Geri's Mystery Sister; She May Not Be as Famous as Her Pop Star Sister but Natalie Halliwell's Life, Complete with Sham Marriage and Rumours of an Affair with Britain's Biggest Fraudster, Is Just as Dramatic. Investigation by Sharon Van Geuns and Jessica Fellowes

By Van Geuns, Sharon; Fellowes, Jessica | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

Geri's Mystery Sister; She May Not Be as Famous as Her Pop Star Sister but Natalie Halliwell's Life, Complete with Sham Marriage and Rumours of an Affair with Britain's Biggest Fraudster, Is Just as Dramatic. Investigation by Sharon Van Geuns and Jessica Fellowes


Van Geuns, Sharon, Fellowes, Jessica, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: SHARON VAN GEUNS;JESSICA FELLOWES

Leaping from her small silver Honda Civic, a young woman runs across the local green, pausing to smile at two old ladies outside the post office, before hurrying towards the village primary school. Minutes later, along with dozens of other mothers, she emerges clutching the hand of a small, handsome boy, who gives her a picture he has drawn and tells her excitedly about his day.

It's a typical scene of family domesticity. But this petite, pretty woman, with her hair scraped back in a ponytail and her face free of makeup, has an extraordinary secret that would surely set local tongues wagging.

She is the older and arguably more beautiful sister of one of Britain's most outspoken, publicity-hungry and emotionally damaged celebrities - Geri Halliwell.

And while Geri, 30, spends her time jet-setting between Los Angeles, St Tropez and London, seemingly from one media storm to another, her unknown sibling is content to live quietly as a housewife and mother in a tiny rural village, deep in the Hertfordshire countryside.

Natalie Jennings, 33, who works as a classroom assistant in her seven-year-old son Alistair's school, cherishes her family's privacy as much as Geri craves fame and adulation. And perhaps for good reason.

For, while the ups and downs of Geri's life have been well documented, few know that her shy sister has secrets of her own that rival any of Geri's showbiz escapades, including a marriage that never was, a messy break-up from the father of her child and rumours of an affair with one of Britain's biggest fraudsters.

Early in the Nineties, Natalie married her childhood sweetheart, Simon Watts, now 37, on the lush Indonesian island of Bali. They met as youngsters growing up in Watford. The Halliwells - Geri, Natalie and older brother Max - lived in a rundown semi with their Spanish-born mother and English father.

Simon lived down the road. The Halliwell siblings were friendly with a number of other children who would grow up to be famous, including rogue trader Nick Leeson and footballer and actor Vinnie Jones.

Natalie and Watts seemed the perfect couple. He was handsome, with brown curly hair, and she had inherited her mother's dark colouring and petite figure. Geri herself has said, 'My sister Natalie was always the beautiful one. She had loads of boyfriends - I was just the giggly kid in the corner, dancing to Madonna.' The couple went on to have a son, but cracks in the relationship soon became apparent. A friend who knows the family well admitted, 'Natalie and Simon started out as a dream couple, but the relationship became very messy, with constant rows.' What has, until now, remained a closely guarded secret is that the marriage was not legally recognised in Britain. To Natalie's horror, she found herself in a situation similar to that of Jerry Hall when she began divorce proceedings against Mick Jagger. They had also 'married' in Bali, only to discover that the ceremony was a sham.

The Watts's marriage was already doomed when their friend Nick Leeson came to stay with them in Watford after his release from prison in Singapore in 1999. The tabloid press scented a scandal and hinted that he and Natalie were having an affair. However, this has always been firmly denied.

Leeson was forced to issue a statement in which he categorically denied any impropriety. Yet, a few months later, Natalie moved out.

Meanwhile, Watts had started his own consultancy company and enlisted his mother, Eileen, as secretary.

When we visited, two expensive cars were parked in the driveway of the four-bedroom house from where Watts runs his business.

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Geri's Mystery Sister; She May Not Be as Famous as Her Pop Star Sister but Natalie Halliwell's Life, Complete with Sham Marriage and Rumours of an Affair with Britain's Biggest Fraudster, Is Just as Dramatic. Investigation by Sharon Van Geuns and Jessica Fellowes
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