Authors: Chanelle Hayes
To my two mums: Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
And to Blakely: Every day I grow more excited about who you’re going to become.
will never forget the night of 30 May 2007, or the intense fear it imprinted on me forever after. As I was told to remove the eye mask and headphones I’d been wearing, I saw a blur of flashing lights through the car’s tinted windows and a sea of people waving banners as music blared out around them. I felt sick to my stomach. There must have been hundreds of them – and they were all waiting for me: Chanelle Jade Hayes, a skinny 19-year-old student from Wakefield who, right now, was convinced she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life.
As an icy panic gripped me in the back seat of the car, I grabbed the driver’s shoulder and screamed, ‘Stop! I can’t do this – I’ve changed my mind. I want to go home!’ But he ignored me, apparently oblivious to my meltdown. Suddenly, the car came to a halt and I took a deep breath, saying to myself, ‘Come on, Chanelle, you can do this.’
The moment I’d been waiting for was finally here – I was about to become a
housemate and spend the next few weeks living like a guinea pig, with my every move recorded by
TV cameras and played out to the entire nation. What the hell had I been thinking? Fighting back the urge to throw up, I really didn’t think I could get out of the car, let alone go through with the show.
Still, there was no hiding place. This was live television and nobody in the seven-year history of
had ever bottled it on launch night. I couldn’t be the first housemate to bail out, could I? As the car door opened, the paparazzi cameras flashed like crazy and I could hear the crowd booing and whistling. They had just watched my VT on the big screens, during which I had stripped down to my underwear, pouted and posed like my idol Victoria Beckham and basically acted like some pretentious idiot. No wonder they all hated me. But it was too late – I had to face their jeers.
Although my legs were like jelly and I was shaking all over, I just about managed to step out of the car without passing out. In the background, I could hear the presenter, Davina McCall, announcing random stuff like, ‘Chanelle plays the violin to a Grade Seven standard and her favourite cheese is mozzarella.’
All of a sudden, the adrenaline kicked in. Wearing a Victoria Beckham-inspired grey dress – albeit from Miss Selfridge, rather than Prada – I put my little overnight case down and did a full, 360-degree turn for the bank of photographers jostling for position. I’d been practising my moves for the cameras for a while after watching various celebrities pose on the red carpet and had thought, ‘Sod it, I’m going to have my moment!’ But it really didn’t go down well with the crowd. I guess they thought I was being arrogant and, to be fair, I definitely would have booed me too.
The walk up the stairs into the famous
house was utterly terrifying; partly because I was wearing strappy black heels with big bows and I was convinced I’d trip over and end up splayed
across the stage on my bum. But the worst thing of all was that I couldn’t see anybody I knew in the crowd. I just wanted to see my mum or a familiar smiley face instead of all these hostile people taunting me like I was a pantomime villain. But there wasn’t a single soul I recognised.
Desperate to get it over with, I paused by the entrance into the house, called out a feeble ‘Bye!’ and waved half-heartedly to the crowd. But it took all my willpower not to run back to the car and get the hell out of there. As the sliding doors painted with the famous
eye finally closed around me, the screams and catcalls vanished into silence. Thank God. I walked down the white-carpeted steps, took a few gulps of air and swore under my breath. Checking my hair in the mirror at the bottom of the stairs, I muttered to my reflection, ‘What am I doing?’ But there was no turning back. This was my new home, like it or not.
Opening the door into the living room, I nervously shrieked, ‘Hi!’ to the five other housemates who had arrived before me and, thankfully, they all ran over to hug me, which calmed me down a bit. Someone thrust a glass of champagne into my hands and I remember thinking how small the house seemed. It looks massive on TV but, in reality, it’s like a little doll’s house. Albeit one surrounded by dozens of cameras and prying eyes watching through one-way glass.
And so that was how I was first catapulted into the public eye seven years ago and, whether you loved me or loathed me that night, I think it’s fair to say that I grabbed the public’s attention from the very beginning. And while it was undoubtedly the most nerve-shredding moment of my life, I also instinctively knew that this was the biggest opportunity I would ever have to make my mark and carve a decent future for myself.
