By Lara Gould
Desire: Collette was driven to Ashley Cole's house for a night of passion
It was close to 4am when Ashley Cole’s distinctive black Audi A5 swept through the gates of Hurtmore House, the footballer’s aptly-titled £3.5 million home in Surrey.
Inside, Cole led former beauty queen Collette McBarron across the house’s impressive marble entrance hall, up the sweeping main staircase and into the master bedroom he used to share with his wife, Girls Aloud star Cheryl Cole.
Under normal circumstances matters would, at this point, have followed their traditional course for a Premiership star and his blonde companion.
But this night was different and rather than leaving another broken-hearted girl in its wake, it revealed instead a telling insight into the reasons for the breakdown of Cole’s short-lived marriage to former X Factor judge Cheryl, 28. For as they lay together in the marital bed the Chelsea and England defender once shared with his famous wife, Cole laid bare his feelings about why his four-year marriage went so terribly wrong, ending in divorce last September.
In a series of dawn-lit conversations, which continued over a period of nearly four hours, 30-year-old Cole, a man not known for his eloquence, laid the blame on, among other things, ‘the pressure’ of being married and the weight of ‘responsibility’ towards his wife.
Tellingly, Cole felt unable to refer to Cheryl, one of the most famous women in the country, as anything more specific than ‘that person’. Recalling the night last May, Miss McBarron, 26, who is adamant that she did not have sex with Cole but admits to sharing his bed, said: ‘It was early in the morning because it was light outside and we were lying on our sides, facing each other on opposite sides of the bed and chatting.
‘Ashley asked me about my work and what sort of work I did and we talked about our lives, then I brought up the subject of marriage.
‘My parents divorced when I was 11 when my father met another woman, so I told him I couldn’t ever imagine being married because I didn’t think I would be able to deal with the fallout if things went wrong. I’d seen that first-hand so I asked him, “What is it actually like being married?”
‘At first he just said, “It’s hard.”
‘He wasn’t very forthcoming but he didn’t seem angry, just to be struggling to find the right words.
‘So I asked him, “What happened? What changed?”
‘He said, “Things change when you get married. You go from being someone’s boyfriend to being their husband, it changes quite a lot of things. When you’re someone’s boyfriend, you don’t feel so much responsibility towards that person.
Before the storm: Ashley and Cheryl at a London film premiere in 2008
‘ “You know when you’re dating, you’re out partying, you’re out having a laugh with the boys. That changes when you’re a husband. Once you’re a husband you can’t act in a way that you would have done if you were a boyfriend.” ‘I asked him, “Why did you do it?”, meaning why did you cheat on Cheryl. He didn’t really answer. He sighed.
It seemed like he didn’t really know the answer.
‘I thought it was odd he didn’t mention Cheryl by name. That conversation was the only time he talked about her during all the time we spent together and he referred to her only as “that person”.
‘After that I didn’t ask about Cheryl because I didn’t want to know and he didn’t bring her up. I could tell from what he said there had been problems in their relationship. I don’t believe they’re getting back together because if he was that serious about getting back together why would he take risks like he did with me that night?
‘The truth is I don’t think even Ashley knows what he wants. Part of him wants the domesticity of married life and the other part wants to be this Jack-the-lad footballer.’
Ironically, that night came as it was widely reported that Cole was trying to win Cheryl back – moves which proved successful earlier this month when the couple were pictured in public for the first time together, leaving Miss Cole’s 28th birthday party.
Cole is now desperately trying to hold the shreds of that reconciliation together after a series of women came forward in the past two weeks claiming to have slept with him at the same time he was said to pushing for a second chance with Cheryl.
Caught out: Collette joins Ashley in his car outside the club in May
After meeting at London’s Maddox nightclub in May, Miss McBarron, a former Irish Army officer and Miss Ireland who now runs her own successful personal training firm, claims Cole took her back to his home against her will after she accepted a lift back to her home in Fulham, South-West London.
Miss McBarron is by no means a stranger to controversy, gaining notoriety in Ireland in 2007 when she was court-martialled after being photographed kissing England rugby player Tom Croft in a nightclub when she was supposed to be on duty at Dublin’s Dundalk and Cathal Brugha barracks.
Two years later she left the army – but not before giving a salacious interview to a national newspaper detailing sexual liaisons between male and female soldiers at the barracks and claims of bullying.
The revelations provided her with a springboard to minor fame and a new career as a socialite, first in Ireland and more recently in London, where she moved to start up her own personal training business.
And it was in London that Miss McBarron, who now lives in a flat off Kings Road, first came into contact with Cole at nightclub Whisky Mist, following Chelsea’s last home match of the season against Newcastle on May 15.
That introduction, which was nothing more innocuous than a polite conversation, led to a second meeting engineered by Miss McBarron four days later, on May 19.
She had established through her own contacts at Chelsea Football Club that members of the team would be at Maddox, the exclusive private members’ club in Mayfair, that night.
Miss McBarron, whose Facebook page reportedly boasts photographs of her posing with Cole’s teammate John Terry and Welsh rugby inter¬national Gavin Henson, the former partner of singer Charlotte Church, admits she sought out Cole immediately after arriving at the club just after midnight.
Safely ensconced upstairs at a private table at the club, the couple spent the evening talking and drinking until 2.30am when Miss McBarron, who earns more than £50,000 a year from her fitness business, said she was tired and ready to leave.
