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"I am afraid that another newspaper article will ruin me once more": Bruce Jones from Coronation Street opens up about murder, psychological distress, and invasion of privacy by tabloids.
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“I am afraid that another newspaper article will ruin me once more”: Bruce Jones from Coronation Street opens up about murder, psychological distress, and invasion of privacy by tabloids.

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Bruce Jones has had a diverse career, including being mentored by Ken Loach, playing Les Battersby on Coronation Street, portraying a discouraged aspiring stripper in The Full Monty, and being featured in tabloids. At the age of 71, he has now taken up professional wrestling.

What is the reason for his involvement in Sovereign Pro Wrestling this month? “That’s a valid question,” he chuckles as we chat at a Premier Inn in Melton Mowbray, where he is starring in a Christmas pantomime. Initially, Jones’s role in the wrestling was supposed to be a small appearance – being advertised as Les Battersby to promote another match – “but things escalated,” he explains, mentioning the overwhelming response to his announcement. “So, they asked me: ‘You don’t have a problem with getting roughed up in the ring, do you?'”

However, it soon becomes apparent during our conversation that Jones is preoccupied with more than just a brief and silly detour into wrestling. He is extremely wary of journalists and makes it clear that he does not want to delve too deeply into personal details. However, he opens up and speaks candidly about his experiences of being isolated due to rheumatic fever at a young age. He reflects on how he was confined to an isolation ward for two years, watching seven of his peers pass away. Jones recalls the emotional toll this took on him, stating, “I shouldn’t even be here. I’ve been here since I was nine.” As he speaks, the winter sunlight shines on his white hair in the deserted breakfast room, highlighting the weight of his words.

Bruce Jones as Les Battersby in Coronation Street.

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Jones was born in Collyhurst, Manchester. When he was almost a teenager, his parents split up. He was kicked out of his first school and went to stay with his grandmother in north Wales. A teacher there encouraged him to pursue acting. However, his path to success wasn’t easy. He dropped out of school at 16 and got married with a child by the time he was 18. He also worked as a pipe fitter. But at 24, he experienced something that would have a lasting impact on his life.

In October of 1977, Jones, who shared ownership of a plot of land in Chorlton, located in south Manchester, came across the deceased body of Jean Jordan, a 20-year-old victim of the notorious Yorkshire Ripper. Jones recalls, “I was taken into custody and questioned for 14 hours as a potential suspect. They believed I was the Ripper because of the tools I had in my wheelbarrow.”

The details surrounding Jordan’s death are incredibly gruesome. While the initial cause of death was consistent with other victims – being struck with a hammer – the perpetrator, Peter Sutcliffe, returned to the crime scene. He was afraid that the £5 note he had used to pay Jordan for sexual services could be traced back to him through his company’s pay packet. In his frustration, he returned to the scene days later and mutilated her body when he couldn’t find the note. The discovery made by Jones was deeply disturbing. “I’ve been a fireman and I’ve witnessed things that no one should ever have to see, but this…,” he says, hanging his head low and speaking with a quiet croak. “I never told anyone what I saw. For a long time, I was haunted by that girl’s image every day. I still have nightmares.”

Jones persevered through the pain of his past, juggling multiple day jobs while pursuing acting opportunities. His breakthrough came when he secured the lead role in Ken Loach’s acclaimed 1993 film, Raining Stones. This opened doors to other roles, including Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold, Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough, and Shane Meadows’ Twenty Four Seven, where he starred alongside Bob Hoskins.

He joined Coronation Street in 1997 as Les Battersby, a rebellious and die-hard fan of Status Quo who often sported double denim. Despite being likable, Les was known for causing trouble and served as the main antagonist to conservative characters like Ken Barlow. He remains one of the most popular and cherished characters on the show. During Jones’s time on the show, the ratings were at their peak, reaching around 20 million viewers, four times higher than the highest figures in 2023. Jones expresses pride in creating such a beloved character and believes that no one can replicate Les’s legacy.

