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How Annabelle Neilson became addicted to drugs aged 16

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How socialite Annabelle Neilson, 49, overcame a heroin addiction triggered by attack aged 16 by a man who later killed three women in Australia before she was found dead at £3m home

  • Model and socialite's body was found at her £3m home in Chelsea last Thursday 
  • Annabelle pictured days earlier at wedding of her ex Edward Spencer Churchill,
  • British aristocrat was a heroin addict at just 16 after a brutal gap year attack
  • She was the first wife of Nat Rothschild and they were married from 1994 to 1997 
  • Alexander McQueen was her best friend and last person to see before his death

By Martin Robinson, Uk Chief Reporter For Mailonline and Lizzie Smith For Dailymail.com

Published: 05:30 EDT, 17 July 2018 | Updated: 06:19 EDT, 17 July 2018

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Alexander McQueen's best friend and muse Annabelle Neilson has died aged 49 after an extraordinary and troubled life where she claimed heroin addiction had actually saved her from suicide.

The model and star of Ladies of London was found dead at her £3million Chelsea mansion last Thursday and while the cause of her death has not been confirmed police are not treating it as suspicious.

Despite her successful career as a model and later as a children's author, her life was littered with personal tragedies especially soul mate Alexander McQueen's suicide in 2010, which she never fully recovered from.

Her life was first turned upside down 33 years ago when she was the victim of a horrific attack while staying with family friends while travelling across Australia as a 16-year-old on her gap year.

The assailant, later convicted of killing three women, tied her to a tree and beat her for two hours, leaving her in need of reconstructive surgery. 

Left depressed, she was a drug addict by the time she turned 16, and left school without any qualifications, saying in 2015: 'In a way, heroin saved me because otherwise I would have killed myself'.  

Annabelle Neilson (pictured in 2006) has died aged 49 after an extraordinary and troubled life where she admitted heroin helped her beat suicide
Annabelle Neilson (pictured in 2006) has died aged 49 after an extraordinary and troubled life where she admitted heroin helped her beat suicide

Annabelle Neilson (pictured in 2006) has died aged 49 after an extraordinary and troubled life where she admitted heroin helped her beat suicide

Annabelle was Alexander McQueen's best friend and muse, and never fully recovered from his suicide in 2010, especially as she was the last person to see him alive (together in 2006)
Annabelle was Alexander McQueen's best friend and muse, and never fully recovered from his suicide in 2010, especially as she was the last person to see him alive (together in 2006)

Annabelle was Alexander McQueen's best friend and muse, and never fully recovered from his suicide in 2010, especially as she was the last person to see him alive (together in 2006)

Although she eventually managed to get clean from hard drugs, she claimed they helped her survive the brutal experience.

She told the Mail in 2015: 'The attack lasted for two hours. I was tied to a tree and continually beaten. I looked like the elephant girl by the end of it.

'I managed to escape with my life but I needed reconstructive surgery because my face was so disfigured. After that, I fell into a serious depression and became a heroin addict because it provided an escape bubble and was the only way I could cope'. 

Annabelle, whose grandmother was the Queen Mother's cousin, considered fellow cover girl Kate Moss a 'sister' and was notorious on London's party scene for her antics. 

She once famously bragged she was chasing infamy not fame and said: 'My dad says I’m perfect and everybody else says I’m trouble'.  

It was her work as a muse for designer Mr McQueen that put Miss Neilson on the fashion map.

'He was my brother, my boyfriend, my soulmate. Most of the time people called me Mrs McQueen. Quite often we were sharing a bed,' she said recently.

'The truth is I was happier with Lee than with anyone else. He asked me to marry him towards the end and I said no. I wish now that I had said yes.' 

