Jeremy Kyle, pictured yesterday evening arriving at his luxury home in Windsor, Berkshire as his show faces an uncertain future following the suicide of one of his guests
Life never ran particularly smoothly for Steven Dymond, but prior to the morning of Thursday May 2, the 62-year-old construction worker was entitled to feel cautiously optimistic about his future.
A troubled soul, who was born and raised in Devon, ‘Steve’ had for most of his adult life dabbled in soft drugs and struggled to maintain relationships.
He’d clocked up a failed marriage in his early 20s, becoming estranged from both his ex-wife Jane and their adult son, Carl. He married again, only for his second marriage to fail. And he managed to fall out with most members of his immediate family, including his mother Rosalind.
After moving to first Shropshire and then Hampshire, in the late 1990s, he’d also fallen into petty crime, clocking up minor convictions related to vehicle theft.
Ever since, he’d been based in the seaside town of Gosport, where he earned a shilling operating diggers on local building sites. And it was here, in the autumn of 2017, that things finally took a turn for the better, when he fell head over heels for Jane Callaghan, a 48-year-old divorcee who quickly became the love of his life.
Within weeks, the previously-lonely Dymond had moved into a terraced Barratt Home in the working class neighbourhood of Rowner that Miss Callaghan shared with her teenage daughter. That Christmas Day, he got down on one knee and proposed. Miss Callaghan immediately said yes. ‘I was crying, the love was real. He was the most generous and loving person,’ she recalled this week.
To mark the occasion, she posted a picture of Dymond on Facebook. ‘I’m very lucky to have found a man like you. We will grow old together,’ read her caption. ‘I love you so much,’ he replied.
At weekends, Steve could be found in overalls on the couple’s front drive, tinkering with second-hand cars. His fiancee would watch affectionately from the kitchen. Though few relationships are perfect, they struck neighbours as every inch the happy couple. Sadly, the heady domestic bliss did not last forever.
For in February this year, Jane came across a photograph, seemingly on her betrothed’s mobile telephone, which showed him in an intimate pose with an ex-girlfriend. She also discovered that several Viagra tablets were missing from a supply the couple used.
Mr Dymond, 62, picutred with his his wife Jane Callaghan, was a guest on a Jeremy Kyle show which will now not be broadcast following his tragic death
Mr Kyle, pictured, has been criticised in court by a judge who described his show as ‘human bear baiting’. However, approximately 1.5 million people a day tune in for a dose of poverty porn
An angry row ensued, in which Dymond insisted that the image had been taken several years earlier, before they were an item, but Callaghan refused to believe him.It ended with her instructing him to leave the house. He moved into the spare room of a council flat near Portsmouth harbour, a short drive away, which had been advertised for rent on the website Gumtree.
The sudden upheaval left Steve, who had suffered mental health problems in the past, suffering a bout of depression. But he continued to maintain his innocence and, over time, his relationship with Jane thawed.
Over the Easter weekend, the couple travelled to Surrey’s Thorpe Park, where they enjoyed, according to a Facebook post, a ‘day to remember’. Shortly afterwards, he moved back into her home.
It was at this point that Dymond took the fateful decision that would lead to his untimely death.
My Dymond, pictured three weeks before he died on a night out, failed a polygraph test on the show and broke down into tears
Like many hundreds of mostly working class Britons before him, he decided that the best possible forum in which to finally clear the air with his betrothed (who remained somewhat suspicious about his incriminating photo) would be the Jeremy Kyle Show.
He duly arranged to travel to the Salford studios where the show, dubbed ‘poverty porn’ by critics and once likened by a judge to ‘a human form of bear-baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment,’ is filmed.
It was agreed that the couple would have a full and frank discussion about their recent troubles, mediated by Kyle and watched by a studio audience.
The culmination of the programme would involve him taking a free lie detector test (usual cost £400) to establish whether, in the opinion of experts, he was telling the truth. Dymond and Miss Callaghan’s episode was filmed on Thursday, May 2.