All this time later, I’m proud to say that is exactly what I went on to do. It hasn’t always been easy but, of the 219 regular
’s British history, I’ve been one of the most successful and, thankfully, one that people still seem to like hearing about today.
So here, for the first time ever, is the full and candid truth about my rollercoaster life, in all its Technicolor glory. It’s not exactly a comfy, fluffy read but I’m hoping it will enable you to get to know and understand the real me. And if all the hard times I’ve conquered offer even a tiny crumb of inspiration to anyone out there, opening up my heart in this way will have been more than worth it.
I hope you enjoy my story. Living it has certainly been one hell of a journey…
he knew immediately it was going to be bad news. Even in the gloom of the early evening, my babysitter Sharon could make out the grim expressions of the two policemen standing on her doorstep.
Although I was only a tiny baby gurgling happily in my cot when this all happened, I’ve played out the scene in my head literally hundreds of times since I was first told about it years later.
Opening the front door, Sharon took a deep breath and said, ‘What is it? Have you found her?’
‘Miss Roberts, may we come in?’ one of the policemen said. ‘We need to speak with you urgently.’
‘Oh my God, what’s happened?’ she said, following them into the living room and closing the door behind her. ‘Please don’t say she’s…’
‘You might like to sit down. We have some bad news, I’m afraid.’
‘I don’t need to sit down. Just tell me what’s going on.’
‘We are terribly sorry. But we do believe we have discovered
Ms Sinclair’s body.’
‘What, you mean she’s….’
‘It seems she has been murdered.’
‘Oh Christ, no!’ Sharon gasped. ‘How… Where is she?’
‘At the morgue,’ said the officer. ‘We know this is extremely distressing for you but we shall need you to accompany us there and formally identify the body.’
Sharon collapsed onto her knees and began to sob with a deep, despairing anguish. Or at least, that’s how I’ve always imagined her to react – just like it was some horrific scene playing out on TV or in a film. But I can’t be sure, seeing as I was only five months old at the time and blissfully oblivious to the nightmare unfolding around me.
As Sharon went off with one of the policemen, the other officer stayed behind to keep an eye on me. Down at the morgue, the dead woman laid out for identification was in a terrible state, with her body partially mutilated.
It was, indeed, the lady the police had assumed it to be.
Straight away, you can see that this book is not going to be your average celeb autobiography, glossing over the ups and downs of a young wannabe hell bent on fame and fortune. Although being famous has, of course, been an important aspect of my life thanks to my time in the
house in 2007, it is only a tiny part of the tale. The real story of my 26 years on the planet is far more dramatic and I hope after reading it you will understand a lot more about me: the tragedy I’ve had to come to terms with, the heart-breaking truths I’ve learned and the person I have become as a result of it all.
It’s not easy to begin putting it all into words and I wouldn’t
have chosen my start in life in a million years. Especially as I made my entrance into the world behind bars. I was born on 11 November 1987 at HMP Styal, a women-only jail in Wilmslow, Cheshire. Well, technically, I didn’t actually pop out of the womb in my mum’s prison cell – she was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital in south Manchester for the labour, before later being carted back to prison with me, a tiny, wrinkly babe in arms. Not exactly glamorous, huh?
By now, you may have sensed that Andrea had got herself into a real mess around the time she fell pregnant with me. And you’d be right there.
My mum was a prostitute. And while I was a growing little blob inside her belly, she was doing time at Styal for drug dealing. It was the typical kind of scenario: she’d left school with few qualifications, fallen in with the wrong crowd and then followed a slippery path into drugs and prostitution. Working the streets of Manchester and selling Class A stuff to slime bags, she was eventually busted. Although she’d dabbled with drugs herself – crack cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, coke, you name it – I’ve been told she was clean while she was expecting me, thanks to being locked up for the majority of her pregnancy. I guess that’s something to be thankful for. Still, nobody ever had a clue who my real dad was – there isn’t one named on my birth certificate.
This was all told to me a lot, lot later though. I never had the chance to hear it from my mum’s own lips because I never knew her. Other than her cradling me in her arms while I was a tiny baby, we had very little time together.