The last picture: Annabelle is seen with Alice Temperley, Kimi Hammerstroem and Kate Mossat the wedding of her ex-boyfriend, Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire last week 
The last picture: Annabelle is seen with Alice Temperley, Kimi Hammerstroem and Kate Mossat the wedding of her ex-boyfriend, Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire last week 

The last picture: Annabelle is seen with Alice Temperley, Kimi Hammerstroem and Kate Mossat the wedding of her ex-boyfriend, Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire last week 

Annabelle was found dead inside her Chelsea mansion last Thursday - but police say it was not suspicious
Annabelle was found dead inside her Chelsea mansion last Thursday - but police say it was not suspicious

Annabelle was found dead inside her Chelsea mansion last Thursday - but police say it was not suspicious

Exes: Annabelle divorced Nat Rothschild (right) in 1997 and she reportedly received a generous financial settlement in return for rescinding the dynastic name and signing a confidentiality agreement.
Exes: Annabelle divorced Nat Rothschild (right) in 1997 and she reportedly received a generous financial settlement in return for rescinding the dynastic name and signing a confidentiality agreement.
Well connected: After her divorce from Nat Rothschild, Annabelle dated Edward Spencer Churchill; the two are pictured in 2008
Well connected: After her divorce from Nat Rothschild, Annabelle dated Edward Spencer Churchill; the two are pictured in 2008

Exes: Annabelle divorced Nat Rothschild (right) in 1997 and she reportedly received a generous financial settlement in return for rescinding the dynastic name and signing a confidentiality agreement. She later dated Edward Spencer Churchill, the Duke Of Marlborough's half-brother; the two are pictured right in 2008

High society: Annabelle with Meg Mathews, John Galliano and Vanessa Perander in 2000 at a Vogue party in Monte Carlo
High society: Annabelle with Meg Mathews, John Galliano and Vanessa Perander in 2000 at a Vogue party in Monte Carlo

High society: Annabelle with Meg Mathews, John Galliano and Vanessa Perander in 2000 at a Vogue party in Monte Carlo

They met when she was 22 after they were introduced by the late Tatler fashion editor Isabella Blow.

'Issie brought me to Lee as a model. She presented me to him as his new girl. Lee loved me immediately and it felt like we knew each other straight away,' Annabelle told the Daily Mail in 2015.

'We were so alike. He was also dyslexic; he mirrored me in so many ways.' 

The pair were inseparable, partying all over the world together with other models as well as fellow designer John Galliano.

The adventurous extrovert also enjoyed flying helicopters, swimming with sharks and riding motorbikes including during a rally across the Himalayas. 

But she also always admitted there had been sadness in her life and a struggle at times with depression - and crippling back pain.

The horse lover broke her back after being thrown off the saddle in 2013.

She said: 'I remember seeing the glint of a silver car and the horse getting spooked and jumping. The next second I was flat on my back in the mud.

'The pain was horrendous and I started having convulsions. Worst of all, I couldn’t move my legs and I thought, "This is it, I’m paralyzed".

She couldn't walk for 12 weeks and never rode a horse again because of her chronic back pain. 

Only two days before she died, she had appeared in good spirits, posting a photo on social media of a man in a pool with the caption: ‘Fatties get in first!’ 

Miss Neilson shocked high society when she married Mr Rothschild, 47, in Las Vegas in 1994 after they met on a beach in India.

The son and heir of banker Jacob, he is in line to become the fifth Baron Rothschild and inherit around £500million.

Mr Rothschild’s parents were said at the time to be ‘appalled’ by his ‘vulgar’ choice. But after three years of marriage, marked by hard partying and rows, the couple divorced. 

Tragic friends: Alexander McQueen's best friend Annabelle Neilson has passed away aged 49; the two are seen in 2009
Tragic friends: Alexander McQueen's best friend Annabelle Neilson has passed away aged 49; the two are seen in 2009

Tragic friends: Alexander McQueen's best friend Annabelle Neilson has passed away aged 49; the two are seen in 2009

Famous friends: The former model is pictured with Sadie Frost and Kate Moss back in 2015
Famous friends: The former model is pictured with Sadie Frost and Kate Moss back in 2015

Famous friends: The former model is pictured with Sadie Frost and Kate Moss back in 2015

Model royalty: With Kate and Naomi Campbell in 2010 at the Relief Haiti London show
Model royalty: With Kate and Naomi Campbell in 2010 at the Relief Haiti London show

Model royalty: With Kate and Naomi Campbell in 2010 at the Relief Haiti London show

