Inside Dragons Den star Hilary Devey's eventful life from childhood abuse & son's heroin battle to making millions | The SunJune 12, 2022
DRAGONS' Den star Hilary Devey was one tough cookie – who didn't let obstacles in life make her any less ambitious.
The telly star and haulage boss, 65, passed away from a long illness at her holiday home in Morocco on Saturday.
Her spokesman told The Sun: "I can confirm that Hilary sadly died yesterday. She had been ill for some time."
Fans will know Hilary as a the no-nonsense Dragon on the BBC series which she starred in from 2011 to 2012.
Before finding fame, the millionaire's life has been filled with sorrow and shocks with two secret family reveals, suffering sexual abuse at 12, and caring for a heroin-addicted son.
Despite the lows, she has also seen triumphs along the way.
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Devey made her first million at 40 and was handed a CBE in 2013,
Haulage boss Hilary, who was thought to be worth £50million, catapulted to fame after landing a role in Dragons' Den before going to star in a number of other TV shows.
We take a look back at her colorful life.
Hilary first faced hard times aged four when she watched bailiffs tear apart her Lancashire family home after her parents’ company went bankrupt.
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She claims it ignited a fire in her to never end up in the same position as her father, Arthur Brewster, who had to work in pubs to care for his family.
For the next few years, the family moved around for work meaning she switched schools more than ten times.
It was while the family was based in Accrington when she was prayed on by a horrific sexual abuser who kidnapped her overnight aged just 12.
Hilary told how an older girl called Sandra led her to an unknown predator who threatened to come after her parents if she shared the ordeal.
In her autobiography, Bold as Brass, she wrote: “He kept me there with him all night – the b****** who thought that raping a child was his due at the end of the night. He did it again and again."
She continued: "He just wouldn't stop and however much I kept trying to push him away, he didn't take any notice.
I felt fear rise inside me when he started pulling at the school shirt I'd left on"
"Spots covered his face and he stank of something that I would later learn was garlic.
"I felt fear rise inside me when he started pulling at the school shirt I'd left on after changing my skirt for jeans. 'Please don't,' I cried."
The businesswoman told how she was “too afraid to move or even cry out” because she thought she may die during the vile attack.
When she returned home was berated by her father, who assumed she had been out all night with a boy, and branded her a “dirty whore”.
She never told either of her parents about the abuse and sadly the heartbreak didn’t end there for a young Hilary.
Years later, her mother Minnie was left devastated when it emerged that her husband had a secret second family.
The shocking revelation would come to haunt the telly star as years later she would find out the same thing about a partner.
Secret family heartbreak
This time it would come in the form of a wife and five children – with the mother ringing up Hilary to announce who she was.
But before her love life was shattered, Hilary would first lose her father at 18 to stomach cancer leaving her devastated.
She said: “I remember the day he said, ‘I’m dying’. I was devastated but he just got on with it. He was like me – take a painkiller and go. I am my father’s daughter.”
Yet, true to form she picked herself up and headed off to work in the RAF, before returning home and meeting local boy Malcolm Sharples who would become her first husband.
Things didn’t last long as she wanted to see more of the world than Bolton. They divorced and she headed off to Europe as a rep for book-and-record company Leisure Circle.
Eventually, she was ready to settle down once again, and got a job in London's East End at a rag company.
There she met Hussein – a Turkish manufacturer – and she fell madly in love and they moved in together.
When she discovered she was pregnant with Mevlit, her only child, she thought the pair would marry and be happy as they had been together for seven years.
Destitute single mum
Instead, when her tot turned 18-months old she discovered that Hussein was already married with five children – who lived just up the road in Ilford.
Devastated, she fled with her tiny son and asked her bosses at TNT, the parcel delivery service, to leave London and they sent her to Leicester.
As a single mum struggling for money, she pushed herself hard to make ends meet and her own mother moved closer to help out.
She said: “I didn’t want my son to go without so I pushed myself hard to build a life for us. Fortunately, I was always good with numbers and I loved the cut and thrust of business.”