However, shortly after Jones began appearing on the soap, the gossip magazines began investigating his background. Jones recalls, “I will always remember seeing the headline in the newspaper: ‘Bruce Jones’s hidden truth.'” He adds, “While Granada [the producers of Coronation Street] was fine with it, I was not. The next day at work, my fellow cast members were all staring at me. I felt as though I had committed a crime.”

Despite Jones’ efforts to ignore it, he could not escape the impact of Jordan’s death. One night while at a pub, the landlord informed him that there was a young man in tears at the bar who wanted to speak with him. Jones approached the man and asked if he was okay, to which the man responded by asking how Jones had found his mother. This brought back memories of the coroner’s court, particularly of a baby in a stroller who turned out to be Jordan’s son. The emotional weight of the situation was too much for Jones to handle and he had to leave. Going through it all again was simply too difficult.

After being targeted by Mazher Mahmood, known as the “Fake Sheikh,” in 2007, Jones’ life took a downward spiral. He was accused of revealing details about Coronation Street while under the influence of alcohol and subsequently left the show. Jones maintains his innocence and states that a court case is still pending. He also claims that he left the show by mutual agreement. Reflecting on the situation, Jones shares that he felt like the “Fake Sheikh” ruined his life for years and as a result, he turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. However, he acknowledges that drinking cannot solve depression and loneliness, which were also contributing factors to his struggles.

During this time, there was another significant event. The man in question admits that this was the biggest mistake of his life and becomes visibly emotional. In 2009, while intoxicated, Jones was in a car with his wife and took hold of the steering wheel. He shares, “I was feeling so low that I even attempted to end both of our lives.” He continues, “I thought to myself, ‘If I’m going down, you’re coming with me.'” Tears were streaming down his face as he expressed his desire to die. He was arrested and given a suspended prison sentence. As a result of this incident, he lost everything including his marriage, financial stability, and home. He eventually had to rely on government benefits to survive.

Jones is still clearly affected by these incidents. He expresses, “Individuals like myself are not expected to succeed, yet all I desired was to pursue acting.” However, he was constantly hounded by paparazzi wherever he went, which he deems as an undesirable way of life. He continues to worry that a newspaper may once again ruin his reputation.

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Bruce Jones and Ricky Tomlinson in Ken Loach’s 1993 film Raining Stones.View image in fullscreen

He was able to reverse the situation. Although he is currently apart from his spouse, their bond remains strong and they meet often. He expresses, “I have an intense love for that woman. We will never end our marriage.”

In 2013, Jones performed in a solo play titled TALK!! Tackling the Taboo, which focused on his battle with depression. He is currently creating a sequel called Listen, which delves into his experiences overcoming suicidal thoughts. Despite feeling less sure of himself, Jones returned to the career that he first fell in love with through his teenage admiration for Shakespeare. He explains, “My acting became my outlet for all of my emotions and passion – I fully immersed myself in each character.”

His IMDb profile showcases his versatility, with appearances in television shows, short films, and feature films. He even had a recurring role in the horror series Dark Ditties Presents on Amazon Prime Video and reprised his role in The Full Monty for its TV series sequel. While a sudden change to a career in pro wrestling is not in the cards for him, he has received offers for more gigs from the wrestling company. He jokes, “We’ll have to wait and see how many bruises I get from the first one.”

Jones is always filled with hope and positivity when discussing his job. He claims he officially retired from performing in pantomimes after Beauty and the Beast, but he is so attached to his fellow cast members that he would be willing to come out of retirement to work with them again. Additionally, he is overflowing with anticipation for the upcoming roles he has lined up and has no intentions of slowing down.

“I have a desire to pass away on a film set or stage,” he expresses. “I do not wish to die in a bed while others pity me. I would prefer to deliver my final line…and then pass away.”

On February 18th, Bruce Jones will have his first performance with Sovereign Pro Wrestling at Trinity Sports Club in Manchester.

If you are in the UK, you can reach out to Samaritans at 116 123 or send an email to [email protected]. For support from the mental health organization Mind, you can call 0300 123 3393 or visit mind.org.uk.

Source: theguardian.com