Clare Craze, the heartbroken former wife of Strictly star Kevin Clifton, tried to commit suicide after he ruthlessly ended their marriage in public, she revealed last night.
The 39-year-old, also a trained dancer, was so distraught that she overdosed on anxiety pills, washed down by wine, and was found collapsed in the street by strangers.
‘When he told me it was finished it felt like all hope from my life had gone – it was overwhelming,’ she says.
‘Afterwards, I went to a bar and took a whole box of tablets. I was found near Waterloo Bridge by some passers-by who called an ambulance.’
Clare Craze, 39, last night revealed that she tried to commit suicide after her ex-husband, Kevin Clifton, ruthlessly ended their marriage
Clare, a trained dancer, was so distraught at Kevin’s (left) break up that she overdosed on pills, washed down by wine, and was found collapsed in the street by strangers (couple pictured at Burn The Floor opening night in 2009)
Clare woke up in hospital on a drip with Kevin still intent on divorce. He wanted to be free to form a relationship with Karen Hauer – who later became his third wife and Strictly Come Dancing co-star.
Now, of course, he has a new girlfriend who tops Britain’s leaderboard for fame, success and popularity: the documentary maker and current Strictly champion Stacey Dooley.
Their romance has devastated Stacey’s boyfriend of five years, Sam Tucknott, who exclusively told The Mail on Sunday last weekend how he felt betrayed by the man he had treated as a friend.
Sam, a personal trainer, branded the dancer a ‘slippery snake’ and accused him of ‘stealing’ the woman he hoped to marry.
Clare, who has now recovered and had a son with her new partner, has watched the emotional carnage with less surprise than most – she has first-hand experience of Kevin’s ruthlessness when he’s got one eye on a new future.
By the time he told her their marriage was over, she says he had already informed their landlords she would be moving out of the marital home and withdrawn her from the London run of the prestigious dance show, Burn The Floor, in which they were in talks to appear.
Clare was 25 when she met Kevin at a salsa bar in Wimbledon in 2005. The couple married two years later in 2007
Kevin (pictured at the Olivier Awards this month) has been a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing since 2013
Clare, who has since recovered and has a son and partner, recalls how when she woke up in hospital on a drip, Kevin was still intent on divorce
Today her words will come as a warning to Stacey about her lover’s vaunting professional and personal ambition.
‘Kevin is like a chameleon, he works out what you want and then he becomes it,’ she says.
‘Plus, he’s extremely talented, which is very attractive. Coupled with him presenting himself as a nice guy, it is a powerful combination.
‘Kevin is a social climber and fame hungry. He loved the dancing but he also wanted the glamour of red carpets and seeing his name in lights. He dropped me as soon as it suited him.’
With household name Stacey by his side and the Glitterball trophy in his possession, that’s all now guaranteed.
On dating the dancer, Clare noticed that there were photos of Kevin with his partners down the years, each of whom had been his girlfriend
Clare claims that Kevin wanted to be free to form a relationship with Karen Hauer (left) – who later became his third wife and Strictly Come Dancing co-star
But Clare’s account of the collateral damage left in Kevin’s wake makes for salutary reading.
Most shocking is the way the 36-year-old seems to find his relationships almost interchangeable as he waltzes off – and trades up.
He delivered part of the same touching wedding-day speech to both Clare and Karen, and promised both women they could call any future son the same name.
Clare claims he even wiped one wife off his CV altogether: ‘I found out he had been married before me years later. I messaged my mum and said, “Well, I guess I wasn’t the first, after all”.’
Kevin has also benefited in profile terms from his sizzling Strictly partnerships with breakfast TV star Susanna Reid, who split from her long-term boyfriend and father of her children after starring in the 2013 series, and more recently Louise Redknapp.
She famously left her 18-year marriage to former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp and partied with Kevin afterwards.
Stacey’s split from Sam makes them the 14th couple to have broken up as a result of what has been called The Curse of Strictly, and the third of Kevin’s dance partners.
In retrospect, Clare knows the clues were there when she first visited his family home in the village of Waltham, near Grimsby.
