I won £250k on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – tragic star was due to be my phone a friend but she died days before | The Sun

WHEN Paula Yates’ life ended in tragedy three years after the loss of her lover Michael Hutchence many said her death was inevitable.

But the Big Breakfast star had tried desperately to make a fresh start, leaving behind a rock n roll lifestyle for a quiet life on the coast in Hastings as she nursed her broken heart.

Her former neighbour James Plaskett, a British chess grandmaster, told The Sun Paula's life was so sedate that he and his wife would notice if the lights were on past 10pm.

He said: “They were just famous people living next door.

“I wouldn’t say she was normal, but there was nothing ostentatiously flirty about her, she was a normal separated mother of four girls.”

James also revealed he and Paula were such good friends that she was due to be his ‘phone a friend’ on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2000 – but she died a week before.

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Quiz expert James, who co-authored the book Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major, defending the former army chief Charles Ingram who was prosecuted for cheating his way to £1m, said he roped Paula into being his lifeline in case he was given a celebrity-themed question. 

He said: “You can have up to five friends and I thought she’d be good with showbiz knowledge.”

James, who went on to win £250,000 on the show, said Paula's daughter used to have playdates with his son.

He recalled: “Paula lived a quiet life, but she was friendly and pleasant.

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Paula turned to a quiet lifestyle with her girls but it didn't lastCredit: Getty
The couple sizzled during their Big Breakfast interviewCredit: Alpha Photo Press Agency

“I saw the lights on once after 10pm and said to my wife, ‘The lights are on’. They were early to bed, early to rise people.

“Paula’s little girl Tiger would spend all day playing with my son and we went to the beach once or twice, swam in the sea and stuff like that. 

"She took my son and Tiger to the pictures on one occasion as well.

“I knew that Michael Hutchence had died and I felt really sorry for her. I never mentioned him to her once.”

As a presenter on music show The Tube, Paula was famous for her party lifestyle.

Paula’s little girl Tiger would spend all day playing with my son and we went to the beach once or twice, swam in the sea and stuff like that

Her status as the ultimate rock chick was cemented with her marriage to Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof, who became a national hero for staging Live Aid in 1985.

But Paula grew unhappy and started having affairs, including flings with actor Rupert Everett and singer Terence Trent D’Arby.

And when she interviewed Hutchence on the Big Breakfast bed in 1994 the sexual chemistry was undeniable.

Paula finally left Bob while the singer dumped model Helena Christensen, embarking on a relationship that would end in disaster for both.

Geldof later said: “When she left me I was destroyed. I love her very much, and I didn’t understand why: never saw it coming.

“So I just floated; the pain was beyond immensity. The grief was universes of grief. My head was crowded with loss.”

Meanwhile Paula was head over heels for Hutchence and the couple welcomed daughter Tiger Lily in July 1996.

Two months later cops carried out a drugs raid on the couple’s Chelsea home after their nanny found what she believed to be opium hidden in a packet of smarties in a shoe box.

No charges were ever brought but the discovery sparked a bitter custody battle between Paula and Bob over their three children, Fifi Trixibelle, then 15, Peaches, who was nine, and Pixie, eight.

Paula later relieved that the court case drove Hutchence to despair shortly before he died.

She said he was distraught she could not travel to Australia to see him because Geldof had refused any of his children to go.

The INXS singer was found hanged in his hotel room in Sydney in November 1997 and a coroner said he had committed suicide while depressed and under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Paula refused to accept the ruling and his death was the start of her sad descent.

She began drinking more and started to rely on alcohol and antidepressants as she became a virtual recluse.

A Channel 4 documentary entitled Paula reveals how she knew people believed she would die.

She said: “People say, ‘She’ll die.’ Everyone keeps saying that to me. It’s a kind of weird feeling that everyone’s waiting for you to die.”

Paula was eventually admitted to a psychiatric unit. When released she moved to Hastings where she enjoyed simple walks on the beach and spending time with her girls.

Sadly, Paula’s spell in Hastings lasted just eight months before she returned to her home in Notting Hill.

It was there she died of a heroin overdose two years after quitting drugs.

In a twist of irony, a coroner ruled that she died because her body was not used to taking heroin.

James said: “I was stunned when she died. It was totally unexpected. I didn’t know she was into heroin.

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“We saw Geldof once, after the death and he was clearing out the house, he seemed very sad.”

Paula’s death marked the end of an era – and a Romeo and Juliet romance that marred the lives of her family forever.

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