By the time of that awful spring day, she had been released from prison and was trying desperately hard to turn things around. She was keeping off the drugs and doing everything in her power to carve out a brighter future for us – even looking for
a tiny house in Huddersfield for us, along with my two older sisters, Melissa and Maria, who were both fathered by different dads to mine. But all of that hope was snuffed out in a millisecond on 5 April 1988.
As usual, when she had to go out, Mum had left me and Melissa with Sharon, saying she would be back the next morning. I like to think that she gave me a big kiss and cuddle before she left – although to think of it at all still hurts me like hell. But she can’t have known what was about to happen, nor the fact that she would never see me again.
I’m not sure where she was going but she was apparently finding it hard to get work because of her criminal record. Anyway, it was completely out of character when she didn’t come back the next morning as she had promised. In the end, it was my sister Melissa who first raised the alarm, saying, ‘Sharon, there’s something wrong with our mum. I just know there is.’
Around 24 hours after she had left, Sharon reported her missing to the police. There were no such things as mobile phones or email back then, so it was far easier just to vanish off the face of the earth. And it was the following day, by which time Sharon was tearing her hair out with worry, that the police turned up on her doorstep with their harrowing news.
After she had formally identified the body, things became a bit clearer. It turns out that one of her former clients had lured Mum to his grubby flat in Manchester. Goodness only knows why she went along with it but she did. And when she got there, this bloke, who was some nutter called Keith Pollard, strangled her to death with his tie. Once she was dead, he cut off one of her nipples and mutilated her body and then left her there in his flat.
What an utterly sick bastard. It sounds like a plot right out of
or something, doesn’t it? I still can’t even fathom how this happened to my own mum.
Why he killed her, and in such a violent way, has always been a bit of a mystery. They may have had a fight over money and there was one report at the time that said that she had tried to take some cash from his wallet. But nobody really knows – the details remain unbelievably sketchy.
So there I was, barely a few months old and suddenly without a mother. Or a father – well, not one that anybody knew about anyway.
After turning himself in, that vile beast Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1988, aged 34. During his trial, he had pleaded self-defence, saying Mum had attacked him and that she had lunged at him with two knives in her hands. I may not have known her and, of course, I’m biased but I don’t believe that for a minute. Everyone I’ve spoken to who knew her says she was a gentle soul, so I don’t think she would have done anything like that unprovoked. And, thankfully, the court threw out his excuse that he was merely protecting himself. ‘It is most unlikely that this was so and the jury did not accept the defence,’ the court papers said at the time.
The judge in the case also drew on evidence from two psychiatrists, whose reports revealed that Pollard harboured ‘perverse sexual interests’. Duh. You don’t say! Pollard was also said to have been very depressed and subdued during the trial. My heart bleeds, even now.
As if this grim tale couldn’t get any worse, I found out later that he had already been in prison before he attacked my mum, after savagely killing an elderly lady back in 1972. He broke into this poor old woman’s home and stabbed her 70 times. Can you believe it?
Despite being sentenced to life in jail for that murder, he only served 11 years before being released. What a total bloody joke. The court papers show he was then sent back to prison for a
couple of other more minor offences but was freed again in 1986 – just two years before he killed my mum.
The facts behind Pollard’s case have plagued me ever since I first found out about all of this. Why does life not mean life? The simple but astonishingly painful fact is, if he had been kept in jail where he was supposed to be, my poor mum would still be alive today. Instead, she was betrayed by a woeful legal system that decided this man was fit to walk the streets. Even after all these years, it still really gets my blood boiling and, of course, makes me feel sad to the pit of my stomach.
While this was all chilling enough, I was once led to believe that Pollard was due for release from jail – a doubly scary threat, since I was well known by then. But as you’ll see later, nobody within the prison services seemed to give a toss about the risk I may have been facing. It was like choosing to go on national TV in
made me fair game. Of course, there is always a price to pay for fame but I don’t think being afraid for my own life was much of a deal at all.
Anyhow, let’s go right back to the beginning. So much has happened to me since that terrible day when my mum had her life so cruelly snatched away but, at a time when I should have been showered in the love and comfort of devoted parents, I was completely alone in the world.