Justin Lee Collins: "My time with ex was hell"
TELEVISION presenter Justin Lee Collins has described his relationship with a woman who accused him of harassment as "absolute hell".
The Bristol-born comedian told a court: "I thought she loved me and was crazy about me. But it turned out only the second part was true."
Collins, 38, said Anna Larke, who moved in with him in January last year, was obsessive, jealous, possessive and would send him a "barrage" of text messages wanting to know where he was and who he was with.
The star, who first found fame on Channel 4 show The Friday Night Project, is on trial accused of harassing Ms Larke, also aged 38. He denies the charge.
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Giving evidence in his defence yesterday, Collins told St Albans Crown Court they had met at a corporate event and had an affair from 2007 to 2008 before splitting up. The relationship resumed at the end of 2010 after Collins' marriage to his wife Karen, the mother of his two sons aged seven and four, broke down and he left their Clifton home.
Collins, pictured left during a holiday with Ms Larke, described her as a "compulsive liar".
He said his former girlfriend was so jealous that as soon as his appearance in the West End musical Rock Of Ages was announced last year, she immediately accused him of having an affair with fellow performers.
He said: "Far from being excited for me or being happy about the prospect, she was on the computer to look at the cast list. This was before I had even started rehearsing or met the cast.
"Anna knew their names and was confronting me with the better looking members of the cast, asking 'Which one is it going to be?'"
Collins, who is currently going through a divorce, said Ms Larke told him she had previously been given a warning at her workplace over harassing a man she was seeing.
Asked about claims by Ms Larke, a recovering alcoholic, that he had made her tell him about all her previous sexual encounters and written them down in a notepad, Collins said the list had been Ms Larke's idea, to "unburden herself".
He said: "She couldn't bring herself to write it down herself and wanted me to do it. I felt that if she felt it was cathartic, therapeutic in some sense, for her to unburden and she wanted me to write it down, however odd I felt it seemed, if it helped her, then fine."
Collins said his ex was worried about telling him about a relationship she had with a man called "Charlie" who was famous and worked in the public domain. The man's surname was not divulged to the jury.
Collins denied claims by Ms Larke, a public relations worker, that he had "a problem with people of colour".
In a secret recording made by Ms Larke and previously played to the court, he referred in a derogatory way to her having sex with black and Chinese people. The court has heard he spelled out a range of ethnicities and ages of men she liked in the sex notebook.
But under cross-examination from prosecuting barrister Peter Shaw, he said: "That's a joke. We would have fun with it, make it light-hearted."
Collins said the recording showed him at his "absolute worst" but said if he were a racist, his language would have been "far more colourful".
In the secret recording, made after the couple fell out in a pub, Collins called Ms Larke a range of highly offensive terms.
He told the jury he was ashamed of his language but said he was at his wits' end, at "breaking point".
"I had been living with an alcoholic with serious issues for seven months and I really couldn't take it any more," Collins said.
Collins was also asked about a vest top Ms Larke claims he ripped when he assaulted her – but said it had actually been "slightly torn during an episode of love play."
He said Ms Larke was worried about being infertile and referred to herself as a "Jaffa" after the seedless orange, something he said he was "uncomfortable" with.
Collins denied making death threats against Ms Larke, telling her to come off social networking websites and forcing her to sleep facing him.
He said she frequently phoned him up and called on him to "dump" her.
The case continues.