Horrifying reason singer Duffy disappeared at the height of her career

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Duffy was considered one of Britain’s most promising stars in the late Noughties – but within a matter of years, she had vanished from the limelight for good.

At the height of her fame, the Welsh vocalist had scooped a Grammy, three Brits and an Ivor Novello Award before announcing her hiatus back in 2011.

The Mercy singer, who carved out a reported near $8 million fortune from her career, kept silent for years about the reason for her departure until 2020.

On Instagram, she wrote: “The truth is, and please trust me I am OK and safe now, I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days. Of course, I survived.”

Duffy would later reveal she had been drugged at a restaurant on her birthday before being taken to another country, where she suffered a terrifying four-week ordeal.

“Rape is like living murder. You are alive but dead,” Duffy explained. “All I can say is it took an extremely long time, sometimes feeling never-ending, to reclaim the shattered pieces of me.”

Messages of support flooded in for the singer, who has continued to keep a low profile until yesterday, when she shared an inspirational video online.

The animated clip featured quotes from a 2017 self-help book including “happiness was never about your job” and “happiness is always about being kinder to yourself”.

Now, as the singer breaks her silence online, we look back at the traumatic difficulties she has overcome.

Heartbreaking split

The singer was born Aimee Ann Duffy and grew up in the tiny coastal village of Neyfn, in North Wales, which has less than 1,300 residents.

She was raised by mum Joyce, who worked in a factory, and dad Allan Evans, a storeman, but it was far from a happy childhood due to the couple’s marital difficulties.

Duffy told the Mail on Sunday: “They tried to separate when I was six but I cried so much that they stayed together.

“That was very cruel of me, really, but my mum is a lovely woman and she didn’t want to hurt us.

“They finally separated when I was nine. As kids, we weren’t really aware of the emotional side of it but I guess there was quite an upheaval.”

While Duffy dismissed its effect on her, insisting she was “not someone who takes scared with me”, the news was “a big thing in the town” and gossip spread.

She added: “Everybody was talking about it – but I think my mum did the right thing in leaving. I remember my dad being very upset.”

Assassination plot

By 1996, Duffy’s mum Joyce had married new partner Philip Smith and the family moved to live with him and his four children.

A year later, they returned home one evening to be told by police that Philip’s ex-wife Dawn has attempted to hire hit man to kill him.

Philip later told the Mirror: “Dawn had agreed to pay about £3,000 to a local man, Robert Rees, to shoot me dead.”

Dawn, who died in 2002, told Robert to “just blow [Philip’s] head off” but instead he went to the police.

Duffy, along with the rest of the family, had to be moved into a safe house until police arrested Dawn and her new husband Marc Watson.

In 1998, she was convicted of soliciting murder and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

Recalling that traumatic time, the singer previously told us: “I was so terrified. I felt so ill.”

‘Falling apart’

In 2007, Duffy signed a record deal. It came four years after appearing on Wawffactor, the Welsh equivalent of The X Factor.

Her debut album Rockferry was an instant success – it became the fourth best-selling album of 2008 in the UK and sold nine million copies worldwide.

But, rather than taking joy from her achievement, the singer felt uncomfortable and self-conscious.

She said: “I feel quite embarrassed and shy about it all and quite scared … I wanted the record to do everything it needed to do, but I didn’t really want to be associated with it because I wasn’t proud of myself. I’ve never been proud of myself. There is so much more to do.”

The following year she beat stars including Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen at the 2009 Brit Awards – where she scooped three out of four gongs – but still her feeling of dissatisfaction continued.

Duffy nearly quit fame because of the pressure and stress, explaining that she didn’t want to be “adored or admired, to make money or be successful”.

“I did think, ‘Maybe I won’t do this at all,’” she said. “It was a wild, exhilarating experience and at times it felt as though I was falling apart at the seams.

“Life had got so complicated. I found it difficult to operate in the music industry.”

Horror blaze

Bad luck appeared to follow Duffy. In 2010, her second album Endlessly flopped and then after dropping her manager Angela Becker, she was sued and had to settle out of court.

In 2012, further chaos followed when Duffy’s multimillion-dollar penthouse home in Kensington, West London, caught fire.

She was packing her belongings ready to move out the following day when a friend spotted smoke pouring through one of the home’s vents.

Unable to trace the source of the fire, they fled outside where they were forced to watch the lavish property burn.

It took more than 60 firefighters six hours to put out the blaze at her home – which boasted an indoor swimming pool, games room and a cinema.

Recalling the incident, one neighbour told the Mail: “I saw Duffy running outside. She was running about all over the place. When the police arrived they calmed her.”

Duffy was facing problems with her career too. In 2011, she cancelled a gig in Monaco and a year later, she pulled out of one in Dubai.

It’s believed that somewhere around this time, she suffered the harrowing attack that led her to retreat from the spotlight.

Duffy took on smaller projects including playing a singer in the 2015 film Legend, which was about the Kray twins.

She was also due to appear in a film titled Secret Love, which was never made, and was said to be working on a new album with Albert Hammond but the music was never released.

In 2014, her former mentor Bernard Butler said: “She went off the rails and it all went pear-shaped for her.”

‘Life in danger’

It appears few knew about Duffy’s ordeal – with the singer admitting she didn’t tell many people because she “knew my life was in danger”.

On her 2020 blog, the singer said: “It didn’t feel safe to go to the police. I felt if anything went wrong, I would be dead, and he would have killed me. I could not risk being mishandled or it being all over the news during my danger.”

Duffy, who did not report the incident to police, says she battled suicidal thoughts and considered changing her name to flee to another country.

“I would not see someone, a physical soul, for sometimes weeks and weeks and weeks at a time, remaining alone,” she added.

“I would take off my pyjamas and throw them in the fire and put on another set. My hair would get so knotted from not brushing it, as I grieved, I cut it all off.”

Duffy revealed it was the conviction of Harvey Weinstein – who was found guilty of two sexual abuse charges in 2020 – that encouraged her to speak out.

She added: “I thought the public disclosure of my story would utterly destroy my life, emotionally, while hiding my story was destroying my life so much more. I believe that not singing is killing me.

“So, I just have to be strong and disclose it and face all my fears head-on. I’ve come to realise I can’t erase myself, I live in my being, so I have to be completely honest and have faith in the outcome.

“I can now leave this decade behind. Where the past belongs. Hopefully no more ‘what happened to Duffy questions’, now you know … and I am free.”

This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.

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