Early in 1996 she spotted a niche in the planet end of the haulage market and set up haulage firm Pall-Ex with £112,000 which she got by selling her house and her car.
Just as the company started to make a profit she was told her son, now 35, was severely dyslexic with a reading age of five at 11 years old.
She told the Daily Mail: “I was glad that I could afford to pay for him to attend a special boarding school in Lichfield in Staffordshire."
"But I think it was the beginning of his problems as he thought he was being pushed away. It drove a wedge between us."
Things with her son became tricky, as did her love life when she married Edwin Devey – who she now claims was just after her money and divorced months after the wedding.
As her romance hit the rocks, so did her son and he started dabbling in drugs at just 14 progressing from marijuana to crack cocaine and heroin.
Mevlit became such a manipulative and accomplished liar that I had no idea what was going on."
Despite her troubled upbringing, Hilary had no experience with drugs and didn’t recognise the signs in her child.
She said: “Mevlit became such a manipulative and accomplished liar that I had no idea what was going on,’ she says.
“When he was rushed to hospital at 17, with what I thought was appendicitis, I sat by his bedside unaware he was suffering from withdrawal.
"The medical people would only tell me that he would be all right because they were not allowed to share that information and Mevlit would not confide in me.”
He eventually confessed to her over the phone when she called him on her way to London and slowly coaxed the full truth out of the teen who was injecting heroin into his groin.
After learning the extent of his addiction problems, Hilary contacted rehab and paid for his treatment multiple times over the years.
She once estimated that she had shelled out half a million to get Mevlit sober and it took years for him to finally quit the drugs.
Mevlit was kicked out and ran away from several rehab centres.
One time she tracked her son down to Derby and had a knife held to her throat by two unknown drug addicts while she tried to save him from himself.
Eventually, he had a naltrexone implant – an opiate blocker that is inserted into the stomach – in 2006 at a treatment centre in Harrogate.
In 2011, she said: "The hardest work I’ve ever done is pulling my son back from the grip of heroin.
"He was six weeks from dying when I found out about his drug-taking seven years ago.
"It has been an utter hell. For a long time, I had to lock every door behind me.
"He would steal my clothes, food, electrical household items – anything he could sell for money to get a fix.
"He stole cash from my purse, took money out using my bank cards, and pawned my jewellery."
As part of Melvit’s recovery, he asked to see his father, and the devoted mother hired a PI to trace him leading to the discovery that Hussein had been jailed for importing heroin.
Sadly, Hilary blames herself for her son’s issues and admits to thinking that if she wasn’t as wealthy her son would never have found his way into that world.
She told the Daily Mail: “I kept thinking if only I’d not started Pall-Ex. I was busy, so when he wanted money, I gave it to him, because I wanted my child to have the things I never had, but he was buying drugs.”
Despite the rollercoaster of addiction, the mother and son have remained close with Melvit living at the family home with the table-turning and Hilary’s life in his hands.
In 2009 when home alone she collapsed but wasn’t found by her son for eight hours when he dialed an ambulance.
The businesswoman had suffered a stroke that left with sensation in her left arm and robbed her of some of her peripheral vision.
Not one to be held back, she was back working within six months.
Speaking in 2013 to the Daily Mail Hilary said: "I'm not anxious about my health now. We're here for a given period of time and Him upstairs will decide when he wants us.
She added: "I don't like getting old, but that's life. I have Botox. I'd have a facelift if I knew the results would be good, but I don't want to look like a freak."
After her health scare, she married Philip Childs who was renovating her house in Spain.
But their union was short-lived and they filed for divorce in 2013, just two years after their wedding.
At the time, she told the Scotsman: "The marriage lasted one day; then it was over, down the pan almost before the wedding reception was finished.
"Of course, it was bloody hard knowing I’d got it wrong – yet again."
The star was at her holiday home in Marrakech, Morocco, where she got stuck at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 due to lockdowns.
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She had been open about ongoing health struggles since her stroke which caused her to lose a third of her brain.
It is not known what illness she was battling before she died.
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