She says: ‘I told Ashley I wanted to go home and he said he would give me a lift but that we couldn’t leave at the same time because we would be pictured together.
‘He said he would leave through a door at the side of the club, which they let VIPs use to avoid photo-graphers, while I was to go out through the front.
‘One of his security team escorted me out of the front door and bundled me past the banks of photographers and over the road to a black Range Rover. I got in the front and the driver drove around the corner and told me to get out and wait and then sped off.
‘I was in the street on my own and about two minutes later a black Audi with blacked-out windows pulled up.
‘I walked round to the passenger side and got in.
‘Ashley was inside but a photographer had followed us and got pictures of us getting into the same car.’
The car sped off heading for his Surrey home, leaving Miss McBarron, despite her protestations, with little choice but to spend the night there.
‘At the time I lived near Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s football ground so, perhaps naively, I didn’t think that I needed to give the driver directions.
‘But one moment I looked up and realised we were already on the motorway. As soon as I realised I said to Ashley, “This isn’t the way to Fulham.”
‘I know it sounds naive but we were talking in the back seat and the car windows were blacked out and I wasn’t concentrating on where we were.
‘I remember saying, “I don’t want this. I wanted to go home. I’m not happy with this.”
‘But the driver said, “We’ve gone too far, we’re almost at the house, we can’t turn back now.”
‘Then Ashley said, “It’s fine. I’ll get the driver to take you home in the morning.”
The car pulled up at the house a short while later and after entering through its imposing black gates, Miss McBarron says Cole guided her into the palatial home through a side door and straight upstairs.
Inside she describes a clinical, loveless home, ‘reflective of its owner’, who was awarded the house as part of his divorce last year partly because of its proximity to Chelsea’s Cobham training ground.
‘The house looked like a show home and there was nothing that seemed personal. It was cold and emotionless,’ Miss McBarron said.
‘It was tasteful but there were no photographs on the walls or anything that reflected who lived there. It was as if someone had gone round and stripped out all of the personal touches.
‘We went in through a side door which opened out on to a hallway with a large, curved staircase. The floor was white marble. It wasn’t a warm environment. It certainly wasn’t homely.
‘We walked straight upstairs, down a corridor and arrived at what appeared to be the main bedroom. It had a large king-sized bed with plain white sheets, a vanity table with a mirror and a stool and a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling.’
‘Ashley asked me if I wanted a pair of shorts and a T-shirt to sleep in. He came back with a pair of white men’s shorts and a white T-shirt and I put them on and got into bed.
‘We were lying on opposite sides and I was facing away from Ashley. I was just drifting off to sleep when I felt his hand pull the waistband of the shorts and he pulled me towards him so we were cuddling.
‘I think we must have gone to sleep because the next thing I remember waking up and it was light outside.
‘Ashley was kneeling at the end of the bed looking at me. I thought I was dreaming.
‘He came towards me and kissed me and I kissed him back and I knew he wanted to take things further but I said I didn’t want to.
‘I said to him I hadn’t planned on coming to his house and I don’t make a habit of going home with guys.
I said I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I let things progress further.
‘He kept saying, “Come on” but all I could think was, “If he’s doing this to me, how many other girls has he done it with?”
Eventually, after abandoning his crude attempts to seduce her, she says Cole lay his head on her chest and it was then that he began to open his heart about the failure of his marriage.
Miss McBarron, whose father P. J. McBarron is a successful businessman organising security for nightclubs, and whose mother
Bernadette, 50, is an accountant, says her experience with Cole left her feeling sorry for him.
‘I think he wants the idea of being a married man with 2.4 children – but he can’t help but be sucked back into the world of nightclubs and girls because it goes with the job. The only way that will end is if he meets someone who he wants more than parties and who he’s willing to give it all up for.
‘Ashley craves physical closeness but there’s no emotional connection.
‘I didn’t get the impression he’d ever talked to anyone about his marriage breakdown because of the way he struggled to express himself.
‘But what he did say was very matter-of-fact. He showed no sign of being upset.’
The morning after Miss McBarron’s night with Cole, his driver arrived to take him to training and to drop her off back in Fulham.
‘Before we left, Ashley had a shower then asked if I wanted one,’ she says. ‘I said no and got changed back into the black cargo trousers I’d been wearing the night before but I kept on the white T-shirt he’d given me.
‘I had been wearing a pair of grey high-heeled boots the night before but I walked out barefoot because my feet were hurting.
‘I thought the shoes were in my bag but I later realised I’d left them at the house.
‘We left the same way we’d come in. The driver was waiting and I saw there were four sports cars lined up in a row on the drive.’ Since then the pair have met up again at a party to mark former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti’s departure from the club.
They also had brief contact by text message last week after pictures of them emerged in the Press, with Cole demanding to know who had leaked news of their liaison.
‘I sent Ashley a text message on Thursday telling him people were asking me about us. He wrote back, “Who has told them I even no u?”
‘I told him we had been caught out because there were pictures of us together but that people were asking questions and could he help me.
‘He said, “Just tell them to go away and if they carry on take there [sic] names and paper they work for and report them for harrassin u.’
After her night with Ashley, how does Miss McBarron feel about Cheryl? ‘I don’t envy her,’ she says. ‘Her life is like a gilded cage. I would be asking myself whether
I wanted to go back again after reading about so many girls saying they’ve been with Ashley.
‘I think they both love each other but I don’t think they can be together.’