Julia doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going.
A week ago, she picked up the newspapers to see photographs of her 60-year-old husband, football commentator Richard Keys, strolling hand in hand with 28-year-old lover Lucie Rose on a Qatari beach.
This is despite the fact that, she says, he had sworn blind to her, time and again over the past 18 months, that the affair which has devastated their 36-year marriage, was over.
Julia Keys, 57, is divorcing her husband, former Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys. Their 36-year marriage broke down after he began seeing a woman half his age behind her back
He’d begged her, as recently as Christmas, to come back to him.
‘Seeing that photograph of the man you’ve been with for so long holding hands with somebody who, quite honestly, could be his daughter, it’s like, well . . .’
She fumbles for the right words.
‘Your immediate feeling is: “This isn’t right. He’s my husband. He’s the father of my children. He belongs to me.”
‘What you’re seeing doesn’t fit your picture of what your life should be.
‘It’s a cliche, but my stomach did flip. It’s a reality that smacks you in the face.
‘Up until then, all you have are his words, his explanations, his denials, his reassurances, his lies.
‘Suddenly, the truth is staring you in the face that your husband, whatever he says to you, is actually involved with somebody else.
‘Part of you wants to throttle him, but another part still cares for him. Love is a very deep thing. There is no logic to it.’
None whatsoever, it seems.
Last June, ten months after filing for divorce on the grounds of Richard’s adultery, and naming lawyer Lucie — the former best friend of their 32-year-old daughter Jemma, in the petition — Julia put her deep hurt aside literally to save his life.
Richard had come to Britain from Doha, in Qatar, where he works as a TV sport presenter, to see a heart consultant.
He’d been on blood pressure tablets for more than a year after being diagnosed with a thoracic aortic aneurysm — a potentially fatal weakness in the artery wall.
‘We were separated, so he went to stay with Lucie in her London flat in Hackney when he first came over, but within 48 hours he called me and said: “I can’t do this. I don’t want to be here. Please let me come back.”
‘I knew he was going to see the heart consultant and was worried about him.
‘As his wife, I couldn’t help feeling it was my responsibility to care and look after him.’
Julia smiles wryly as she says this. She allowed him to stay in the spare room and, within a few days, went with him to see the consultant.
‘Richard had an MRI scan. He knew he’d need an operation, but the consultant said he could wait another six months or a year.
‘When you have the sort of connection with someone that Richard and I have, you get a sixth sense. I told him to get it done now — and that I’d look after him.
‘Thank goodness I did.’
The operation revealed Richard’s aorta was much worse than anyone suspected, and that he could have have been dead within a month.
After all the pain and humiliation her husband had caused her, Julia’s reaction seems nothing less than saintly.
She doesn’t see it that way.
‘No matter how he’s behaved, he was very unwell so I wanted to be with him.
‘He’s my children’s father and the man I’d been with for most of my adult life,’ she says.
‘Whatever devastation he’d brought to our family, the overriding desire was still to make sure he was OK, that he’d come out alive.
‘I suppose there’s a part of you that always loves someone if you’ve shared so much with them.
‘I remember saying to Richard, that if ever there was an opportunity whereby we could reconcile this relationship, this was it.’
It wasn’t to be.
Even having saved his life, Richard was still on course to hurt and humiliate his wife.
As she recalls the days surrounding his six-hour operation, her voice hardens.
For, instead of her being with him in the hospital as they planned, she claims Richard decided he wanted his young lover beside him but, such was his cowardice, he didn’t tell his wife.
‘Richard told me a mutual friend was going to take him to hospital, instead of Josh (their 28-year-old son) and me. But it was Lucie and Richard’s sister.
‘Richard had a meal the night before his life-saving operation with his sister and girlfriend, not me who’d been married to him for 36 years.
‘And that was after he’d been begging me to have him back.’
The deep hurt is writ large across Julia’s face.
Richard had an affair with lawyer Lucie (pictured) — the former best friend of their 32-year-old daughter Jemma
‘I still called him before he went down to theatre. I was reassuring him, saying everything was going to be OK. I told him I loved him.
‘His sister sent me a photograph of him in intensive care after the operation. I cried when I saw it.
‘The whole thing became surreal, particularly when — a day or so later — I got a missed call from his sister saying that Richard wasn’t in a good state, and was asking for me.’
Julia, of course, went.
‘He was in the high dependency unit sitting in a chair.
‘He said: “It’s done, it’s done.” Whenever he says, “it’s done” he’s talking about his relationship with Lucie being over. So I held his hand.’
Many people reading this will be aghast.
Tossed aside for a young chit of a thing by her cheating rat of a husband, yet running back to his side at the click of his fingers. Was Julia mad?
‘I know it’s weird,’ she says. ‘It’s all weird. The only way I can explain it is you’re emotionally torn.
‘Your head wants to tell him to get lost but your heart still loves him.
‘Anyway, he was ill. He couldn’t say much, but what he did say was that he loved me and wanted us to be together.
‘I agreed. To be honest, this yo-yoing of emotions had gone on for so long I’d almost come to accept it.
