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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 18:59 GMT
How the huntress became the hunted
By Nick Higham
BBC Correspondent

"Man bites dog" is a good definition of what makes a news story.

So "wife hits EastEnders hard man" runs it pretty close.

Rebekah Wade returns home after questioning by police
The Sun editor was said to have met David Blunkett after he quit
It is startling, intriguing, the very reverse of what you might expect.

When the wife in question is the editor of Britain's best-selling tabloid, the Sun, and former editor of the News of the World - well, journalistic joy knows no bounds.

For this is a woman who has built a career out of hunting down celebrities and exposing their weaknesses to the public gaze.

A woman who has masterminded a long-running campaign against domestic violence in her paper, and who is - in tabloid-speak - a flame-haired stunner.

Suddenly, the huntress had become the hunted, with photographers and reporters camped out on the doorstep of the home she shares in South London with Ross Kemp.

It was a tale rich with ironies, helped on by a rich cast of supporting characters including David Blunkett, Rupert Murdoch (Rebekah Wade's ultimate boss) and the celebrity PR man Matthew Freud and his wife Elisabeth (Mr Murdoch's daughter).

She is thought to have spent part of the evening with all of them before the alleged assault on her husband.

Then late in the afternoon came the news that really put the cherry on the cake

Kim Fletcher, a national newspaper veteran and media commentator, told me he had never known such pleasure in Fleet Street at a story.

Newsrooms were abuzz all Thursday with lurid versions of what had allegedly happened, all quite unreportable (and bearing little relation to what seems to have been the truth).

Then late in the afternoon came the news that really put the cherry on the cake.

Steve McFadden had also been assaulted (allegedly) by his ex-girlfriend - the mother of his two children.

Like Rebekah Wade she had been taken to a police station but later released.

Police said they were not, "for now" connecting the two events. But it seemed, to those of us reporting the story, to be too much of a coincidence.

All kinds of possibilities ran through our minds, ranging from an elaborate PR stunt for EastEnders to other explanations, just as unrepeatable as those lurid rumours about Ross v Wade.

Journalistic glee

Several of us were reduced to observing, in a lame parody of tabloid-speak, that you could not make it up.

As I write, conspiracy theorists are still speculating - and the notorious publicist Max Clifford has had to deny suggestions that he engineered the McFadden episode as a "smokescreen" to protect Rebekah Wade (as he pointed out, it clearly didn't work).

In the end, it really does seem to have been a coincidence.

But what did the general public make of it all? Did they share our journalistic glee?

After all, some of the protagonists may be famous but domestic violence is no joke.
Media gather outside the couple's house in south London
The newspaper editor has built her career on hunting down celebrities

Rebekah Wade was reportedly putting a brave face on the episode, but privately she must have found the events themselves, not to mention our coverage of them, humiliating and embarrassing.

She is after all a woman who has rarely given an interview and, except when attending film premieres or celebrity parties with her husband, stays out of the limelight.

Predictably, the morning papers made much of the story: the best part of an inside page in each of the heavies; the front page of the Mirror and the Sun itself.

The Mirror's "Bish, Bash, Bosh" headline was the most entertaining; but the Sun's own coverage took the prize for sheer chutzpah.

"EastEnders hardman beaten by lover" can't be faulted as a headline; but the photo showed Steve McFadden, NOT Ross Kemp.

And McFadden's troubles dominated the coverage inside as well, with the editor's involvement covered briefly and with most un-Sun-like sobriety.


SEE ALSO
EastEnders duo in alleged attacks
04 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
Editor free after Kemp 'assault'
03 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
Rebekah Wade: Profile
13 Jan 03 |  UK

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