Long struggle: Severely dyslexic, Annabelle relaunched herself as a children's author two years ago, publishing a series of books, The Me Me Me's; she is seen in 2015
Long struggle: Severely dyslexic, Annabelle relaunched herself as a children's author two years ago, publishing a series of books, The Me Me Me's; she is seen in 2015

Long struggle: Severely dyslexic, Annabelle relaunched herself as a children's author two years ago, publishing a series of books, The Me Me Me's; she is seen in 2015

Reality star: The late model is pictured in Spain on June 17, in a picture from her Instagram
Reality star: The late model is pictured in Spain on June 17, in a picture from her Instagram

Reality star: The late model is pictured in Spain on June 17, in a picture from her Instagram

Miss Neilson is understood to have received a generous settlement in return for rescinding the dynastic name and signing a confidentiality deal.

The former couple met on a beach in India, and a close family friend told the Daily Mail at the time of their divorce that Rothschild's parents had been 'appalled' by their then 23-year-old son's 'vulgar' choice of wife.

After just three years of marriage, marked by hard-partying and cataclysmic rows, the couple split and Annabelle reportedly received a generous financial settlement in return for rescinding the dynastic name and signing a confidentiality agreement.

Rothschild reportedly went on to date Natalie Portman and Ivanka Trump, before marrying a topless model, Loretta Basey, two years ago.

Annabelle went on to date Edward Spencer Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough's half-brother, and remained close after their break-up.

Indeed the last picture of Annabelle was taken at his marriage last week, held at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. She posed happily alongside her friend Kate Moss in the image.   

She enjoyed a gilded upbringing; her paternal grandmother was a second cousin of the late Queen Mother. 

Her first cousin was the Earl of Warwick and she enjoyed play dates at Warwick Castle as a girl. 

While working as a model for Mr McQueen in the early 1990s, Miss Neilson met Kate  Moss and Naomi Campbell. 

The trio became part of the now infamous Primrose Hill set, where all-night parties at Noel Gallagher and Meg Mathews’ Supernova Heights mansion were the norm.

Again it was through Alexander McQueen in the early 1990s that she met the A-listers including Kate Moss.

Annabelle said this year: 'Kate is my best mate and I love her like a sister. Yes, she’s an icon but to me she’s just Kate.

'We fight over stupid things, then we kiss and make up. We share clothes, we share everything and her fame has never been an issue.

'She always looks out for me and I look out for her. We’ve got each other’s backs. I’m very proud of her and she’s very proud of me.' 

Brit pack: With Sophie Dahl and Orlando Bloom in 1998 in Mayfair, London
Brit pack: With Sophie Dahl and Orlando Bloom in 1998 in Mayfair, London

Brit pack: With Sophie Dahl and Orlando Bloom in 1998 in Mayfair, London

Party life: With designer friends Galliano and McQueen in 2000
Party life: With designer friends Galliano and McQueen in 2000

Party life: With designer friends Galliano and McQueen in 2000

On the small screen: She starred in two seasons of Bravo's Ladies of London from 2014 to 2015
On the small screen: She starred in two seasons of Bravo's Ladies of London from 2014 to 2015

On the small screen: She starred in two seasons of Bravo's Ladies of London from 2014 to 2015

In later life Annabelle starred in the U.S. reality show Ladies Of London for two seasons, from 2014 to 2015.

She used the series as a way to relaunch herself as a children's author two years ago, publishing a series of books, The Me Me Me's.

The show chronicled her life in London, including a devastating horse accident, which left her with multiple broken injuries, including a broken back and pelvis.

While recovering Annabelle was cared for by her parents at their home off the Kings Road in Chelsea, West London.

Speaking at the family home on Monday, Annabelle's father Max told Mail Online:' I am sorry but I can't help you. Thank you for calling.' 

Fans flocked to Instagram to pay tribute to Annabelle. An Instagram picture of a swimming pool was posted to her account the day following her death, presumably a pre-scheduled post.

The Met have said her death is not suspicious. 

A spokesman said: 'Police were called by London Ambulance Service at approximately 10.20pm on Thursday, 12 July to a residential address in SW3 after a woman had been found deceased at the location'. 

