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Tragic society girl fell under rocker Pete's spell

As a scion of one of the most influential, monied and maverick dynasties in Britain, tragic Robin Whitehead would have been pushing at an open door had she wished to enter the worlds of business and politics which have become the natural domains of the Goldsmith clan.

But although the glamorous and striking 27-year-old, who was found dead at the weekend, was just at home as her second cousin, Jemima Khan, wielding a glass of champagne in front of the cameras at an A-list party, she had chosen to immerse herself in a more seamy world to further her desire to chronicle celebrity life.

Since at least 2006, the filmmaker and photographer had followed the dissolute fortunes of Pete Doherty, recording on film and in photographic prints the performances and behind-the-scenes life of the heroin addict and rock star in modest surroundings far away from the Mayfair haunts more normally associated with the Goldsmiths.

In so doing, Robin, who preferred to spell her name Robyn, was not following the opportunities offered by the family of her mother, Dido, the daughter of pioneering environmentalist Teddy Goldsmith and the niece of billionaire financier James Goldsmith. Instead, she was pursuing a similar path to her father, the 1960s sub-culture filmmaker Peter Whitehead.


Whitehead (72) described by one commentator as "the Che Guevara of the camera", was credited with inventing the pop video through his work at the height of Swinging London, making promotional films for a succession of up and coming bands called the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and the Dubliners.

It was while putting the finishing touches to her second documentary about Doherty and his millieu that Robin, one of four sisters, returned to the tower block flat in London's East End where her body was found at the weekend.

Friends paid tribute yesterday to the privately educated filmmaker's dedication to her task. She had spent two years making her first film about Doherty and his bands, entitled The Road To Albion, which was released in November.

Brought up in Northamptonshire, Robin and her three sisters -- Charlene, now 34, Leila (26) and 22-year-old Rosetta -- were privately educated. Although she apparently chose not to use it, a world of illustrious connections was never far away. Her grandfather, Teddy Goldsmith, was the elder brother of James, who amassed an estimated fortune of £1.2bn before his death in 1997.

Zac Goldsmith, the son of James and a prospective MP who is likely to be a key figure in a David Cameron Tory government, became the editor of The Ecologist magazine between 1998 and 2007.


Indeed, the Goldsmith clan has long trodden a narrow path between membership of the most privileged strata of the establishment and the expression of dissenting views, not to mention a predilection for multiple marriages.

James, who sat as a French MEP, is mistakenly credited with coining the phrase: "When you marry your mistress, you create a job vacancy."

In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that Robin, who once featured in gossip columns as having had a relationship with Doherty, was described by friends as a "free spirit".