbie.
But as soon as they met, it quickly became obvious that he had another agenda.
‘We sat at a discreet table in the corner and drank champagne and two bottles of wine, and he played a lot of footsie with me under the table,’ Debbie recalls.
They left the restaurant at 3.30pm for the Groucho Club where they stayed, drinking until 6pm.
‘He held my hand and kept staring into my eyes,’ recalls Debbie. ‘Looking back it was a completely reckless thing to do, almost as if he was asking to be caught out.’ This recklessness became a pattern in their relationship.
Within days they had become lovers.
Debbie, who admits she’d had previous affairs with married men, says she didn’t feel guilty about Morton’s wife.
‘He’d spent a lot of time telling me what a bad marriage he had. He said they never made love and that the marriage was over bar the paperwork.’ The scene for their illicit union was Morton’s office, above a restaurant behind Tottenham Court Road. ‘He has one room that overlooks the street which contains his desk,’ says Debbie. ‘The other room has a double bed and some filing cabinets and faces the back.
‘That first time we were both very nervous. I suppose you could say he was an average lover. We then started to meet twice a week, either at lunchtime or in the evening.
‘Sometimes we’d have a meal or a drink followed by lovemaking, but mostly it was just sex. I soon began to realise he was just using me. Because my self-esteem was low I didn’t stop seeing him, and although I know I sound pretty stupid, I kept trying to convince myself that he cared for me.
‘I think in some ways he thought of himself as a Prince Charles or President Clinton figure – playing out the role of a powerful man manipulating a vulnerable woman- that he had given them in his books.
‘I now believe he wanted to write the Diana book partly as a control thing – to see how much power he could exert over a beautiful woman.
‘It was the same with Monica Lewinsky. He wanted to control the mistress of the world’s most powerful man. He made lots of claims about what they both felt about him, too.
‘I can understand that Monica might have thrown herself at him, but I don’t want to discuss what he said about Diana. He’s proved he has no interest in protecting her two sons, otherwise he’d have sent back the tapes Diana made, but I don’t want to make their lives any more difficult.’ Debbie was still involved with him in August 1997 when Diana died.
‘He was at the Edinburgh Festival with his wife and two daughters at the time, and phoned to ask if I’d heard the news.’ While most of the rest of the world felt numb with shock and cancelled their arrangements out of respect, Morton, who one might have thought would have felt some pangs of conscience, set about persuading his mistress to meet him.
‘He explained he was flying down to London to do various Press interviews during the day and asked me to meet him that evening.
‘We had sex and I stayed with him at his office until about 5am. He told me he felt quite tearful and I tried to make him feel better. He is good at playing the “I am a little innocent trying to do the right thing” sort of role. I became quite used to it.’ By the time they had been together for a year, Debbie had got her professional life back on line, and early in 1998 signed a contract with American publishing firm Globe Pequot to research a series of travel books.
It gave her the courage to stop seeing Morton. ‘I told him I wanted more out of our relationship,’ she says. ‘He said he couldn’t do that, so I stopped seeing him in June 1998, and went off to the Caribbean to research my books.’
ANDREW telephoned her six weeks later. ‘He said he couldn’t bear to live without me and begged me to meet him in New York. I agonised for days about it, but he really pulled at my heartstrings, and I flew over to see him.
We had dinner and, frankly, he totally overwhelmed me.
‘He kept on about what a dreadful state his marriage was in, that he really wanted to be with me, that he was on the point of leaving Lynne but needed to be sure I would be with him. I believed he was genuine, so I slept with him.’
Debbie agreed to abandon her work and return to London a few weeks later. A day after her return, Morton told her he had changed his mind and was trying to make a go of it with his wife after all. She was ‘devastated’ and returned to the Caribbean feeling hurt.
This on-off pattern was repeated countless times during their relationship.
Morton seems to have used her like a piece of elastic, pulling her back whenever she left him, and behaving so objectionably when she returned to his arms that it forced her to leave again.
When I ask Debbie why she gave him countless second chances, she replies: ‘My pea brain just wasn’t working properly. I kept telling myself I didn’t need Andrew Morton in my life. I kept telling him to leave me alone, but each time he managed to win me round.
‘He has a schoolboy charm, a razor-sharp sense of humour and is very intelligent. It’s a winning combination.
Also, I always believed that he would leave his wife.’ A more streetwise woman might, of course, have been more influenced by Morton’s constant rendition of two tired old tunes. One that ‘at long last’ he and Lynne had agreed that their relationship was over, the other that he ‘loved me so much and couldn’t live without me’.
