Former ‘It Girl’ Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, UK socialite and friend of royalty, dies aged 45

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 8:20am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 9:35pm

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the socialite, TV presenter and friend of the royal family, has been found dead at her London flat.

The former “It Girl”, a god-daughter of Prince Charles, had recently revealed she was being treated for a brain tumour, a non-malignant growth in her pituitary gland.

Scotland Yard said the ambulance service called officers at 1.40pm on Wednesday to an address in south-west London. It said: “A woman, aged in her 40s, was pronounced dead at the scene. At this early stage police are not treating the death as suspicious. Inquiries into the circumstances are ongoing. The coroner has been informed.” Next of kin were also told.

The 45-year-old was the daughter of the former Olympic skier and landowner Charles Palmer-Tomkinson and his wife, Patricia, who are friends of Prince Charles. Her older sister, Santa Montefiore, an author, is married to the historian and novelist Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Palmer-Tomkinson became famous in the 1990s, as a glamorous skiing companion and sometime nanny to princes Harry and William. She sometimes joined Charles and his sons on their annual skiing holiday to Klosters, her presence inevitably sparking unfounded rumours of an unlikely romance with the divorced heir to the throne, 23 years her senior.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall said they were “deeply saddened and our thoughts are so much with the family”.

Of her tumour, Palmer-Tomkinson told the Daily Mail in November: “I got terribly frightened. I started thinking, I’m going to die.” The tumour, which was discovered following blood tests after she felt ill in the summer of 2015, had been successfully reduced by the treatment, she told the newspaper.

She said: “I went to the doctors to talk about my latest blood tests when I got back from skiing in January. I said, ‘What does this mean? Can you translate it? And the doctor said, ‘As I suspected, you have a brain tumour.’

“I got terribly frightened. I started thinking, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I’ve only got a couple of weeks to live. Stuff like that.” She said in the interview that she had been taken medication, and, “thankfully, it seems to have gone away for now”.

Palmer-Tomkinson had a well-documented battle with drugs in the past, and was first treated for a cocaine addiction in 1999. She spoke openly about her battle with drugs to discourage other drug users, once telling the talkshow host Jeremy Kyle that she had almost died after taking an overdose of cocaine.

Speaking of her past drug problems, she told the Sun last year: “I haven’t done drugs for 10 years. I’m a bit obsessed with healthy eating. I need to calm down. If I decide to be healthy then I am. I do find myself smoking cigarettes and I have my red wine. I eat a lot, too, and never go to the gym. I just find it incredibly hard to put on weight.”

At one time she was seen regularly on the London party scene, frequently making headlines and appearing in the pages of society and celebrity magazines. But she had spoken of struggling with anxiety in recent years, which she said had turned her into a “recluse”. In 2002 she appeared as a contestant on the reality TV series I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here and was a runner-up. She also appeared on several other TV shows, including celebrity specials of Blind Date, and A Place in the Sun.

The former model was close to younger members of the royal family, attending the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

She had also contributed columns to several publications, including the Sunday Times, the Spectator and Tatler, and released her first novel, The Inheritance, in 2010.

The Brain Tumour Charity praised Palmer-Tomkinson for raising awareness of tumours.

Sarah Lindsell, charity chief executive, said: “Our hearts go out to all of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s family and friends. Three months ago, Tara was brave enough to speak out about her brain tumour diagnosis and the impact it had on her life.

“Her honesty helped to raise awareness of the disease and it was welcomed by the many thousands of people in the UK and around the world who cope with the impact of a brain tumour. Tara helped to show why we must do all we can to defeat this devastating disease which is the biggest cancer killer of children and young people in the UK.”

Among tributes TV presenter Piers Morgan tweeted “A fun, feisty woman who battled many demons. Very sad news”.