"Gary Needed To Be Smothered With Love"
An interview with Donna Holton: News of the World - 1985
Donna Holton walked out on Gary in 1981 - their two year marriage shattered by his violence, drug taking and other women. But she said: "He wasn't a bad man. All Gary really needed was someone to smother him with love."
Donna, torn apart by grief after Gary's shock death, knows she will have to face his other girlfriends at the funeral. She said bravely: "I'll be the strong one there. Other girls will be crying at the graveside - but not me. I won't wear black because I know Gary wouldn't want that. He would want me to be Donna - the Donna he really loved and always came home to."
They met in a London nightclub in 1979 when Gary was an up-and-coming actor. Gary was revelling in his Cockney Charmer image - the act that was to make him a household name a few years later as Wayne in Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Donna said: "He came over to me and ordered me to buy him a double brandy and said he wanted to get rid of the girls who were hanging round him. I bought him the drink and then threw it all over him. I thought he was showing off and I wanted to teach him a lesson. He stood there with brandy dripping off him and gave me that gorgeous smile that I'll always remember him for."
Gary moved into Donna's home that night and a few months later they were married. "Gary asked me to marry him that first night, but I didn't take him seriously at first. He'd been out with rich girls and beautiful models and I was a nobody. He came one Tuesday evening and said "What are you doing Thursday?" He put a ring on the table with some marriage application forms and said:" We're getting married on Thursday so make sure you're there."
For the first ten months of their marriage Donna fought to get Gary off drugs. Sometimes he fought back physically. "Gary could be an absolute pig. He beat me up several times but it was always when he was either stoned or drunk. I was very frightened of him when he was like that, but I knew he wouldn't do it when he was sober. Once when he was hitting me I threatened to leave him. He knew I meant it and he broke down begging me to stay, I suppose other women would've left. I knew in the back of my mind that if I could stay with him I could make him better."
"I didn't mind the girlfriends, Gary didn't know what he really wanted. Half of him wanted a family - half of him wanted fame and fortune. I did get pregnant by Gary but I lost the baby. That really cut Gary up because he longed to be a Dad." Donna added: "The only girl I do feel bitter about is Sue Harrison, the Mother of his Son Red. She sold the story of his drug-taking to the newspapers just before he died." Donna said every few months Gary would return to her - just turn up on the doorstep with a carrier bag. "All he'd say was "Hi Baby, can I come back?" and I'd always take him back. It sounds though I was weak, in fact I was being strong for Gary - and me."
Donna last saw Gary three months ago when he was living a bizarre three-in-a-bed life with his lover Jahnet McIllwan and her boyfriend Brian Odgers. He was using a lot of heroin and was very depressed. "Gary told me he wanted to give our marriage another go and he wanted me to help him get off drugs and get back to a normal life. Looking back, Gary was afraid for his life. He knew how much he abused his body with drugs and drink and he knew he couldn't go on like that forever. If only I'd been able to see how desperate he was I might have been able to save him."