As we now know, it didn’t end well: he not only failed the polygraph test, but appears to have then been roundly criticised by both Kyle and his baying audience. ‘He was distraught and devastated,’ recalled Steven’s landlady, Shelley, who spoke to him shortly afterwards. ‘The tears were rolling down his face. I can see them now. He said when the lie detector results were revealed it turned very nasty.
‘He said Jane went crazy at him and “she called me a bastard” and said that “she went for me”. I think she went to slap him then ran off the stage. He said it was messy.’ She added: ‘He said Jeremy Kyle “ripped” into him and called him a liar. Those were his words.’
Dymond told Shelley that he’d once more been kicked out by his fiancee, and asked if he could move back into his lodgings. He also admitted that he was contemplating suicide. ‘He told me he had wanted to kill himself when he was being driven back to Portsmouth in a taxi the show had booked,’ added Shelley. ‘He said he thought about overdosing on his medication and throwing himself out of the moving car. He was just a mess and he was humiliated.’
A few days later, suicide was, of course, exactly what happened: in a state of despair at what appeared to be the terminal breakdown of his relationship, Dymond retired to his bedroom in Shelley’s property, and took an overdose of morphine, which he’d been prescribed to treat arthritis. His body was found last Thursday, surrounded by letters. In a final text message to Jane, he wrote: ‘I just wanted to say sorry before I go. I can’t live without you. I just wanted to come and see you. My life is not worth living without you.’
Mr Dymond’s episode was filmed on May 2. He failed the polygraph test and was condemned by Jeremy Kyle and the audience
This awful tragedy became public earlier this week. Since then, it has, quite naturally, sparked a furious public debate over what critics regard as the myriad excesses of a programme that has for years profited from often highly vulnerable guests who are encouraged – some might say provoked – into airing dirty linen in public.
Launched in 2005, in the image of America’s Jerry Springer show, it has become a highly-lucrative centrepiece of ITV’s daytime schedule, attracting 1.5million viewers with its heady combination of tawdry revelation and sometimes explosive confrontation. Typical episodes have such tawdry titles as ‘My husband slept with my daughter’ and ‘My sister’s a teenage prostitute’.
Rows are often settled via polygraph or DNA tests, with ensuing punch-ups narrowly averted by burly security guards in a manner critics find deeply exploitative.
Presiding over proceedings – and often making sternly judgmental remarks about guests – has turned Kyle, a thrice-married former gambling addict, into a multi-millionaire, with a reported annual salary of £2million. Today, Kyle’s career, which once saw him voted the second most-hated man in the world (ahead of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein but behind Osama Bin Laden) hangs in the balance. So too do those of the ITV executives behind him. For Dymond is the third star of an ITV reality-based programme to take his own life in recent months, following the suicides of two former contestants on Love Island.
As a result, debate in coming days and weeks will focus on the question of whether the commercial broadcaster is doing nearly enough to safeguard the mental health of often-vulnerable people such shows place in the firing line.
It’s certainly true that Kyle’s guests are offered the services of an ‘aftercare’ team of counsellors, presided over by a qualified psychotherapist called Graham Stainer, who sometimes appears on the programme.
Carl Woolley, 39, said his father had been left devastated after the show destroyed his relationship. Mr Woolley had recently seen his father for the first time in 36 years
Those suffering from drug problems are also offered therapy. But while the broadcaster insists that it therefore fulfils its responsibilities, critics regard this as woefully inadequate. In what some will see as an example of protesting too much, ITV has for years been quick to hit back at critics of the lucrative show.
Indeed, in a staggeringly insensitive internal email, which was leaked yesterday, its chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall insisted the decision to remove it from the airwaves was ‘not in any way a reflection on the show, but the best way we think we can protect the show’. Meanwhile, a very odd interview given by Miss Callaghan to the Sun newspaper – which appears to have been brokered by the ITV press office – bizarrely saw Kyle’s aforementioned ‘aftercare’ team singled out for praise.
‘They were brilliant. They were there when he needed help. They were really persistent in offering him help,’ she said.
