Sunday 25 September 2016

Trinny Woodall's ex-husband, his fatal fall and a doomed circle of friends

New light to be shed on death of Trinny Woodall's former husband Johnny Elichaoff, when inquest opens at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Monday

Patrick Sawer

Published 08/11/2015 | 13:10

Trinny Woodall and Jonny Elichaoff in 1999
Trinny Woodall and Jonny Elichaoff in 1999
Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky

When Johnny Elichaoff – the former husband of TV presenter Trinny Woodall – fell to his death last November it sparked renewed speculation about the number of his friends and associates who had died in mysterious circumstances.

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In March 2013 Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who lived in exile in Britain after falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found dead at his Berkshire home with a ligature round his neck.

Trinny Woodall and former husband Johnny Elichaoff
Trinny Woodall and former husband Johnny Elichaoff

Then, in December last year, wealthy tycoon Scott Young – who had earlier been hung head first from a window of the Dorchester Hotel over unpaid debts – fell to his death from his London penthouse.

Soon observers were speculating that the deaths – along with the demise of others in their circle – might be connected to the murky world of Russian business.

Trinny Woodall
Trinny Woodall

Sources began coming forward to claim the deaths were neither suicide nor accident.

Now new light is to be shed on one of those fatal incidents, when the inquest into Mr Elichaoff’s death opens at Westminster Coroner’s Court tomorrow.

Scot Young and his girlfriend Noelle Reno
Scot Young and his girlfriend Noelle Reno

Mr Elichaoff, 55, was killed when he fell from the roof of Whiteley’s shopping centre in Bayswater, west London, in November last year.

An antiques dealer and former rock drummer, Mr Elichaoff had reportedly shut down some of his businesses in the weeks before his death and may have been in financial difficulties.

It was also claimed that weeks earlier he had to be talked down from the same spot on the shopping centre roof from where he later fell.

 Miss Woodall, who had a daughter with Mr Elichaoff and remained close to him after the couple split in 2009, was said to have been devastated by his death.

She later said: “I think you can slowly come to terms with it and life moves on … We’re a tiny cog in a very large wheel, you have something that is quite direct personal tragedy but we’re part of this huge picture well.

“It’s about picking up the reins again and moving forward and picking up things I was doing before that event and moving forward with my life.”

Mr Elichaoff had worked as a touring drummer for U2, Siouxsie Sioux and the League of Gentlemen in the Eighties.

In 1984, he left the tour circuit to join the Israeli army, from which he moved into music management. He later became a life insurance, inheritance tax adviser and antiques dealer.

What is not known is whether Mr Elichaoff had been drawn into the same world of Russian business as some of his friends, and whether he owed substantial sums of money to unsavoury and dangerous individuals.

His death came a month before that of his friend Mr Young, who had made a fortune in the London property market but had been badly hit in the recession and was left struggling with huge debts.

Mr Young’s property portfolio included a £14 million Palladian mansion in Oxfordshire and a £6 million beachfront house in Florida.

His former wife Michelle said he had grown increasingly “secretive” about the deals he was doing and rumours circulated that he was involved in a number of ventures linked to players in the Russian underworld.

But by 2006 things had begun to fall apart. Mr Young told friends his fortune was wiped out when a large property deal in Moscow went wrong, leaving its investors – including Mr Berezovsky – with huge debts. At the same time his marriage fell apart and Mrs Young went to court seeking half his fortune.

While he claimed to be penniless, she was adamant he was hiding his money to avoid giving her a settlement.

Mr Young went so far as to refuse to cooperate with a court order to reveal the extent of his assets, resulting in him being jailed for contempt of court.

In 2009, Mrs Young rejected a settlement of £300 million. But after her protracted legal battle, which cost at least £8 million in fees, she was awarded £20 million – although she later maintained she had yet to receive a penny from the settlement.

Shortly after his death in December last year friends said that in 2012 Mr Young had received a warning over his unpaid debts from members of the Russian mafia, who hung him out of a window at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane as a threat to pay up.

In 2010 another member of Mr Elichaoff and Mr Young’s group, Paul Castle, 54, a millionaire property tycoon, died after falling under a Tube train at Bond Street station. Sources said he had received threats.

 Two years later another member of the circle, 47-year-old property tycoon Robert Curtis, who used to date model Caprice, died after also being hit by a Tube train, in North West London. There were suggestions that he too owed money to Russian mobsters.

An inquest in July found that Mr Young’s death could not be ruled as suicide due to insufficient evidence about his state of mind. However coroner Shirley Radcliffe said she believed police were “entirely correct” that there were no suspicious circumstances.

There had already been an inconclusive verdict on the death of Mr Berezovsky, after an inquest in March last year heard conflicting expert evidence about his demise.

Police said they found no evidence of foul play and the pathologist who conducted a post-mortem examination on Mr Berezovsky’s body said he could rule out murder.

But intrigue deepened when Professor Bern Brinkmann, a German forensic scientist retained by the businessman’s family, said his examination of autopsy photographs led him to conclude that Mr Berezovsky had not killed himself.

He suggested the Russian had been murdered by a number of assailants then suspended by his scarf from the shower rail.

Following Mr Elichaoff’s death a card was left with candles and flowers close to the spot from where he fell, signed “Miss you always, T” – thought to be from Miss Woodall.

If nothing else, the opening of tomorrow’s inquest will serve as a reminder of how the reverberations from Mr Elichaoff’s death, and those of his friends, continue to impact on their loved ones.

Telegraph.co.uk

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