The last time Steven Leeman saw his mother in
the flesh was in Asda, about six weeks ago. ‘She walked past me with her
trolley. Brushed, really,’ explains the 17-year-old.
‘She was so close I could have touched her
hair. But she blanked me. That’s how it is with us. It wasn’t a one-off —
believe me I asked myself that the first few times it happened.
‘We live in the same town and she frequently
walks past me in the street, and doesn’t even wave or say: “Hi, how are you
‘She just walks past, like I am a stranger,
worthless to her. Which I guess I am.
This rejection by a mother would be
devastating for any teenage boy to deal with, but all the more so for Steven,
given the events that have since unfolded.
The next time he saw his mother was on TV
earlier this week. She was brandishing a rather large cheque for the cameras.
He has been seeing a lot of her since — in the
papers, on the news, in his head when he lies awake at night — thanks to her
becoming, in an instant, one of the richest women in
Most sons would be whooping with joy to learn
of their mother’s £101 million lottery win. But most sons are not Steven. And
most mothers are not Angela Dawes.
Just hours after arriving at a press
conference in a Harrods helicopter, trilling about how she was going to make 15
or 20 of her best friends ‘sort of millionaires’, it emerged that Angela Dawes
was unlikely to be including her own son in her charitable list.
Steven had not, he revealed, spoken to his
mother in two years, and only found out about her win via the media. A winner
whose only desire is to share her happiness?
He could hardly believe what he was hearing.
Not only had she walked out on her family, he claimed, she had abandoned them to
the debt collectors.
Hardly surprisingly, Steven and his father
John are still shellshocked when I meet them
If they are merely resentful gold-diggers —
which is always the suspicion in these circumstances — they are peculiar ones.
It is late and they have been at work and
college all day, but they turn down the offer of a meal in the hotel where we
meet because it is ‘too posh’, and ‘not for the likes of us’.
Many things are not for the likes of them, it
seems. They don’t do the Lottery, for starters. ‘We used to, but it got hard to
justify that £1 every week, in our position,’ says John.
Angela, his former wife, obviously thought
differently. ‘She always did,’ John says, with barely concealed anger. ‘She
specialised in spending money she didn’t have. It is a slap in the teeth to be
‘You know that it is a lottery — meaning
anyone can win, you don’t have to be deserving. But still. All through
everything — the debt collectors coming to the door, us getting the Child
Support Agency to chase her down for money she owed; having Steven sobbing his
heart out because his mum didn’t want to know him . . .
‘I kept telling myself that one day, she will
get her comeuppance because it is only fair that people like her do. Yet, what
has happened now? She’s richer than bloody David Bowie.
‘I can brush it off myself, but for Steven it
‘He has gone out of his way to put his mother
out of his mind because of the hurt she has caused him.
Being ignored in Asda is hard enough. But now
he has to see her on the front page of every newspaper, and talking about how
generous she is to boot!’
And what a peculiar place Steven now finds
himself in: the penniless son of a multi-millionaire. A multi-millionaire who is
still, they assume, being pursued by the Child Support Agency.
‘She was supposed to pay £30 a week for
Steven’s care. It’s been four years now and she has not made a payment,’ says
John. ‘The CSA were chasing and chasing, threatening
John laughs, suddenly aware of yet another
little irony of their topsy-turvy situation.
‘The latest is that they are sending me an
investigation pack and they want me to prove to them that she is living beyond
the means of somebody who says they have no income. Well, I hope they’ve been
watching the news this week.’
Steven, meanwhile, is facing impossible
questions from friends at college. ‘People have been coming up to me and calling
me Ritchie Rich, and asking if my mum has bought me a Porsche. They say:
“You’ll be sorted for life, mate.” I say:
“Don’t count on it. I don’t.” This is a woman who couldn’t even manage a
Christmas card, or phone call, and they don’t cost much.’
He is angry, yes. Embittered, too. And most
would say he has every right to be. But his frustration is clearly about more
than not having the right trainers or a new car.
Halfway through our interview, he takes out
his phone and shows me a beautiful coffee table he designed as part of his
woodwork studies. He gleefully explains that it has long been his dream job to
make bespoke furniture.
‘But the odds are against me. Funding has been
withdrawn for that bit of the course. To do it, I would have to go to Liverpool
or Newark, and it would cost silly money.’
How much is silly money?
‘£5,000 or £6,000.’
Small change to his mother now. Whatever has
gone on between them, it is surely a petty woman who would deny her only child
the paltry (in the circumstances) fees for college, I venture.
Steven knows better. ‘You would not believe
what she is capable of. When I had decided to live with Dad — not that it was
really a decision, because she gave me no choice — there were things in the
house that I wanted. My games console, books, DVDs, CDs. My things.
‘She — through her solicitor — made me write a
list of everything that was mine in the house. It went on for four pages. Then
she quibbled about it.
for that, so it is mine”.
‘I’d say: “But it was a birthday present.”
‘She’d say: “It doesn’t matter. I paid for
‘Anything she wanted, she took. Without
asking. My own mum.’
There are, of course, two sides to every
story. Thus far, Angela Dawes has declined the chance to tell hers beyond
issuing a formal statement through Camelot saying that she is ‘saddened’ by
reports that she had abandoned her son.
‘A lot of what has been said since my divorce
has been untrue and very hurtful,’ said her statement. ‘I’ve always wanted to be
in contact with my son, who I love dearly, and very much still want to rebuild
If true, it’s news to Steven, who has heard
not a word from his mother since her win, and doesn’t expect to any time soon.