Dymond’s landlady Shelley saw things differently, however. She said yesterday that Steven ‘genuinely thought he was going to get some counselling and some therapy; after the show, but in the end received none. She added that the producers only actually decided to send staff to Portsmouth after she reported his death over the weekend. ‘They didn’t come down when he needed them. The show tipped him over the edge. They humiliated him,’ she said.
Dymond’s son Carl Wooley, meanwhile, with whom he had just re-established a relationship and was about to meet for the first time in 36 years, told how his father had been left devastated.
‘I called him and he was distraught over the break-up of the relationship,’ said Mr Wooley. ‘He had gone on the show solely to clear his name but he said it had gone wrong because of the lie detector test. He was adamant that he did not lie. He was so upset that he wasn’t making much sense, but he just kept repeating: “I haven’t cheated, Carl, I swear I haven’t cheated.”’
Their planned meeting never took place. Mr Woolley said a note addressed to him was found alongside Mr Dymond’s body. He said: ‘I’m satisfied he intended to kill himself. In the note, he apologised and asked me not to hate him for what he has done.’
Mr Woolley said his father had disclosed that Kyle himself had ‘really ripped in to him’. ‘He said: “Kyle really laid into me”, presumably that was when they announced the lie detector result.’
Mr Dymond, pictured in 1980 aged 21 with his newborn son Carl Woolley, who recently re-established contact with his father. He said: ‘He had gone on the show solely to clear his name but he said it had gone wrong because of the lie detector test. He was adamant that he did not lie. He was so upset that he wasn’t making much sense, but he just kept repeating: “I haven’t cheated, Carl, I swear I haven’t cheated”’
Little wonder, perhaps, that critics have long regarded the programme’s treatment of guests as woefully inadequate, arguing that the entire programme is orchestrated by producers to create conflict. In a 2016 interview, one member of staff revealed that Kyle employs two studio helpers to stand in the wings and start ‘ooohing and booing’ at moments when he wants the audience to be riled. There is also a floor manager who tells onlookers when to start and stop clapping and when to stand up and sit down.
‘In the third row – that’s where they always put the family and friends of the people on stage, and they heckle Jeremy and those on stage,’ said the insider.
Charlotte Scott, an ex-producer on the show, once told The Guardian how producers played on the ‘nervous confusion’ of often-vulnerable guests by ‘playing a Machiavellian game of “he said, she said” to ensure feelings run high’.
‘Guests are wound up like a coiled spring before the show,’ she wrote, saying they would be placed in separate rooms and selectively briefed about what their spouse, girlfriend, or estranged family member was saying about them. ‘It is an integral part of preparations – a process, sanctioned by the show’s editors, called “talking up”.
The previous year, former guest Gareth Edwards claimed he was asked to change into a tracksuit before appearing on a ‘paternity test special’ after producers said the jumper he was wearing was unsuitable because it had a prominent logo.
Kyle then picked on Edwards’s outfit, calling him ‘scum’.
Meanwhile last year, another guest, Mark Sinclair, 46 – who had post-traumatic stress disorder – died of a drug overdose three months after appearing on the show to be reunited with his daughter, who he had not seen for eight years.
In light of these and other incidents – including a string of assaults, one of which led one judge to accuse the show of exploiting the ‘foolish and gullible’ – critics have also asked awkward questions about the manner in which guests are booked.
It yesterday emerged ITV employs a team of researchers, several of whom use Facebook and other social networks to befriend potential Jeremy Kyle guests and encourage them to appear on the show. Though they are not paid, they are given a free night in a hotel, with food and drink thrown in, along with compensation for loss of earnings. One such employee, whose account was seen by the Daily Mail yesterday, posts messages such as ‘We’ve got a space on tomorrow’s show, who wants a DNA test?’
Crucially, Steve Dymond had in the run-up to his appearance on the programme been befriended by an ITV researcher called Gareth John Hughes, whose Facebook account invited willing Jeremy Kyle participants to call him on a Salford telephone number.
Mr Hughes wiped his account clean yesterday and deleted Dymond as a friend. Some might regard that as evidence of a cover- up by a broadcaster that remains in denial about its myriad shortcomings. For in the cold light of day, many will regard his untimely death as a tragedy that was quite simply waiting to happen.