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dragon’s lair Bold asBrass By Hannah Stephenson,

As she goes through her third divorce, multi-millionaire Dragons’ Den star Hilary Devey talks about her terrible choices in men and why women can’t have it all. All the drama of her life is featured in her new autobiography, Bold As Brass.

She may be super-rich and super-successful, but today Dragons’ Den star Hilary Devey is not shouting about her achievements. Instead, she’s whispering about her shattered private life. After little more than a year of marriage, the 55-year-old entrepreneur is divorcing her third husband, builder Phillip Childs, but won’t go into details.

“I wish I could talk to you about it, but I can’t,” she tells me in her deep, gravelly Bolton accent. “It’s probably one of the unhappiest periods of my life. I will never marry again.” She’s now living on her own with her son and a home help in the opulent wing she owns of the majestic Staffordshire mansion Rangemore Hall, originally built as a country retreat for Edward VII.

“It’s bloody hard knowing that a third relationship has gone down the pan. What on earth can I say? I feel hurt, angry and just a little bit bewildered because I can’t seem to get it right with men.”

We meet to discuss her autobiography, Bold As Brass, which charts her life from her humble beginnings as a Bolton girl who remembers the bailiffs calling when her father’s central heating business went bankrupt to the multi-millionaire businesswoman she is today with properties in Spain, Marrakech and Florida. Indeed, her career success has probably affected her close relationships with men, she concedes.

“I’ve never had a male support by my side. Every man I’ve met has always wanted to walk in

4 Life Begins

front. Maybe I’ve just not met anybody of equal intellect.” Jaw- dropping tales fill the pages of her memoir. Raped at 12 after an older girl who she trusted lured her to meet an Italian man near her parents’ pub in Lancashire, she was too ashamed and terrified to tell anyone and kept her secret for 43 years.

“Throughout my life I’ve carried guilt attached with it and blamed myself in a way for putting myself in such a precarious predicament. I was just too young to deal with it. I mean, I’d never even been kissed.” Stories of her unfaithful father, her first two failed marriages and the violent abuse she suffered at the hands of one lover, the father of her only son, who unbeknown to her was married with five children, are also retold. “I felt so desperately betrayed,” she says. “For 10 years I never went out with a man afterwards. I focused on my career and my child.”

As she charts how as a single mother she made her way in business, more drama follows with revelations of her son Mevlit’s heroin addiction at 17, the most painful period of her life. “I was so naive. I found out when I watched a movie called Chasing The Dragon. One of the fundamental features of it was that they (addicts) always spent a lot of time in the bath. And it just clicked.”

By then she had become a successful businesswoman and for a time she gave him money for drugs while she decided what to do. Then she sent him to several rehab centres (he was kicked out of one after selling a TV she’d taken there for him and trying to buy drugs with the money). For four years she locked up all her possessions because he stole anything he could to buy drugs, including food from the freezer, her jewellery, clothes and wine. When she gave him a petrol card for his car, he’d flag down cars and trade £100 worth of diesel to buy a £20 pack of heroin.

After seven years of addiction, in 2007 he finally had a drug- stopping implant fitted into his stomach and has been clean for

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