Lawrence Dallaglio MBE OBE used to be a choirboy. He sang at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wedding and provided backing vocals for U.S. soul legend Tina Turner.
It sometimes seems he has spent the rest of his life trying to turn that angelic beginning on its head.
In adulthood Dallaglio became one of the greatest rugby union players England has ever produced. A powerhouse 6ft 4in, 17st captain of the national team, he was also a key member of the 2003 World Cup winning squad and two times a touring British Lion.
Along the way he took and gave out some terrific hits. But the attrition didn’t cease once off the field of play.
Scandal almost derailed his career while his family’s life has been scarred by a terrible tragedy.
Lawrence Dallaglio (pictured after winning the Rugby World Cup Final in 2003) allegedly made payments to a London brothel
The former England Rugby captain (with wife Alice) allegedly made four payments from an account controlled by him on March 22 last year which amounted to a total of £10,500
The star’s name was uncovered during a trial of four men and women accused of running a brothel in Holborn (pictured), Central London, at Wood Green Crown Court
He is popular and good company — ‘charming and engaging’, one associate described him as this week — and has devoted considerable time and energy in recent years to charitable causes.
Yet events suggest the BT Sport pundit and corporate hospitality boss has failed to lay those old ghosts to rest.
More than two decades since he resigned from the England captainship after allegedly boasting of taking and dealing in Class A drugs, Dallaglio finds himself, unwittingly this time, caught up in another sleazy scenario.
Wood Green Crown Court recently heard the trial of four men and women accused of running a brothel in Holborn, Central London, where customers were also able to purchase cocaine.
A police undercover operation eventually led to the premises in a Georgian townhouse being raided last July. Hugh Forgan, prosecuting, told how the vice operation charged up to £300 per hour for sex and made £400,000 in just six months.
‘It wasn’t just sex that was for sale there,’ Mr Forgan said. ‘Cocaine was available as well.
‘Condom wrappers were found in the bedrooms, and the basements also contained rooms with sex toys and bondage gear.
‘In the fireplace, police found a safe. As they moved it they noticed it was leaking white powder so it was taken to the garden and opened with an angle-grinder.
‘Inside that safe, police found an Iceland supermarket bag, inside the outer bag was a Sainsbury’s bag, and inside that bag there were further bags containing white powder.
‘When later weighed, that white powder came a little short of 2kg and that powder was boric acid, a cutting agent for cocaine.’
One of the rugby stars payments for £7,550, was paid into the account of one of the defendants, a Romanian madam aged 22
Dallaglio had not been called as a witness but was reportedly interviewed under caution by police in the presence of a solicitor
In a secret compartment in a basement lavatory, officers also found ‘a bag containing five PDQ (credit card) machines, folders with receipts and what may be called diary books, together with sums of money.’
He added: ‘A brothel is a business and this brothel was run in an organised way. There were handheld devices taking payments so they could pay by credit card if they didn’t have cash.’
Using evidence from the card machines prosecutors compiled a spreadsheet of 182,304 payments made at that address.
Why does all this concern Lawrence Dallaglio? Because among the receipts for bank card transactions allegedly found in the brothel’s records were four payments from an account controlled by the former rugby star, all made on March 22 last year. They amounted to a total of £10,500.
One of the transactions, for £7,550, was paid into the account of one of the defendants, a Romanian madam aged 22.
The so-called payments ‘by Mr Dallaglio’ were referred to by the judge in his summing up.
The sports star (left being tackled by Wales’ Chris Wyatt) made his debut for Wasps in 1990 and the full England XV five years later
Judge Rachim Singh said Dallaglio’s legal team had been informed that reporting restrictions on the main trial were to be lifted following the end of a related court case.
Dallaglio had not been called as a witness but was reportedly interviewed under caution by police in the presence of a solicitor. He declined to make any comment about the nature of the alleged expenditure on his credit cards.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed a 47-year-old was not arrested, and no further action is being taken. This week he did not respond to the Mail’s request for comment.
Usually an immaculate player, it seems he had dropped the ball again.
The circumstances of the Wood Green trial are a far cry from Dallaglio’s formative years in a staunchly Roman Catholic family.
His father was Italian, his mother of Irish descent. He attended the King’s House prep school in leafy Richmond, South-West London which counts among its other notable alumni children of the Rothschilds and Rolling Stones.
