Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Royal harpist tells of drug abuse

Jemima Phillips
Former royal harpist Jemima Phillips has given evidence in her trial

A musician accused of committing a series of burglaries has told a court she was hooked on heroin while she was official harpist to Prince Charles.

Jemima Phillips told Gloucester Crown Court that she abused the drug when she held the post.

Ms Phillips, 28, of Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, denies four counts of burglary with co-defendant William Davies, 41 and one of handling stolen goods.

She said she knew nothing about the break-ins, which came as a "shock".

She has previously admitted one count of fraud.

Ms Phillips, who played at Prince Charles' wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall, is alleged to have stolen cash and electrical goods from houses across Coleford, Gloucestershire, in May.

Giving evidence, Ms Phillips told the jury her younger brother died at an early age, she was bullied at school and has been in a series of abusive relationships.

Problems started

Ms Phillips said she was "fortunate" to be asked to play for the Prince in 2004 and was appointed royal harpist in July that year.

"I took over as royal harpist," she said. "Even then my drug problem had started.

"Sometimes I would just play background music at private functions, when I would be sat a few feet away from the Prince. Sometimes it would be concerts."

Ms Phillips held the post until 2007, playing at the wedding of the Queen's grandson Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly.

I took over as royal harpist. Even then my drug problem had started
Defendant Jemima Phillips

Weeping throughout her evidence, Ms Phillips told the court she had a series of "disastrous" relationships, her last being with Mr Davies, of Cheltenham.

She said she met Mr Davies in January this year on a street corner in Gloucester, when he gave her a bag of heroin.

Ms Phillips said she regularly met up with him to buy Valium from him to help her fight her habit, and in March they became a couple.

The former semi-finalist in the BBC's Young Musician Of The Year told the jury that her handicapped brother, Jerome - who suffered violent seizures from birth - died at the age of 13, when she was 14.

She also said her sister, Genevieve, was autistic and had recently become quite violent.

Ms Phillips, who graduated from the Royal College of Music, said her family life was "dysfunctional" and she had been bullied "very badly" at school, although this stopped the day her brother died.

The court heard that Ms Phillips started playing the harp at the age of eight and continues to play at concerts and recitals, as well teaching in local schools.

Ms Phillips previously admitted one count of fraud by trying to use a stolen building society book at a branch of Nationwide in Monmouth, the jury heard.

Jemima Phillips, pictured with Prince Charles in 2004
Jemima Phillips, pictured with Prince Charles in 2004

She told the jury the morning after the first alleged burglary on 22 May, Mr Davies had handed her the book and asked her to make the withdrawal.

She said he told her she wouldn't get in trouble and it was "safe".

Ms Phillips said: "I could see his Mr Hyde side coming out so I was a little scared."

She said she felt "pressured" by Mr Davies and was worried their drug dealers would go to the press with details of her royal connections.

"When I first met Will he had one of my leaflets, it's got photos of me and Prince Charles, he went round telling his friends and the dealers about me," she said.

"I was getting comments from those people like 'say hello to Prince Charles for me'. I was worried about those people selling my story to the press, about my drug addiction."

Clean

It is alleged two days later Ms Phillips and Mr Davies took a guitar, cash, driving documents, bank cards and a computer from a house in Lydney.

They are accused of taking a wallet, cards and two mobile phones from a house in Coleford, the following day.

Finally, on 28 May, they are accused of taking a TV, camera, two laptops and a wallet and cards from a house in Milkwall near Coleford.

Mr Davies has admitted five counts of handling stolen goods, the jury has heard.

Ms Phillips told the court: "OK, the Nationwide thing I had done. The burglaries I knew nothing about, that was a complete shock."

She added that she had been clean for two and a half months and was in therapy.

The case is continuing.



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SEE ALSO
Harpist 'pressurised' into crime
01 Dec 09 |  Wales
Burglary trial for royal harpist
12 Aug 09 |  Gloucestershire

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Mail Online UK Hooked on heroin as I played the harp for Prince Charles - 10 hrs ago
Times Online Prince of Waless harpist 'was drug addict while working for him' - 11 hrs ago
Guardian.co.uk I used heroin and crack, ex-royal harpist tells court - 19 hrs ago
Telegraph Harpist accused of burglaries was hooked on heroin during Royal appointment - 22 hrs ago



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