Wednesday, January 16, 2013

'I'm not looking forward to explaining rape accusation hell to my daughter': John Leslie reveals how false claims ruined his career - and left him contemplating suicide

Former television presenter John Leslie has revealed how devastating sex attack claims against him destroyed his life - and he will now have to explain to his young daughter about the accusations.

The former host of This Morning says being named as the alleged rapist of fellow TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson ruined his life, he told ITV's Daybreak show.

The ex-Blue Peter star, 47, said the intense scrutiny and accusations led to him considering suicide - and it had taken years for him to rebuild his life.

He told presenters Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones: 'It was trying to stop a runaway train.

'It got to the point where the only way to stop it was contemplating suicide and for me - and I love life, I'm larger than life - to get to this point... I thought, it has got to stop.

'I went home, I built the family up again. I'm here, not quite in the same place, but happy.'

His career was effectively over from the moment he was named, apparently accidentally, on daytime television as the man who launched a sex attack on Ulrika Jonsson, who has never revealed the identity of the mystery attacker she wrote about in her book.

He recalled the day when he was informed after finishing filming a This Morning programme that Matthew Wright had named him as the man who had attacked Ms Jonsson.

Mr Leslie said: 'Normally after a show everyone's a bit up, but after this one there was a deadly silence.

'My editor came through, grabbed my hand and took me off the studio floor.
'She had this look on her face like someone had died - I didn't know it at the time, but it was my career.'

He was dropped from This Morning and then more allegations came to light in 2003, concerning two alleged indecent assaults on a 23-year-old actress in 1997.

Mr Leslie, who has a six-year-old daughter by former girlfriend Rachel Bentley, was then dogged by a sex tape that emerged of him with another former girlfriend, actress Abi Titmuss, 36, and another woman, before another unfounded rape accusation was leveled at him in 2008.

He was subsequently cleared 'without a stain on his character'.

But he says despite never having a conviction against him, it was too late.

He said: 'After I was cleared I thought the phone would ring, I'd be back on television and it would be great, I'd put my side forward.

'But the press had you then... I don't think it was personal, I think it was my turn.

'When the phone didn't ring, I became reclusive, I was not confident going out in public, I was like a hermit.'

Now he faces the difficult moment of explaining to his youngster about the accusations.

He said it would be necessary to tell the schoolgirl because she would find out about the claims on the internet.

'I'm not looking forward to telling her about it.

'I can go over points about why it happened.

'She knows I'm a good person, and who her father is, we've got a great relationship.'

He has not worked in television since the unfounded 2003 allegations and says he still feels punished for crimes he didn't commit.

After years of rejection in his bid to relaunch a TV career, he tried his hand at becoming a property developer but his attempt coincided with the housing crash, leaving him with no money.

There was another knock-back in 2010 when ITV bosses approached Mr Leslie to appear on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here before backing out over his troubled past.

With little cash, Mr Leslie relied on royalties from his time as host of game show Wheel of Fortune to make ends meet.

Speaking to the Sunday people, he admitted he made mistakes and didn't know how to handle his private life, saying he was 'loud and boisterous' and 'tactile with boys and girls but you can't do that', while he says he was unable to separate his onscreen personality from his every day life.

Currently single, Mr Leslie said a previous three-year relationship with a psychologist helped him deal with his problems.

Mr Leslie, who also dated Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones, 43, says he remains close to Miss Titmuss, who stood by him during the court trial into the assault allegations.

He is now a radio DJ on Edinburgh station Castle FM, with a show every Friday.

Mr Leslie believes his new career has been a 'breath of fresh air' and believes being out of the public spotlight is the right thing to do by his parents Lex and Les, both 72.

'They suffered a lot more than me and still suffer from the legacy,' he said. 'For years mum would be in floods of tears when people said negative things about me, it was tough seeing them upset.'

'Sometimes I feel this is the path that was set out for me so maybe this is meant to be.

'I just hope my life is about to change for the better.'