Peaches Geldof was 11 when her mother, Paula Yates, was found dead at her home in central London after an accidental heroin overdose. It was also her younger sister Pixie’s 10th birthday.
A desperate domestic tragedy for the sisters and their older sibling Fifi Trixibelle, then 17, their loss was if anything overshadowed by the situation of Yates’s youngest daughter, Tiger Lily, by the singer Michael Hutchence, who had hanged himself in a Sydney hotel room three years earlier. The four-year-old was found in the same room as her mother’s body.
In the years following Yates’s death, her former husband Bob Geldof, father to the oldest three girls, did his best to create a stable and sheltered family home with his French partner, Jeanne Marine. Having fought for sole legal custody of his three daughters after Yates left him for Hutchence, he took on the legal guardianship of Tiger Lily, later formally adopting her.
But while the oldest Geldof daughter, Fifi, has always preferred to shun the limelight, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof never seemed quite able to resist its allure. The wounded little girl would grow into a tabloid-friendly “wild child”, before building a stable, if unconventional, family unit of her own.
Peaches was still a young teenager when she sought to follow her TV presenter mother and singer father into a career in the media. By 14 she was writing regular girlish columns about make-up and making friends for the Daily Telegraph and Elle Girl magazine; in later years she would contribute to other publications, including the Guardian.
She made her first documentary at 16, filmed for Tonight with Trevor McDonald and even spent some time in Morocco living with a Muslim teenager in a Channel 4 programme called A Beginner’s Guide to Islam.
But her precocious career was accompanied by a party lifestyle that soon attracted the attention of the paparazzi (her father had reportedly tried to impose curfews and dock her allowance, in vain). While fellow pupils said her attendance at the private Queen’s College in Marylebone had suffered, she insisted she would not follow all of the lifestyle choices of her mother.
Speaking of her mother’s death in a 2013 interview, Peaches said: “I remember the day my mother died, and it’s still hard to talk about it. I just blocked it out. I went to school the next day because my father’s mentality was ‘keep calm and carry on’.
“So we all went to school and tried to act as if nothing had happened. But it had happened. I didn’t grieve. I didn’t cry at her funeral. I couldn’t express anything because I was just numb to it all. I didn’t start grieving for my mother properly until I was maybe 16.”
After photographs emerged of the 17-year-old Geldof holding what appeared to be a roll of paper, used for snorting cocaine, she insisted it was a roll-up cigarette. “I’ve never done coke. My friends do drugs but I never use them. This is really upsetting for me.” Her father said he was “extraordinarily annoyed” at the suggestions.
In 2008, however, it emerged that she had been filmed handing 190 in cash to a man who had also allegedly supplied drugs to Amy Winehouse, and commenting: “I’m going to need Valium tomorrow after this.” She was interviewed by police but not arrested.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper in 2009, Geldof acknowledged that she used drugs as a teenager but said she had stopped.
“’Yeah, I’ve taken drugs. Yes, I have had experiences, and a few of those experiences were unsavoury, not ones I want to repeat, but I was growing up. I wanted the experience,” she told the paper.
“I wasn’t hugely into drugs and I’m sober now,” she added. “I’m not Amy Winehouse. I never have been. I wasn’t a crackhead.”
By 19, Peaches, occasional model, DJ and writer, had acquired 11 tattoos and her first husband, Max Drummey, an American musician. The pair had been friends for a month and dated for a week before marrying in a Las Vegas chapel. Her father dismissed it as “a bit silly” and Geldof herself admitted later that the marriage had been “a bit nuts”. They split soon afterwards and divorced in 2011.
By the following year, she had married her second husband, Thomas Cohen, also a musician, in the church where her mother’s funeral had been held in 2000. “I feel her presence all the time but especially today,” she told Hello! magazine, to which she had sold the pictures.
“Mum loved family celebrations and she would adore Tom and the fact that we’ve married here. I know she is watching over me and feeling so happy for us.” Her father quipped that it was a “relief” to see her married off.
The pair were accompanied at the service by their five-month-old son, Astala Dylan Willow; a second son, Phaedra Bloom Forever, was born last year, on what would have been Yates’s 54th birthday. The two boys are now aged 23 months and 11 months.
Bob Geldof’s statement:
“We are beyond pain. She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us. “Writing ‘was’ destroys me afresh. What a beautiful child. How is this possible that we will not see her again? How is that bearable? “We loved her and will cherish her forever. How sad that sentence is. Tom and her sons Astala and Phaedra will always belong in our family, fractured so often, but never broken.
Bob, Jeanne, Fifi, Pixie and Tiger Geldof.”
Statement from Thomas Cohen, Peaches’ second husband and father to her two boys:
“My beloved wife Peaches was adored by myself and her two sons Astala and Phaedra and I shall bring them up with their mother in their hearts everyday. We shall love her forever. Thomas Astala and Phaedra Geldof-Cohen.”