Van takes to skies in new privacy bid
Published 17/07/2011 | 05:00
Dark shades, cloth cap and leather jacket pulled up to his neck -- this is Ireland's most reclusive singer's attempt to remain anonymous.
But as Van Morrison begins a new life with Gigi Lee, the mother of his love child, there's just one thing giving the game away -- the €10.5m chopper he uses to dash between his homes in Dublin and Belfast.
Van has been flying between his new, secluded home outside Belfast and his long-term residence in Killiney, Co Dublin, where Michelle Rocca, the mother of two of his children, resides behind one of the 10ft, black, wrought-iron, re-enforced gates on Vico Road.
The top-of-the-range chopper belongs to helicopter company SkyHeli Limited, the directors of which include the NAMA-linked developer Paddy Shovlin, who is involved in the Beacon development in Sandyford. The high-powered machine, one of the last to be delivered to Ireland at the end of the Celtic Tiger era, is now helping the notoriously private singer to keep his public appearances to an absolute minimum.
Sources say it is all part of his painstaking efforts to stay below the radar -- which have included acquiring a new abode, well-hidden behind a mile-long dirt track; a private driver, who picks him up at this house and drops him to the helipad in Co Down; and an array of caps and dark glasses to keep his well-known visage hidden from view.
Locals who have seen the singer recently describe his behaviour as something "out of a spy movie".
"He's seen in coffee shops and on his own a lot, but never in the company of a woman.
"If she is still there, she certainly doesn't venture out a lot," said one source.
A woman, believed to be Gigi Lee, was spotted at the secluded house in recent weeks, having changed her hair from her famous bleached-blonde locks to a dark-brunette mane.
Sources have also explained how the singer has been left reeling after a court injunction was lifted, exposing his new family life, adding that he has threatened to quit the country. "He goes to incredible lengths not to even be photographed. It's his worst nightmare," said one source.
"He has even threatened to leave Ireland.
"I'm actually surprised he has stayed on here after everything. But I think he has a strong affinity with Belfast, where he grew up.
"He has a lot of fond memories here."