Speaking of their 2013 divorce, Clare says: ‘At the time, it hurt me intensely but now I don’t feel anything towards Kevin. I don’t care what he does because I have no respect for him’
Documentary maker Stacey Dooley partnered with Clifton to win the 2018 series of Strictly Come Dancing
Alongside dozens of dance trophies were photos of Kevin with his partners down the years, each of whom had been his girlfriend.
Clare nicknamed the gallery of exes ‘The Wall of Death’ but, having been swept off her feet, she didn’t expect to find herself joining it.
Clare was 25, with a degree in performing arts from Middlesex University when she met Kevin at a salsa bar in Wimbledon in 2005.
They had been invited to teach there and it was clear from the start he was determined to seduce her.
Within eight weeks, they had moved in together. ‘Just like that, we were an item, head over heels for each other,’ she says.
She says she had no clue that he had been married to his former pro partner Anna Melnikova until she read about it in a newspaper article last year.
‘He told me they’d dated,’ Clare reveals. ‘But years later, I saw an article which said he’d been married to her before me, in 2003, when he was 20. I was shocked.
‘When we got married, we had to have a few marriage classes. You have to say whether you’ve been married before and he never mentioned it.
For the first year we were together, they shared a room at his nan’s house – and sometimes a bed together when they were touring.
Clare’s words will come as a warning to Stacey (pictured) about her lover’s (Kevin pirctured) vaunting professional and personal ambition. She said that ‘Kevin is like a chameleon, he works out what you want and then he becomes it’
‘He told me it was completely normal in the Latin ballroom competition world but really I knew that you shouldn’t be sleeping in the same bed as your ex girlfriend when you are engaged. It was very, very upsetting at the time.’
She has no idea why Kevin behaved in this way since she adored him and ‘would have done anything to make him happy’.
In fact, she began teaching dance at the expense of her own career to subsidise Kevin’s. Six months later, he proposed, buying a ring and driving through the night from Blackpool where he had been competing to get down on one knee in their living room.
‘My family absolutely loved him and treated him like a son,’ says Clare. ‘My brother was the best man at our wedding and his sister [Joanne Clifton, winner of Strictly’s 2015 Christmas special] was my maid of honour.
The first time I met his mother she told me ‘We love you’ and his father would refer to his two daughters, meaning me and Kevin’s sister.
‘But at the time, Kevin’s parents were his managers and they were obsessed with his success.
Stacey’s split from Sam Tucknott (pictured at the show last year) makes them the 14th couple to have broken up as a result of what has been called The Curse of Strictly
Three of Kevin’s dance partners, including Stacey, have separated from their partners shortly after the show
‘They had been ballroom champions and so had his grandparents. Because I wasn’t from that world, I felt that they didn’t respect my achievements.
‘I might have had a degree and a successful career but they would introduce me to people and just say ‘Isn’t she pretty?’
Yet she was confident in Kevin’s love and describes her 2007 wedding at St Mary’s Church in the Essex riverside village of Wivenhoe, where she grew up, as the happiest day of her life up to that point.
‘I wore a princess dress – £400 half price from a shop in Grimsby,’ she laughs. ‘I felt like a princess.’
It was a budget event, costing just £2,500, a fraction of the sums Kevin can command today, with both families contributing to the reception at the quayside sailing club.
She was particularly delighted with her new husband’s speech – until years later she learned, to her horror, that he had recycled parts of it at his 2015 wedding to Karen.
‘Kevin made a speech which I thought at the time was very touching. He loves football and it was a line where he compared me to a top-tier football team, saying he was out of my league,’ she says.
‘Then I read an interview with Karen about his speech at their wedding and it was the exact same line. I had thought it was sweet – until he had used it again.’
A conversation between the newlyweds’ on their two-week honeymoon to Crete would also later be duplicated in his subsequent marriage.
Louise Redknapp famously left her 18-year marriage to former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp and partied with Kevin afterwards
‘We talked about children and Kevin said that if he had a son he liked the name Heath because it sounded like Heathcliffe, with our surname,’ Clare claims.