‘One day, his sister was telling me Lucie had been in the night before, the next she was calling me to say Richard had made a decision and wanted to be with me when he’s discharged.’
Instead he went to stay at a friend’s flat.
‘Apparently, Lucie had warned him that if he came to me, they were finished,’ Julia says.
Finally, Julia saw sense.
‘I couldn’t deal with it any longer. It was emotional manipulation.
‘Richard is very controlling. I realise now I have to take some of the responsibility for that.
‘I allowed myself to be in a submissive relationship where I just played the role of wife and mother, trying to ignore all my doubts and suspicions.
‘That’s the hardest thing, the lies. It’s the lies that do the damage, particularly when you’re being told the betrayals are all in your head.’
Julia has only agreed to this interview to explain her case, and share with others how truly damaging such lies can be.
Not only has she supported Richard through his illness, but also through the thick and thin of a 36-year marriage.
She stuck by his side when he resigned in disgrace from his £500,000-a-year job presenting Sky Sports in 2011 after making disparaging remarks about female match official Sian Massey-Ellis.
‘After Richard resigned, he was really, really low — the lowest I’d ever seen him.
‘He couldn’t eat. He was very quiet. He couldn’t sleep. I tried to boost him up and get him back to, if you like, full working health.
‘Even then, though, when he was very low, we didn’t row much. We hardly ever did.
‘I’m a very calm, placid person. Richard is much more volatile. If things don’t go his way, he’s got a very short fuse.
‘He likes everything in its place. If a towel was left on the floor he’d go mad, for example.’
Richard was working for Al Jazeera TV with his old Sky sports presenting partner Andy Gray in Doha when he met Lucie, who was working as a lawyer for a Qatar investment company.
‘My heart sank when I knew we were going to be based in Qatar,’ says Julia.
‘I had my friends here and was recovering from thyroid cancer.’
But Richard wanted to go, so Julia went with him.
She made frequent trips home, however, as their daughter, Jemma, was in poor health at the time.
Julia believes it was during one of these trips to tend to her daughter that the affair began between Lucie and Richard.
‘Call it female intuition,’ she says. ‘One night when Richard was asleep, I went to his phone to look at his messages.
‘There were a series of texts from Lucie. I woke him and asked him what the hell was going on between them.
‘He said she’d “come to him” as she had a problem and didn’t want to talk to anyone else.
‘He actually said the girls at work referred to him as their “Doha dad”.
‘I knew he was lying through his teeth.’
Richard continued to protest his innocence, maintaining the betrayal was ‘all in Julia’s head’ until her fears were confirmed on a family holiday in St Ives, Cornwall, in May 2016 with Jemma.
‘Richard and Jemma were sleeping after we’d arrived when this message popped up on Richard’s phone with a picture of Lucie: “You okay?”
‘That’s when I pretended to be Richard.
‘I texted back: “No I’m not.” Ping, Lucie replies: “I didn’t think you were. You sounded so sad. I just wish I could give you a cuddle.”
I ping back “so do I”, then she pings over a picture of herself.
‘I say a few more things like: “It will be great when we can see each other again.”
She was spotted with the former Sky Sports presenter leaving a London hotel during their long affair which led to the breakdown of his marriage
‘She sends emoji hearts and cuddles. Then I got so incensed I couldn’t be bothered carrying it on any more.
‘I woke up Richard and went mad — absolutely mad.
‘I told him I had proof that he was having an affair with Lucie.
‘He knew he had nowhere to go. He had to admit to it. I just let rip.
‘Richard was literally on his knees begging me not to leave him and saying how sorry he was.
‘Then, when things eventually calmed down — and this is where it really hurts — Richard said: “What’s the problem? Everybody does it. Anyway, she’s leaving the country so it’s never going to last.”’
Some months later, during Richard’s summer break, they went to their flat in Majorca to try to repair their marriage.
‘We stayed in separate rooms,’ says Julia.
‘Richard’s attitude was so arrogant, really. I wanted him to show remorse, but that was virtually non-existent so I Googled “what a man needs to do if he’s caught having an affair”.
‘There was a list of things they need to do, but Richard couldn’t even be bothered to read it. Unbelievable.’
Richard promised the affair was over, but his secret assignations with Lucie continued.
Pushed to the end of her tether, Julia filed for divorce.
‘Richard was beside himself, telling me he didn’t want a divorce and didn’t want to lose me.
‘He told me I was the only person he’d ever loved, and that he didn’t want to be without me.
‘Come January, he’s back over here — still saying he’s not with her — and there are pictures in the Daily Mail of him having cosy dinners with her in London and all the rest of it.’
The interview is reaching an end. Julia has a meeting with her lawyer.
The decree nisi was granted last March and she’s desperate to bring the divorce proceedings to a conclusion.
Before she leaves, she shows a final text from Richard, sent after those photographs were published.
‘If I had one wish today it would be that we could start over,’ the message reads and ends with a string of heart emojis.
It quite truly beggars belief.
The Daily Mail contacted Richard Keys for his comments about this interview, but he didn’t reply.