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Friday 25 May 2018

Vile texts that followed restaurant showdown

Calls to 'Sunday Independent' columnist revealed Katy's despair over messages from ex-fiance after their break-up

IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Katy French and Marcus Sweeney.
IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Katy French and Marcus Sweeney.
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

"C**t." This is the word – unspeakably vile and misogynistic – a crying Katy French told me her ex-fiance had texted her "at least six times" since their end of their engagement in mid-January 2007.

The model rang late one night, January 25, to tell me. She was understandably upset and hurt. What young woman wouldn't be? She read me his texts down the phone. They got increasingly menacing, her voice apparently trembling as she read them out.

"You're a fucking sick tramp," went one. While another implored Katy to "fuck off 2 England and do everyone a favour. C** t".

She sounded depressed, gloomy. She and Marcus were supposed to get married in two months' time in Rome. Instead, that dream had gone up in toxic flames: the man who was to be her husband was sending her messages stating that he will hate her until the day he dies and that he never loved her.

Worse than perhaps the C-word he called her so many times was when Marcus texted Katy that if she is pregnant with his child, she should send the baby to Purgatory. He also threatened to go on the Gerry Ryan radio show unless she immediately made public the fact that their engagement was over – and that it was he (Mr Sweeney) who ended it.

The break-up happened, as did most things in Katy's life, in public. During a fashion shoot for the cover of LIFE Magazine in Mr Sweeney's restaurant – Il Pomo D'oro on South William Street, Dublin – on January 17.

She was in mid-shot on a table when Marcus walked in and a row broke out. Marcus, clearly in a rage, and in view and earshot of the Sunday Independent LIFE Magazine team, demanded Katy give him back his "50-grand ring".

The confrontation continued just as loudly behind a restaurant curtain with Marcus accusing Katy of embarrassing him, primarily because he "had had this filth with you before".

When Katy reappeared, she was visibly distraught. Just as visible was the fact that her necklace was broken. It was 5pm. A text, sent at 7.51pm that night, reads: "Michel say u looked lovely in yr suspenders. U fuckin sick tramp. Yr bags will be fucked over yr gate b4 the night's out. U don't park in the Westbury any more. Laptop and all valuables I'll meet u with the rings and I'll b on 2 the papers and tell them as it happened. C** t."

Two hours later Katy moved out of their apartment in Citywest. At 11.55pm that night Katy receives these two texts from Marcus.

"C**t. I'll drop more of your shit over 2maro. Smiling now. Never loved you. Felt sorry for a girl u nobody loved and nobody ever will. Your souls can never save u. Your black and I hate u til the day I die. P.S if yr pregnant send it to puretory [sic]. C** t."

And then: "I'm ringing the papers. C** t."

Eight days later I got that late-night phonecall from a depressed Katy.

She and Marcus's on-off relationship had been a staple of my column in the Sunday Independent and I had gained her trust. Hence the late-night phonecall. (These were regular occurrences: my late-night chats with Katy about love and the whole damn thing.)

We talked for nearly two hours. She read me the texts over and over, like a manic mantra. She wanted me to print them in my column without saying where they came from or quoting her. I told her that would be impossible. I said the only way was if she came into the Sunday Independent office privately and let me read them, have them photographed and that she would confirm on the record that these were in fact texts by Marcus Sweeney.

She phoned me the next morning and she said she would do it, but she would not be quoted on them.

At 6pm that same day, Katy appeared in the reception of the Sunday Independent. I brought her to an editorial office; no one noticed the girl who was on the front page of the tabloids every other day. Conservatively dressed, with her hair tied back, she looked like she was going sailing in the Hamptons with the Kennedys. It was almost the polar opposite to the breathlessly sexy woman who would appear on the cover of LIFE Magazine a few days later .

This is how it all started for Katy. It is at this exact point, appearing on that glossy LIFE front cover, that Katy's career went supernova. It began the Year of the French.

The glamour goddess would go on to bewitch the Irish media – and perhaps even the Irish people – until her death less than 11 months after she came into the Sunday Independent office secretly to see me.

In the end, her life became a cautionary tale of a gorgeous young woman, born in Switzerland but brought up in Ireland, cut down in her prime; in a coma for four days at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan, her brain damaged, her life finished seedily at 24.

Who knows what might have been, how far in the world she'd have gone, had she not met Kieron Ducie and Ann Corcoran on December 1? All I know is she was a wonderful woman whose death on December 6, 2007 was shocking, sad and senseless.

I met Katy for the last time at her belated – she was born October 31 – 24th birthday party on Thursday, November 29, in Krystle nightclub on Harcourt Street. She had loads of big ideas about the future. I spoke to her on the phone the next morning; she sounded hungover, but said she enjoyed her party. Three days later I got a distraught call from Katy's model boss Andrea Roche to say Katy was on life-support in hospital.

It would be tempting to try to turn Katy's death into a profound psychological statement on the human condition – the beautiful and the damned in boomtime Ireland, the loss of innocence that followed. But it is really just about the frailty of life.

Irish Independent

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