ES­CAPE FROM THE 'HAUNTED HOUSE'

Trevor Horn's wife has been in a coma ever since she was ac­ci­den­tally shot at home by her son a year ago. Now the mu­sic mogul be­hind some of Bri­tain's big­gest hit records is sell­ing their cursed £10m man­sion

Daily Express - - News - by Jane War­ren

AR­RIV­ING AT Hook End Manor, a stun­ning El­iz­a­bethan coun­try house near Hen­ley-onThames, is like en­ter­ing an­other world. Oc­cu­py­ing a 25-acre es­tate in the most beau­ti­ful Ox­ford­shire coun­try­side, there is sta­bling for horses, one of the largest mon­key puzzle trees in the coun­try, a gym, a sauna and a large cov­ered swim­ming pool.

Each of the 11 bed­rooms is dec­o­rated ac­cord­ing to a theme and the in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous artists who come to use the multi-mil­lion pound res­i­den­tial record­ing stu­dio at the end of the private drive can choose which one they want to stay in, in­clud­ing the Sec­ond World War Room, or the Ori­en­tal Room, de­signed by Dave Gil­mour of Pink Floyd, a pre­vi­ous owner.

But it was the close-knit fam­ily who lived there to­gether un­til June last year who ef­fort­lessly made the ram­bling old manor house into a home. They may have been worth mil­lions but Trevor Horn – one of the most fa­mous pop mu­sic im­pre­sar­ios in the world – and Jill Sin­clair, his wife of 26 years, were still deeply in love.

De­spite their fab­u­lous, self-made riches, they had taught their chil­dren to show cour­tesy and re­spect to­wards oth­ers and they doted on their son and three daugh­ters.

Yet this week, Hook End Manor is up for sale – a house haunted by a freak shoot­ing ac­ci­dent nearly 12 months ago which has shat­tered the fam­ily idyll and left Jill in a coma from which she shows no sign of emerg­ing. Now Trevor finds the as­so­ci­a­tions that the manor holds too un­bear­able to live with.

The cou­ple, torn apart by that tragedy, were never os­ten­ta­tious about their wealth and had man­aged to keep their feet on the ground, shop­ping in Sains­bury’s to­gether once a week and shar­ing the spoils of their suc­cess with friends as well as em­ploy­ees at ZTT Records, the com­pany they had founded to­gether in 1983 and which boasted such mas­sive mu­si­cal suc­cesses as Seal, Frankie Goes To Hol­ly­wood and Pet Shop Boys.

Favoured record com­pany staff were in­vited ev­ery cou­ple of months to have “the run of the place”: a dip in the pool, a game of ten­nis, a walk in the grounds and din­ner in the evening.

“There was an amaz­ing level of el­e­gance to that place, a cer­tain old­fash­ioned beauty about it,” re­calls Jonathan Win­gate, a for­mer em­ployee. “I re­mem­ber the first time I went there it was like walk­ing into an­other world: this pala­tial, rock star world. As guests you were treated amaz­ingly but the fact they were will­ing to share it all with their staff was very in­dica­tive of them as peo­ple.”

He re­mem­bers that it was around Jill that the house, like the busi­ness, re­volved. “She was a nat­u­ral host­ess with an out­go­ing, fun per­son­al­ity,” says Jonathan, who now works as a mu­sic jour­nal­ist and broad­caster.

And while her more in­tro­verted and pub­lic­ity-shy hus­band is recog­nised as a creative ge­nius, it was Jill who orig­i­nally spot­ted Trevor Horn’s po­ten­tial and was able to fa­cil­i­tate his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer, coax­ing him out of his shell when nec­es­sary.

While he was holed up in one of his four state-of-the-art record­ing suites in Lon­don and Ox­ford­shire, fu­ri­ously twid­dling but­tons and ob­sess­ing about each tex­ture and tone on a track, Jill deftly ran their private and pro­fes­sional lives.

THAT­meant ev­ery­thing from talk­ing money with Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­ers such as Jerry Bruck­heimer, for whom Trevor pro­duced the score for Toy Story, to pop­ping along to Por­to­bello Road mar­ket on a Fri­day af­ter­noon to stock up with flow­ers and fruit for an­other week­end at Hook End Manor.

How­ever, it is a long time since the house rang to the sound of a happy fam­ily.

Nearly a year ago the cou­ple’s 23-year-old son Aaron was at home from univer­sity, shoot­ing at tar­gets in the gar­den with an air ri­fle. He was un­aware that his mother was nearby.

A stray pel­let struck her in the neck sev­er­ing an artery and Jill suf­fered mas­sive blood loss.

Hav­ing been rushed to hospi­tal, she was put un­der deep se­da­tion and into an in­duced coma. Since then Jill, now 55, has shown lit­tle im­prove­ment.

