As Richard Keys’ wife confirms divorce, we look inside his luxury villa and reveal how pundit’s flin…
INSIDE the luxurious villa Richard Keys rents in the Qatari capital Doha, there is a Union Jack flag, a red telephone box – and a large model of the Titanic.
A gift from the former Sky Sports host’s long-suffering wife Julia, the replica of the doomed ship is now a metaphor for their marriage.
In this case the “iceberg” was his affair with a lawyer less than half his age. And while their 34-year union remained afloat for a few months, it has now sunk for good.
And she believes her thyroid cancer, which she thought she had beaten in 2009, has returned due to his betrayal.
Julia said: “I think stress played an enormous part. Richard knows this.
“He’s said he’s extremely sorry his actions may have contributed to my recent diagnosis.”
In a painful twist, the trained relationship counsellor first uncovered her husband’s devious behaviour while researching a book on adultery.
She said: “There were the classic symptoms. He was over-protective with his phone, there were secret calls, late-night texts.
“Women have a gut feeling.”
But when the mum of two quizzed her husband, he just accused her of being paranoid.
He’s extremely sorry his actions may have contributed to my recent diagnosis
So last May on a trip to Cornwall Julie turned detective and took her husband’s phone while he slept.
She soon found herself swapping texts with his lover.
One message from Lucie read: “Are you OK?” When Julia wrote “No, I’m not”, Lucie replied — thinking it was Keys — “I wish I was there to give you a cuddle.”
Julia confronted Keys who admitted that he had grown “extremely close” to Lucie.
Julia said: “I was not only angry but hugely upset and hurt that he would do this knowing our family circumstances and how much I’d torn myself in two to be everything to him.”
The sacrifices she has made for her husband are not insignificant.
Julia stood by him in 2011 during his very public fall from grace.
Leaked Sky Sports audio footage revealed Keys and co-host Andy Gray making crude sexist remarks about an assistant female referee. Ever-loyal Julia dished out cups of tea to reporters waiting outside the couple’s then-home in Chobham, Surrey, and trotted out excuses for the pair who were soon sacked.
She said at the time: “With men, there are little bits of you that never grow up. It’s banter from the boys.”
Then in 2013, Julia did not hesitate when he asked her to move with him to Qatar in 2013.
Keys had been offered a plum role on BeIN Sports, formerly Al Jazeera Sports, with a reported £420,000 tax-free salary and use of a ritzy villa.
Julia had just begun a new career as a relationship therapist, but staying behind was not even a question.
She said: “He was my husband and I felt I should be wherever he was.
“I didn’t want to go. There was very little for me to do.”
Keys was soon making the most of the glamorous expat party scene.
It was at one of the expats’ weekly “liquid brunches” in a bar in Doha’s Grand Hyatt that he and Lucie first flirted.
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The London-based private equity lawyer was known to Julia because she was a friend of daughter Jemma, 31, a former Hollyoaks actress.
It was only when Julia started working on her infidelity book in March last year that she began to have doubts.
Next month she threw Keys a birthday party and was puzzled when Lucie turned up. She recalled: “I left early. Lucie came over, grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Oh, are you going now, Julia?’. It was the tone she used. That was the moment I knew.”
Then came the phone evidence in Cornwall, but Julia still hoped to save her marriage — until news of the fling leaked last October.
Julia left Keys and headed home to stay with TV producer son Joshua, 27, in Ascot, Berks, and announced her intention to divorce.
She declared: “It’s disgusting what Richard and Lucie have done. Enough is enough. I have to look after myself.”
Yet, just 24 hours later, her threats were withdrawn.
Amid speculation Keys could be sentenced to flogging or 15 years’ jail for committing adultery in the strict Muslim country, Julia did a sudden about-turn.
She claimed she was satisfied there had been no affair. Julia now admits: “I did it for the sake of our family even though I knew he had been carrying on with her.
“He apologised and brought me roses and a teddy. He promised he would not see Lucie again.”
They also shared a romantic dinner before Lucie was spotted leaving the hotel the next morning.
A day later, rubbing salt into the wound, Lucie posted online sexy pictures of her bikini-clad figure. It was the final straw for Julia, who branded Keys a “pathological liar” and renewed her vow to divorce him. She confirmed this week that the divorce is under way.
Meanwhile the heartache has also taken its toll on Julia’s health.
Last year, Julia came out of remission for thyroid cancer and tests have revealed further cancer markers in her blood, which means the disease is active again.
Daughter Jemma is distraught.
Julia said: “Jemma couldn’t believe that a woman who was a friend could do this to her family.”
And Julia suspects that it is not Richard’s first affair. She claimed: “I’ve very strong reasons to suspect his affair with Lucie is not the first.
“Lucie is the first affair I’ve categorically caught him out on but I’ve had reason to believe other things have gone on.”
So what does the future hold for Keys and Lucie? Julia does not see the relationship lasting.
She said: “I’ve been told Lucie had a tenacious determination to be in Richard’s life. I would like to think she was extremely sorry for the part she’s played in the breakdown of our marriage but unfortunately my understanding is quite the opposite. I don’t think their relationship has much chance. But that is no longer my business.
“Richard has told me, ‘I don’t know what happened to me’. He admits he was flattered by the attention of a young woman.
“He has also said, ‘There’s no fool like an old fool’. ”