He even proposed regularly.
From August 1999, says Debbie, Morton was more manipulative and selfish than ever. Instead of letting her try to make something of her life and find a more suitable relationship, he seems to have become fixated by his increasing need to possess and control.
‘He kept phoning me every day, asking me to go back to him,’ says Debbie. ‘I pleaded with him to leave me alone, but he kept saying: “I love you, I love you. I’ve finally sorted it out with Lynne. Come with me to the South of France.” ‘ Incredibly, Debbie believed him, joining him in Cannes and, she says, melting when he bought champagne and toasted ‘my future wife’.
FURTHER trysts in New York and California followed, and in January this year – after he spent Christmas with his wife and children – he took her to the luxurious L’Hermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills.
On previous trips he’d bought her jewellery including a gold and diamond necklace. But on this occasion Morton insisted they went shopping for some fetish clothing. Debbie’s heart sank.
‘I felt uncomfortable, but Andrew insisted,’ she says. ‘He bought me three ghastly, black PVC outfits and a pair of black stiletto heels.’ Today she seems genuinely nonplussed by her behaviour. ‘Why do you think he wants to control and degrade women?’ is all she can say.
Equally relevant is why would Debbie allow herself to be so degraded? She is an attractive woman who you wouldn’t imagine would have much difficulty in finding a decent man.
‘I tried to tell him I felt humiliated by the experience, but he somehow managed to turn the whole thing round to make me feel that I, rather than him, was the culprit,’ she says.
‘When I said no he would say things like: “I thought you were my soul mate but you have lied to me.” He always seemed so terribly upset if I didn’t go along with his plans. But when I agreed, he always asked for something more.
I’d certainly never done anything like it before.’ On another occasion she arranged to meet him in a hotel in Bray, Berkshire, after a friend’s funeral.
‘He turned up with an overnight bag full of bizarre clothing. I said: “How can you do that when you know I’ve just been to a funeral?” I think he’s a man without a conscience.’ Morton also enjoyed the risk of being caught.
‘He enjoyed making love in public places, and especially in his car,’ says Debbie. ‘He enjoyed playing with danger which was odd because he was convinced that he was really famous.
‘Whenever we were in a restaurant, he would always ask me if I thought people recognised him. But really, he is just a reporter who has had a couple of lucky breaks, and not the star writer he likes to think he is.’ Morton also enjoyed making love to Debbie at his family home. ‘Whenever Lynne was away he would persuade me to go round. I felt really uncomfortable there, especially when he insisted I also put those awful clothes on.’ In June this year, Morton suggested they get a flat together. Debbie found one in London’s Maida Vale and signed a year’s tenancy.
‘Andrew agreed to pay half the GBP 1,500 monthly rent, but said he had to pay in cash because Lynne dealt with all his finances,’ she says.
Barely two months later, pictures of the two kissing on the balcony appeared in the papers.
HER lover’s response was instant. ‘He immediately went scampering back to Lynne. He refused to see me or pay any more of his share of the rent. I was devastated. Bearing in mind that he is a multimillionaire and I am not, it wouldn’t have hurt him to pay six months’ money up front to enable me to stay in the flat and sort myself out.
Instead, I had to grovel to the landlord, asking if I could break the annual agreement.
‘Andrew also pleaded with me in tears over the phone to destroy compromising videos. For two weeks after that I barely ate or slept, then went to stay with friends in Antigua in the Caribbean.
‘I’ve come back feeling calmer, and now feel really sorry for Lynne and what I have done,’ says Debbie. ‘I have been so naive. I’ve talked to a therapist to try to understand why I allowed myself to go through all this.
‘My explanation so far is that he has a very polished way of first getting under your skin and then chipping away at your self-esteem. It’s a help to think that if he could persuade Diana and Monica to bare their souls to him, what chance did I stand to resist his charms?’ This is, of course, a flimsy argument. I told her I believed that women should, by any standards, take responsibility for their own actions. ‘I am appalled at myself,’ she agrees.
‘My behaviour is indefensible.
‘Had I realised his marriage was intact, I would never have gone down this path. I certainly didn’t intend to break up his marriage. What really baffles me is that he can set himself up on a pedestal as a judge of other people’s behaviour, while he does far, far worse.
‘He seems to have lost the understanding of what is right and wrong. Perhaps he just has an over-inflated idea of his own fame.’
(Source: Daily Mail London, October 21, 2000)