“She re­mains un­re­spon­sive in a coma and con­tin­ues to re­ceive 24-hour nurs­ing care at a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre in South Lon­don,” says a friend. “Trevor has been dev­as­tated by this ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent and now wants to get rid of the place as­so­ci­ated with it.”

Whether Jill will ever emerge from what is now de­scribed as a “nat­u­ral coma” – and whether she will be brain dam­aged if she does – are ques­tions that her dis­traught fam­ily must ask them­selves ev­ery day. Since the acci- dent the house has been avail­able for hire as a venue for mu­sic in­dus­try gath­er­ings but Trevor and his chil­dren feel un­able to cross the thresh­old.

Now, for an ask­ing price of £10mil­lion, it is on the mar­ket.

As a mu­sic mogul, Trevor, 57, was never nat­u­rally cool but Jill changed that.

With his be­spec­ta­cled, bankman­ager’s de­meanour, he started off play­ing dou­ble bass with his fa­ther in dance bands and his first ap­pear­ance on TV came ac­com­pa­ny­ing the stars of Come Danc­ing. He was cat­a­pulted to

na­tional at­ten­tion as a song­writer in the late Sev­en­ties with The Bug­gles and their elec­tro-pop clas­sic Video Killed The Ra­dio Star. He wore huge bot­tle-top specs for the song and reached No 1 in 16 coun­tries. He also sang for rock band Yes.

Then he met Jill, a for­mer maths teacher who was run­ning a record­ing stu­dio. She tried for three months to sign him up and they grad­u­ally fell in love.

“She pushed him to be­come who he was,” says Jonathan Win­gate. “She was also the one who gave him the con­fi­dence to put his head out­side the stu­dio door. She saw and heard in him things he didn’t see in him­self. She was the spark that made him come alive.”

Fi­nally, a year af­ter they mar­ried in 1980, Jill be­came his man­ager and later banned him from singing.

“My wife was bru­tally hon­est. Fif­teen sec­onds af­ter I ap­pointed her she told me I would have to give up try­ing to be an artist and con­cen­trate on be­ing a pro­ducer,” he once said proudly.

“She thought I could be the big­gest in the world. It’s great when peo­ple say stuff like that be­cause you get fired up.” She also proved un­can­nily ac­cu­rate about her hus- band’s po­ten­tial as he pi­o­neered new mix­ing tech­niques and a “high­gloss, syn­the­sised, sig­na­ture sound” that changed the face of mu­si­cal his­tory.

He won a Grammy Award for cowrit­ing Kiss From A Rose with Seal and was re­garded for much of the Eight­ies as the best pro­ducer in Bri­tain. He pro­duced the char­ity group Band Aid and their enor­mous hit Do They Know It’s Christ­mas? He has also been a pro­ducer for Sir Paul McCart­ney, Tom Jones, Cher and Tina Turner.

As a cou­ple, the se­cret of their suc­cess, said Trevor, was how dif- fer­ent they were. “She drives fast and takes lots of chances. I tend to be much more care­ful and leave a dis­tance. We work well to­gether be­cause Jill runs the busi­ness and I make records, though we are al­ways dis­cussing.

“One of her best qual­i­ties is that she’s never afraid to say what she thinks. Jill has al­ways been full of life. The time to watch out is when she’s quiet.”

Dev­as­tat­ingly, for the past 12 months Trevor has been forced to cope with­out her coun­sel. He has done this, say friends, by throw­ing him­self into work. Jill may have fash­ioned a rep­u­ta­tion as an ex­tremely tough busi­ness­woman but Jonathan, who worked as ZTT’s head of press for nearly three years from 1999, says that what was less well known was her warmth.

HERE­CALLS: “She is very en­dear­ing and has a very moth­erly qual­ity.” He says he can quite imag­ine that at the mo­ment she was shot she was prob­a­bly bring­ing her son a cold drink or some­thing to eat.

“Jill, like me, is Jewish and she knew I had lost both my par­ents at quite a young age,” he adds. “The day I moved in to my new flat, sev­eral months be­fore I started work­ing for ZTT, she biked around a mezuzah in­scribed with a por­tion of holy text.

“You pin it to the out­side of your door to pro­tect the oc­cu­pant – in my case, a lapsed, 30-year-old Jewish boy, and be­cause Jill knew I didn’t read He­brew and she is quite re­li­gious, she had trans­lated the prayer you are meant to say when you move in.

“She had taken the time to buy the scroll and find out my ad­dress and do this.

“It was a very sweet thing – she knew I needed some­one to watch over me.”

The sad thing is that, as Jill’s fam­ily and friends con­tinue to watch over her and pray for her re­cov­ery, they have no way of know­ing whether they will ever reach her.

TAL­ENT: Trevor pro­duced Frankie Goes To Hol­ly­wood, above, and sang with Yes, be­low, sec­ond right

Pic­tures: INS; THE IN­DE­PEN­DENT; RETNA

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