‘Later I read an interview he gave with Karen where he talked about wanting to name their son Heath.’
By the time of his marriage to Clare, Kevin – acknowledged as one of the Britain’s best competitive dancers – had been selected to appear in a show called Burn The Floor. Clare also managed to get a part, meaning the pair could go on tour together.
Rehearsals began in Perth, Australia, in November 2007 ahead of the January 2008 debut.
Clare said: ‘Kevin was one of the best dancers so he performed with the best females. I found it really difficult to watch them because it looked so sensual and romantic.
‘I had to see a hypnotist who assured me that he was just doing his job. I used to listen to hypnotism CDs at night to calm my anxiety about it – I think it meant that when he eventually fell for Karen, I missed the signs. Hypnotism had taught me not to worry.’
The woman who would become her love rival, Karen, joined when they were performing on Broadway in November 2009.
‘Kevin and I hosted a mince pie and mulled wine party in our New York apartment and that was the first night I met her,’ says Clare.
‘I made an effort to be nice to her as I remembered how terrified I had been to join the show. She was very pretty, smiley and nice.’
Kevin partnered with breakfast TV star Susanna Reid, who split from her long-term boyfriend and father of her children after starring in the 2013 series
Later that year, the couple returned to the UK, where Kevin began performing in the West End show Dirty Dancing and Clare was acting in television adverts.
When Burn The Floor shifted to London, Kevin began socialising each night with its cast, including Karen.
In September 2010, less than a fortnight before their split, Kevin went with the cast to Soho nightclub Punk.
Clare tried to join them but the bouncer would not let her in and Kevin wasn’t answering his phone.
‘After 45 minutes, I got in and he was behaving very strangely – he was irritable I was there,’ she claims.
‘He told me, “These aren’t even your friends.” And Karen left as I arrived.
‘Then there was an after-party. He didn’t want me to go but I did. When we got there, I realised it was in Karen’s apartment.
‘We were playing a game around a table with our hands and he and Karen were very tactile, rubbing up against each other. I remember thinking they looked good together, like a couple.’
Two days later, Kevin went to stay with his parents in Grimsby, saying he was suffering from bronchitis. A week later, he asked to meet Clare in a bar in Covent Garden.
‘I didn’t think I was meeting him for break-up talks, I thought I was just meeting my husband,’ Clare claims. ‘He told me he went up to Grimsby to work out how he was going to move on.
‘Burn The Floor were contacted and told he was going to go back but I wasn’t – I’d been in talks to join the show again.
‘Friends we were renting our flat from were also told that he was going to stay there and I wasn’t.
‘He contacted mutual friends and said, “Can I stay with you tonight because I’m going to meet Clare and leave her?”
‘So all these people knew he was going to leave me when I had no idea. It was as if he had set his new life up before he let me know mine was ending.’
Clare felt like she was ‘underwater,’ but Kevin was sufficiently calm to chat to fans in the bar who recognised him. She says he then left her there weeping.
When they met again the following week, he reiterated that he was looking to move on and Clare tried to take her own life.
Afterwards, she had a series of therapy sessions to help her recover. ‘My therapist described Kevin as a textbook narcissist,’ she says.
The star asked for Clare to grant him a quick divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour but she didn’t respond to his solicitor’s letters: ‘I couldn’t deal with it. I could not be in contact with him, I just let it happen. I was focusing on getting myself back on my feet.’
The marriage was finally dissolved in 2013.
Clare says: ‘At the time, it hurt me intensely but now I don’t feel anything towards Kevin. I don’t care what he does because I have no respect for him.
‘Last week, I found out that he’d danced with three women on Strictly and their relationships have all split up.
‘When you dance with someone it is so electrifying you think, “Wow, we have such chemistry, I’m in love with you”, but that is just something that happens in a dance relationship.
‘With the help of my family and friends I have rebuilt my life after Kevin. I can forgive him because he’s not important to me.
‘As for Strictly? Even though I am still dancing, I have never seen a single episode.’