So how on earth does a once-happy family descend into this mess? Steven has no
He likens his mother’s rejection of him to
‘being punched in the face by a complete stranger, for no reason. It was that
And while divorces are always a painful
experience for any family, there isn’t anything in John’s version of how their
marriage fell apart to explain why a woman would turn her back on her child.
John and Angela first met 19 years ago, when
they both worked for the same product distribution company. But by the time
Steven was a baby, John had lost his HGV licence after suffering a blackout at
Eventually their house was repossessed and
they were given a council house in Wisbech. Despite the financial hardship, John
maintains that they were still a happy family.
He started driving taxis. Soon, Angela joined
him in the business, but it was when Steven approachwd secondary school age that
things began to go wrong.
‘At some point being a wife and mum wasn’t
enough for her,’ explains John. ‘She started to go partying, clubbing.
Where she used to finish work to spend
afternoons with Steven, now she just dropped him at home, and went straight back
out. Was she working? I don’t know.’
By now John had regained his HGV licence and
taken a job that involved driving to Switzerland and back every week. It sounds
as if that, coupled with Angela’s socialising, wrecked family life.
‘Even when we did have a day together, it was
always spent shopping,’ he remembers. ‘All me and Steven did, for years, was to
carry her bags.
‘She had 40 or 50 pairs of jeans, and her
clothes took up 90 per cent of the space in the wardrobe. I kept clothes in my
cab because there was no room at home.’
Then John became convinced Angela was having
an affair, maybe more than one. ‘There was always talk.
‘Other drivers would be round our house while
I was away. I was suspicious, yes. She started wearing matching underwear, which
she had never done before. She had three phones. The signs were
Steven had his own suspicions. ‘Men were
coming to the house when Dad wasn’t there.’
Did he confront his mum? ‘She told me to go
back to bed.’
When Steven, then 12, was away on a school
trip to France, Angela pulled the plug on the marriage.
John returned from a work trip and found his
clothes on the driveway.
‘There was no discussion. No explanation. I
was just out, yet she lied to Steven and told him I had left them. That was out
Then began the tussle over custody of Steven.
At first he lived with his mum, but saw his father frequently. But he still
wanted to know why they weren’t living together.
‘I never found out why they split up,’ says
Steven. ‘If I asked about it, she would shout at me. Her exact words were: “If
you don’t like it the way it is, you can live with your father.” And that was
John arranged to meet Angela to get some
clothes from the house. ‘She turned up, opened the boot, threw one bag at me and
said: “As far as I’m concerned you are both dead,” and drove
Again, Angela may well have her own version of
all this, but when contacted by the Mail for a response, Camelot merely said she
did not wish to go beyond her earlier statements on the matter.
What is true — and documentable — is that from
this point the relationship went downhill. ‘It was like a farce,’ admits John.
‘Who would think of a son writing to his mother through a solicitor, but that’s
what Steven had to do. It destroyed him.
‘When she finally said — through her solicitor
— that she wasn’t going to fight for custody, and didn’t want to see him, he was
distraught. I remember him sitting on the stairs sobbing his heart out. Even our
solicitor said he had never come across a mother not wanting access to her own
Running alongside all this was the fact that
John was struggling to stay afloat financially. ‘She left me with nothing,’ he
‘Worse, she did a runner on all the debt she
had acquired. I reckon there was £20,000 all in. Then we started to get letters
about store cards, mobile bills, council tax.
‘By this point we didn’t know where she was
living. She screwed us, completely and utterly.’
It was a source of bemusement for John that at
the press conference this week Angela, although not married to her current
partner Dave Dawes, had changed her name to his. John has his own theory why.
‘She had debts in the name of Brett — her
maiden name — as well. I don’t know if she changed her name to Dawes purely so
the courts couldn’t find her, but I do know that it took months to find her to
serve the divorce papers, and we had to give photographs for them to actually do
it, so they could ensure they’d got the right woman.’
Angela Dawes must have known that this
questionable past would come to light as soon as she put herself in the
spotlight. Why on earth did she agree to go public with her win? ‘Attention,’
‘Ange always craved attention. Katie Price is
her idol and she will love being famous.’
Steven says the last time he cried over his
mother was on the day his parents’ divorce came through.
‘I cried the whole weekend. Then I decided I
would never cry again. I ripped up all the photos of her, and only kept one — of
us on holiday at Disney — because it reminded me of such a great time. It’s on
the back of my bedroom door, but I put masking tape over Mum’s
Does he still love his mum? ‘No. The love is
99 per cent gone. Maybe a bit more actually.’
That sounds more like hate than love. ‘Yeah, I
That brings us to the question he can’t
honestly answer: would he accept her money, were it on offer?
‘I want her to pay back the money she owes us,
pay off the debts Dad took on because of her. But more than that? I don’t know.
It would depend on why she was giving me money. If it was so that she looked
good, then no, I don’t want it.
‘She could give me every penny of that
£101 million, and it wouldn’t make up for what she has done.
‘She will never be my mother again. That’s
something you can’t buy.’
It’s impossible to see how this story can have
a happy ending, and Steven knows it. Even if his mother comes waltzing back into
his life, scattering cash in her wake, he is not the little boy she
He looks back at the picture of his coffee
table that he is so proud of.
‘I mean, she is my mother, but she doesn’t
even know me. She knows nothing about me, my hobbies, my dreams, my life. And no
amount of money can put that right
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