Dallaglio was a member of the school choir when it was attracting a similar kind of limelight to that he would later enjoy on the rugby field.
Pictured: Dallaglio (left) and Will Greenwood (right) hold the Webb Ellis Cup to the crowds in London in 2003 during the England Rugby World Cup team victory parade
Among his musical achievements was to provide backing vocals with his colleagues on Ms Turner’s 1985 smash hit We Don’t Need Another Hero. It was the title track for the smash Mel Gibson movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and won an Ivor Novello award.
The choir — including Dallaglio — also backed performances by U.S. crooner Barry Manilow and appeared onstage in the Lloyd Webber musical Evita in the West End.
Was the goliath of the Twickenham back row embarrassed about his time in the choir stalls? Not at all.
When in 2005, after a change in legislation, members of the choir were due royalties for the Turner track and his singing past was finally revealed, Dallaglio commented ‘People have visions of choristers in gowns, but that was never my experience. I’m very proud of that period in my life.’
He said he would be donating his royalties to the Michael Stuckey Trust, which was set up in memory of his former choirmaster.
The happiness of his teenage years was dealt a devastating blow in August 1989 by the Marchioness river boat disaster on the Thames.
His older sister Francesca, a trainee ballerina aged 19, who had performed for Princess Diana, was the youngest of the 51 victims.
Dallaglio was 16 at the time and, during term time, a boarder at Ampleforth public school in North Yorkshire. He had been invited to attend the same party on the boat that night but declined because of a headache.
In a 2011 interview with this newspaper he described frankly how the death ‘blew my family apart’. He said of his mother, who had recently died of cancer, ‘There wasn’t a day that went by where she didn’t think of Francesca at some stage, as we all do.
‘Losing a member of one’s family is a terrible thing, particularly for us, having been very close-knit. I became quite driven after that.
‘I thought: ‘I now actually need to pull my finger out and do something that’s going to bring everyone together.’
And how. Until then rugby had only been a hobby.
He made his debut for Wasps in 1990 and the full England XV five years later. He had won the World Cup sevens with England in 1993. In 1997 England coach Clive Woodward made him captain. He was a born leader, both in stature and temperament.
But two years later came the scandal which was to blight his reputation.
The now defunct News of the World published an expose of Dallaglio in which it alleged he had made a number of claims about his involvement in illegal drugs.
He was quoted as saying to an undercover journalist posing as the representative of a shaving cream manufacturer: ‘I used to be a (teenage) drug dealer. I made big, big money from dealing in drugs.
‘Why do you think I know so much about drugs? I was surrounded by it. I used to drive from one end of London to the other with five or six ounces of it (cocaine).
‘That’s how I used to make money before I took up rugby.’
The newspaper also reported that Dallaglio boasted how he and two other players had taken the drug ecstasy ‘and then a couple of wraps of coke’ to celebrate winning the 1997 Lions series in South Africa.
Dallaglio — and the rest of English rugby — was horrified when the article appeared. He claimed that he had made up much of what he’d said to the journalist because he was ‘naïve and foolish’.
At a press conference following his resignation as captain Dallaglio, then 26, admitted he had experimented with drugs in his late teens and ‘for that I am not proud’.
But he told reporters he was now ‘completely against drugs’, adding: ‘I will always regret the effect that this has had on everyone.’
He said that while ‘I cannot deny that what was said in the interview is was what was reported’, no drugs had been taken on the Lions tour. He had lied to ‘impress’.
The Rugby Football Union eventually dropped drugs charges against him — much to his relief — after ‘new evidence’ emerged during an open hearing chaired by a high court judge.
Instead it imposed a fine of £15,000 for bringing the game into disrepute — on top of legal costs amounting to £10,000.
Dallaglio successfully put the scandal behind him. He was ever-present in England’s 2003 World Cup triumph and resumed the captaincy the following year. He retired for good in 2008. By then he was married to his childhood sweetheart Alice. They have three children.
Life has been good. But then came the police raid in Old Gloucester Street, W1. At Wood Green crown court the four brothel-keepers were jailed for a total of 24 years.
And thanks to a few slips of paper they had kept in a carrier bag in a secret cupboard, an England rugby legend has received yet another painful hit.