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'Queen of Clean' Lynsey Crombie: 'The first I knew that my husband was a paedophile was when the police came and took him...'

TV's 'Queen of Clean' Lynsey Crombie talks about the pain of finding out her first husband was a child sex offender and how she allowed herself to fall in love again, writes Hannah Stephenson

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Lynsey Crombie.

Lynsey Crombie.

PA

Lynsey Crombie.

She's dubbed TV's "Queen of Clean", with regular slots on This Morning, some 184,000 Instagram followers and now a new book - her third - called The Easy Life, packed with quick ways to clean and manage your home.

But Lynsey Crombie turned to obsessive cleaning long before her TV career took off, back when she discovered, while heavily pregnant with twins, that her first husband was a paedophile.

"It's not easy to talk about. I had moved to Newcastle with him for his job (he was an executive for a multinational company) when I was 24. I was pregnant at the time and as soon as we moved there, he was on his computer a lot more and things weren't quite right," she says.

"Then one morning, at about 5am, the police knocked, ripped my house apart and took him away. That was the first I knew. I had no inkling beforehand that anything was wrong.

"I was young, I'd met this man who was affluent, nice house, career-focused, and I suppose that, at that age, you don't see the bigger picture. He was seven years older than me, which I think makes a difference. We had met in a bar through an ex-boyfriend."

She recalls that, when he was arrested, the police refused to tell her why.

"I rang his parents, who lived nearby, and told them he'd been arrested, and they said, 'Oh, no, not again!' They knew he'd done it before.

"I was in a state of shock. I'd relocated into this little village outside Newcastle and didn't know anyone. I didn't have a friend. I didn't know how to tell people, because I didn't know what to say. I was numb. I was a mess."

She believes the shock brought on premature labour at 28 weeks and she was rushed into hospital.

"I had to focus on me and the health of the babies, because that was the next traumatic thing - the thought that my babies might not survive.

"Olivia was 2lb 1oz - she came out crying, she was a miracle baby. Mollie was 2lb 11oz, but had everything wrong with her that you can imagine - she wasn't breathing, she had suspected meningitis, she was a mess."

The babies were flown to a specialist unit in Edinburgh. The next day, Crombie drove herself, while still connected to a catheter, to Scotland to be with them.

The babies remained in hospital for weeks and it was when she returned with them to the house in Newcastle that the obsessive cleaning started.

"I vividly remember bleaching my surfaces and my arms. It was as if I'd touched him. It was weird. The girls had to have a sterile environment, so that was also on my mind."

The day the twins were discharged, social services and the child-protection team visited Crombie to fill her in on her husband's crimes.

"I just remember slapping his mother around the face because I was so disgusted that she hadn't told me."

After that, she severed all contact with him. Shortly afterwards, she returned to her parents' home in Peterborough before renting an apartment nearby to start afresh.

"That's when I started cleaning all the time. There was nothing else to do. I was stressed and angry. As I got stronger, I started to reconnect with old friends, but it was really embarrassing to tell people."

Cleaning became her therapy when counselling didn't help, she recalls.

"I had counselling, but it didn't work. I used to come out of the sessions feeling ill and I tried all the Diazepam, but it wasn't for me. The only thing that worked was cleaning.

"Whenever I was uptight and stressed, I'd start cleaning. As long as I was scrubbing something, I felt better."

She says she doesn't know what happened to her ex-husband. The last she heard from him was when she received a letter from him at Durham Prison when the twins were toddlers.

"I've got those letters in a box and I've showed the twins (now 16), but that's it."

In those early dark days, she admits had suicidal thoughts.

"There were times I didn't want to be here. I did consider suicide, on and off until the girls were about two-and-a-half. If I hadn't had children, I know I would have done something.

"I used to scratch my arms all the time. I thought about overdoses, I wasn't eating and got very ill through lack of food. People told me I looked ill.

"But I had no money either. My diet was fig rolls and cups of tea, until I met Rob (her second husband)."

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Lynsey Crombie.

Lynsey Crombie.

PA

Lynsey Crombie.

The trauma sparked years of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), when she would clean incessantly, which ironically has been the making of her career.

"Cleaning saved me," she states plainly. "It pulled me out of a dark hole."

The OCD hasn't quite left her, she acknowledges, admitting she currently has 17 vacuum cleaners, which she keeps in the garage.

Today, she is happily married to second husband Rob, who works for a pharmaceuticals company, with whom she has a 12-year-old son, Jake.

They met when the twins were 18 months old and her mother had offered to look after them during the day, so Crombie could rebuild her life. She got a job as a receptionist in a doctor's surgery; Rob was a medical rep.

"I wasn't very nice to him at first, but we got there in the end," she says, smiling. "The day he asked me out, I texted him back telling him everything, that I was going through a messy divorce and my ex was a paedophile, that I had twins who were poorly."

Despite this, he still pursued her.

"It took years for Rob to win my confidence. It's only been in the last four years I've been okay. Rob is a kind, caring man. He put up with a lot."

After she had Jake, she set up her own cleaning business and later worked on a local magazine, when Channel 4 called to put an advert in for a hoarder with a dirty house for the show Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.

When she told them about her cleaning obsession she was soon appearing on the show, which then led to a job selling cleaning products on a shopping channel and a regular slot on ITV's This Morning, a popular lifestyle blog and a devoted social media following.

"I do clean a lot, but nowhere near as much," she says. "Today (it's lunchtime), I've only vacuumed twice, but I'll do it again before bed. That's good for me."

The Easy Life by Lynsey Crombie is published by Welbeck, priced £12.99

Belfast Telegraph