Tragic socialite Annabelle Neilson in her own words

THE SOCIALITE, MODEL AND REALITY TV STAR - WHO WAS BEST FRIENDS WITH KATE MOSS, EX WIFE OF BANKER NAT ROTHSCHILD AND MUSE OF THE LATE ALEXANDER MCQUEEN - GAVE A WIDE-RANGING INTERVIEW TO THE DAILY MAIL IN 2015. HERE, SHE DESCRIBES THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF HER COLORFUL LIFE.

On best friend Alexander [Lee] McQueen, whom she met in the early 1990s while modeling.

Annabelle with 'soul mate' Alexander 'Lee' McQueen in 2009
Annabelle with 'soul mate' Alexander 'Lee' McQueen in 2009

Annabelle with 'soul mate' Alexander 'Lee' McQueen in 2009

‘Issie [late Tatler fashion editor Isabella Blow] brought me to Lee as a model. She presented me to him as his new girl. Lee loved me immediately and it felt like we knew each other straight away.

'We were so alike. He was also dyslexic; he mirrored me in so many ways.

‘I remember our first shoot together when Lee had made me this exquisite torn lace navy dress that fitted perfectly.

'When it turned up on the day of the shoot he’d sprayed it silver and it had shrunk. I had to be gaffer-taped into it.’

‘He was my brother, my boyfriend, my soulmate. Most of the time people called me Mrs McQueen. Quite often we were sharing a bed.’ 

'The truth is I was happier with Lee than with anyone else. He asked me to marry him towards the end and I said no. I wish now that I had said yes.’ 

On being part of the infamous Primrose Hill set with Kate Moss, where all-night parties at Noel Gallagher and Meg Mathews’ Supernova Heights mansion were the norm.

Annabelle with 'bestie' Kate Moss in 2015
Annabelle with 'bestie' Kate Moss in 2015

Annabelle with 'bestie' Kate Moss in 2015

‘I don’t know why I’m always called a wild child because I wasn’t a child at the time.

'The truth is I’ve lived an amazing life. I was working with Lee [Alexander McQueen], Kate, Naomi and [John] Galliano.

'It was a big time in my life and it was great fun. I was working with beautiful creative people.’

‘Kate is my best mate and I love her like a sister. Yes, she’s an icon but to me she’s just Kate.

'We fight over stupid things, then we kiss and make up. We share clothes, we share everything and her fame has never been an issue.

'She always looks out for me and I look out for her. We’ve got each other’s backs.

On getting together with Nat Rothschild, scion of the banking dynasty and the future fifth Baron Rothschild(Their marriage broke down three years later in the Dominican Republic, a turn of events Annabelle was legally not allowed to talk about.)

‘Nat and I had been together for four years and I was 26 when I married him. He first asked me to marry him half an hour after we met and then every day afterwards. Finally, we decided to do it.’

On how a gap year attack by a man who later went on to kill three women in Australia lead her heroin addiction at 16.

‘The attack lasted for two hours. I was tied to a tree and continually beaten. I looked like the elephant girl by the end of it.

‘I managed to escape with my life but I needed reconstructive surgery because my face was so disfigured.

'After that, I fell into a serious depression and became a heroin addict because it provided an escape bubble and was the only way I could cope.

'In a way, heroin saved me because otherwise I would have killed myself.’

On being thrown from the saddle of her racehorse while galloping around a training track in Sussex in June 2013. She endured a long recovery and the accident left her with chronic pain. 

The equestrian broke her back and pelvis after being thrown from her racehorse in 2013
The equestrian broke her back and pelvis after being thrown from her racehorse in 2013

The equestrian broke her back and pelvis after being thrown from her racehorse in 2013

‘I remember seeing the glint of a silver car and the horse getting spooked and jumping.

'The next second I was flat on my back in the mud,’ she recalled. ‘The pain was horrendous and I started having convulsions. Worst of all, I couldn’t move my legs and I thought, “This is it, I’m paralysed.”’

‘I was lying on the hospital bed with a broken back and pelvis. I just said to myself, “You have to get up,” so I did.

'The nerves down my right leg and hip were very badly damaged, but I got up, with help, and discharged myself.

'The pain was so bad, but I was scared that if I didn’t get up there and then I might never walk again.’

 

 

 

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