Like many before me I am in bed with Helen Wood in a hotel room. Most famous for selling sex to Wayne Rooney (while his wife Coleen was five months pregnant) and enjoying another paid-for liaison with a film and television actor who’s name is unprintable because of an injunction, the ex-hooker is eating a prawn salad and drinking tea. Such a compelling story. Such an ordinary girl.
Prostitution may be the oldest profession in the world but it often finds itself at the centre of the zeitgeist. And here we are, in the middle of injunction-gate, as various personalities flail around, haemorrhaging money in an attempt to protect their marriages and sponsorship deals while their sometime paramours have no such recourse because such a court order costs in the region of £50,000. The moral of the story? There isn’t one.
Helen, 24, WAG-brown with blonde hair extensions and good manners, first met Wayne Rooney at a Manchester United after-party with Jennifer Thompson, a fellow escort. ‘I wasn’t working that night. We just talked our way into the party,’ she says. ‘We went to the toilet with Wayne to have a fag because, of course, he can’t go outside for a cigarette like everyone else. So we were having a chat with him and his brother and Wayne said did we want to come back to his. She [Coleen] was away. All the Man United wives and girlfriends would go away on a Thursday because that’s when the boys play. I used to see the same Man United footballer nearly every Thursday. That’s the night they all stay at The Lowry Hotel and that’s the night you see the escorts going in.’
Helen told Rooney in the nightclub loo that she and Jennifer were working girls. ‘He preferred that,’ she says. ‘But we didn’t go back with him that night.’ She had a previous engagement with her regular Thursday night punter, another United player who liked to have foursomes with her, another girl and his assistant. She had given up sex when it was for money and the notches on her bed post already included a famous rugby player, an Irish politician and about 495 obscure punters.
The following Thursday, Helen and Jennifer were having lunch at San Carlo’s, a favourite Manchester restaurant of the footballing community, when Rooney texted Jennifer to suggest the two meet him at The Lowry. ‘We had our stuff with us anyway. Just a bag with underwear, stockings, condoms, straighteners and whatever else; a shag bag. So off we went.’ This was no drunken stag night encounter. It was early afternoon.
It was all over in minutes but then Rooney had an apparent attack of guilt. ‘He is so unbelievably normal,’ she says. ‘Dead timid. Out of all the footballers that I’ve met I’ll never know why he cheats. There’s a lot worse than him. He reminds me of the boy at school who tried to be the lad’s lad, but he’s not.’ Helen and Jennifer agreed to tell no one about their encounter. ‘A couple of months later the press got in touch and I said, “I’ve never met Wayne Rooney before in my life.” They came back again a few months later, before the World Cup, and I denied it again. Then they came back after the World Cup and I called Jenny to say, “Keep your mouth shut”. She promised she would. I said, “I’ve got a kid”.’
Jennifer Thompson sold her side of the story in September 2010. Before the story broke Helen had gone to Rooney’s agent and begged for help, for her name to be kept out of the papers. ‘They promised me everything. They said, “If you sign this we’ll make sure it is.” So I took it to my solicitor and he said that if I signed it I could never sell jackshit on Wayne but my name could still come out. Jennifer got 80 grand, and an extra 15 grand for my name alone. And my name was mentioned in the papers every day that week: “Where is Girl Number 2?”?’
By this time, Helen was no longer escorting and had managed to keep her profession a closely guarded secret until Jennifer chose to out her. She sold her story the following Sunday for £40,000. ‘Now everybody knew I’d been a prostitute so I thought I may as well cash in.’ She issued a public apology to Coleen but is conflicted about this now. ‘I regret hurting people who didn’t deserve to be hurt but I can’t really say that now because I’ve talked about it so much. Actually, do you know what? I don’t regret hurting her because, the way I see it is, if you want to be a dick get back with the person who cheated on you – and he’s cheated on you countless times because he’s f***ed loads of my friends. So I just think, “Don’t start giving me a hard time.” I did everything they told me to. I even asked for an injunction. I couldn’t afford one.’
She doesn’t think she will sell another story on the as yet unnamed (in print journalism at least, but a brief internet search will throw up his identity) married actor who has taken out an injunction. She has already said publicly that he ‘kissed like a virgin’ and that she used a sex toy on him, so what else is there to spill? Apart, of course, from his name. ‘His lawyer got in touch and I went through the same old spiel that happened with Rooney,’ she says. ‘I said, “Don’t ask me to sign sod all. I’ve no interest in selling a story on him. No one even knows who he is. If I was going to sell a story it would be on the footballer that I kind of had an affair with [cue another expensive injunction], it wouldn’t be on some shit actor that nobody has even heard of.”??’
The battle between famous people and the media over freedom of expression has grown into a grittier, grottier struggle between the celebrities and the comparatively powerless working girls. ‘If the girl gets named, so should the celebrity,’ says Helen. The actor does not have to explain to his children that he visited a prostitute. Not yet. While Helen is in the unenviable position of having to tell her seven-year-old son Jack that she was one. ‘Most people are very nice,’ she says. ‘There is a minority who are very harsh and say I need my tubes snipping, that I’d have been better off aborting my son. I don’t give a toss if someone calls me a slag but Jack remains a very private part of my life and when people hammer me for being a whore or some thick hooker who doesn’t deserve kids it cuts deep.’
Helen was brought up the youngest child and only daughter of Stephen and Mary Wood – a university lecturer and a classroom teaching assistant – in a genteel suburb of Manchester (‘Middle class!’ bellowed the headlines). ‘I was a terrible child,’ she says. ‘I was very angry with the world.’ Helen’s fury, which made her tricky to communicate with, was fuelled by the state of her parents’ marriage, and led her from typical adolescent rebellion towards a much riskier place.
