My Daughter Texted Me: So, Dad, You're Famous Again - but You Forgot to Mention All the Drinking; LIVING ROUGH: Ed Mitchell Last Week THE FAMILY HE LOST: Ed Mitchell with Wife Judy and Children Freddie and Alexandra in 1989. Left, on Assignment with ITV News Colleagues Alistair Stewart and Carol Barnes outside 11 Downing Street in 1988
Byline: Amanda Stocks, Eileen Fairweather
FOR A moment, in the chilly Brighton sea breeze, Ed Mitchell's facelights up. Unusually for a homeless person, he still has a mobile telephone andhe's received a text message from his daughter Alexandra.
'So Dad! You are famous again. You're in so many of the papers. It'sinteresting for people to read, though you did conveniently forget to F mentionyour alcohol problem.' For Mitchell, it was the end of a memorable 48 hours inwhich he'd debated the perils of spiralling debt with John Humphrys on theToday programme and been royally entertained by broadsheet journalists overpints of lager. He's rather enjoyed talking about himself.
'I miss the banter of newsrooms,' he admits.
'I like good conversation. There are some very dumb dossers out there.' Lastweek it emerged that Mitchell, a former [pounds sterling]100,000-a-year news presenter with theBBC and ITN, was living rough on the streets of Brighton. So far, he has puthis spectacular
Brighton. So far, he has put his spectacular fall from grace down to t h e s pi ralling debts he accumulated.
He had 25 credit cards, most of which had credit limits of between [pounds sterling]10,000 and[pounds sterling]15,000. After madly juggling his debts for almost 15 years, paying off onecard against another, his interest bills were running at [pounds sterling]4,000 a month - andhe was forced to declare himself bankrupt with debts of [pounds sterling]250,000.
But now, in his first full interview, he confesses that while the debts werereal enough, what really caused his downfall was a disastrous life-long loveaffair with alcohol.
The truth is that Mitchell, 54, is a street drinker and an alcoholic who hassplit acrimoniously from his wife, Judy, after 25 years, lives rough, and can'tget a job even stacking shelves in a supermarket.
He still has the confident timbre of a former broadcaster, but there is nodoubt that he has drunk his life into ruin.
The second son of John Mitchell, an Army officer, and Joyce, a sales assistantat Boots, he and his older brother Les grew up in Bovington in Dorset beforemoving to Lancing in Sussex.
A bright, popular boy, he got 12 O-levels and three A-levels at WorthingGrammar School.
He had a happy childhood and was 16 when he had his first drink. He says: 'Thefirst drink I had was such a glorious experience. Sitting in the sun in adeckchair with a bottle of cider it felt so amazing, that warm glow inside, andI knew that alcohol made me feel confident and sparkly and I wanted more.' Hehad a great-uncle who died from alcoholism. But Mitchell didn't see thepotential problems he was storing up for himself. He won a place at DurhamUniversity and studied psychology. In 1974, having edited the studentnewspaper, he was selected as a trainee by the news agency Reuters.
E WAS one of six trainees out of 8,000 applicants and seemed to have abrilliant career ahead of him.
He says: 'I suppose as alcoholism was in the family I had a predisposition toit. But in those days it wasn't really a problem, and it was a rite of passageas a student and as a young journalist that we drank a lot. I used to drink inEl Vino's in Fleet Street in the early years.' He was posted to Hong Kong wherehe met Judy and he was head-hunted by the BBC, first as a radio reporter thenas an on-screen reporter. He stayed at the BBC for ten years. Ed and Judymarried in 1981. Daughter Alexandra was born the following year and son Freddiein 1985.
'Many a ten-minute bulletin went out when I was drunk,' he says. 'I soundedsober - you have to, as a still-functioning alcoholic. Not that I realised thenthat's what I was. I still thought I was just a social drinker.
'When I was in TV in the early days, it was absolutely assumed that businesswas done in the pub or over drinks. It was almost de rigeur to come back fromlunch drunk. …