‘I had parents who bickered every single night and effed and blinded at each other and I’d rather have been in a council house, living in poverty with two happy parents than having two parents who despised each other. When I was 15 I slit myself all the time with razor blades.’ At 15 she moved out to live with a school friend whose mother called social services and she was put into foster care with a vicar and his wife who she loved. But, a few weeks later, she lost her virginity to a 17-year-old boy and became pregnant. Her parents were by this point were about to embark on divorce proceedings and had signed her into permanent care (she must have been a deeply threatening teenager to merit such a stark rejection, ‘I was never violent unless provoked,’ she says). Social services would not allow her to remain in foster care while pregnant and moved her into a council flat which her baby bump’s father would visit. ‘The first time he beat me to a pulp I was six months pregnant. It was because he couldn’t find his keys,’ she says.
Helen and the father of her son split up when Jack, born in November 2003, was four months old. Despite adoring her son, Helen suffered the ambivalence of the gymslip mother. On the one hand she wanted to make responsible choices; on the other she was desperate to be young and free. ‘I got sick of being lonely and watching my friends going out with their mums shopping and jealous of people who had parents who gave a shit. My boyfriend is very protective.’ Louis Larsson is, she says, her first proper boyfriend, the first man she has enjoyed kissing. They got together in September 2009 and she stopped escorting a couple of months later. She has tattoos on the insides of her wrists. ‘They say: “No Lies, Just Love, Louis” and the date we met,’ she explains. ‘It’s a security thing for him.’ Unfortunately, nine months after they met he went to prison, where he remains, for importing gun parts. She hopes he will be out in October. She says he is going straight.
At 19 she got a job working for a technology company. She left the council house and moved into a rented place on a quiet cobbled street in Sharples. ‘I was doing admin and marketing and I thought I could work my way up,’ she says. But the company started to flounder and Helen found herself, ‘last hired, first fired’. She had just returned from a holiday in Marbella, funded by £500 from a loan shark.
She met Jennifer Thompson – the escort with whom she would later have the Rooney threesome – in a Manchester nightclub. It was a casual Northern bitch fight. ‘She came over to me and she pushed me and I said, “What the f*** are you doing?” And she said, “Have you got a problem with me?” So I punched her.’ Later, that was put down to high spirits and the two became buddies. Helen says that she had no idea that Jennifer was a prostitute until a telephone conversation when she was at her most desperate. She had no job and she owed £1,000 – which ironically is what Wayne Rooney would pay her and Thompson for ‘about 12 minutes work’, a couple of years later. ‘My landlord was asking for sex in lieu of rent and the bailiffs were banging on the door,’ she says. ‘I thought Jack was better off without me. I had no money and no food in the house.’ Jennifer, who, earlier this month was hospitalised after a suspected overdose, said that Helen could join her agency, have sex and earn money. ‘I wasn’t interested in men,’ says Helen. ‘All the men I’d seen were cheats, violent or layabouts.’
Escort agency work, she says, is rubbish: bad money, unsatisfactory vetting processes, dangerous. ‘They let any man come through the door. On one job I got there and this guy sent me into the bedroom and told me to wait on the bed. I wondered what the hell was going on and listened at the door. He was calling all his friends and saying, “I’ve got her here now, come over.” I legged it. Then there was this head case I met who started slapping me and wanted to do S&M and started trying to force food into my mouth and bit my face. People heard me screaming – the worst bit was that the police were outside when I came out. I told them I was fine.’
She broke away from the agency and, under the names Drew and Elizabeth, started handling the clients herself. ‘I told everybody that I was doing nightshifts on a hospital switchboard.’ Soon she was flying to Dublin for three days twice a month, seeing international clients at an apartment rented with two other girls and bringing home about £3,000 each time. The rent was paid, Jack was fed and clothed, and there was plenty of time to feel young and glamorous. Most importantly her job was a secret. ‘I was quite rude when people asked me what I did.’ Certainly she never told her mother, who used to babysit Jack when Helen was away on ‘business’, where the money came from. Today she is renting a townhouse in a leafy Mancunian suburb near where she grew up, living off the spoils of the past few years.
She wants a book deal. Passionately. She needs a ghost writer, so wanting to publish a book is not quite the same as wanting to write a book. But then I doubt Wayne Rooney sat through the night penning the intricacies of Wayne Rooney: My Story. She would love an advice column, seeing her two-year career as an escort as a qualification of sorts. ‘Men would ring me and say, “My wife is having an affair.” Or “She doesn’t find me attractive anymore. How do I woo her? How do I tell her she’s beautiful?”And I love those kinds of conversations. I want to use my experience and use my brain.’
I feel like a spoilsport when I point out that although she is enjoying a platform of sorts, it is a shaky foundation on which to build. ‘Certainly it is and it’s unnerving but, at the same time, it’s worth a try to make the best out of a bad situation.’ She is, for now, starting a dress hire company in Manchester. So maybe girls like her and Jennifer will be able to rent posh frocks, blag their way into footballers’ parties and meet the heroes themselves.
Moral or no moral, it would seem that no one comes out of these furores looking or feeling very good. For a while prostitution suited Helen Wood. Or so she says. ‘I went into robotic mode. You have to be pig-headed, you have to be cold. I called the shots and it made my time as an escort quite easy.’ I still don’t think she would recommend it. Neither would Wayne Rooney. Neither would the actor known only as NEJ. For now. ES
Courtesy of thisislondon.co.uk