Death of a Party Girl

It is evening in Goa, the former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. The Paraiso beach club is throbbing. At one small table, Kadamba Simmons and her sister, Kumari, are deep in conversation, unaware of a pair of watching green eyes across the room. Suddenly, Yaniv Malka is upon them.

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`You are the most lovely woman I have ever seen,’ he tells Kadamba. `Is there any chance you’ll be all mine?’ At first there is silence from the two girls. Then, swiftly, Kadamba looks up at her new suitor. `Yes,’ she says, `I will.’

That extraordinary tryst was in early March last year. Within a day, Kadamba – model, actress, former girlfriend of Oasis star Liam Gallagher and darling of London’s Cool Britannia party set – had moved in with 21-year-old Malka, the penniless ex-soldier son of an Israeli schoolteacher, who called her his `Princess’ and each morning placed freshly picked flowers on the pillow for her to wake up to in his run-down rented apartment.

Just three months later, Kadamba was found dead, naked in the shower of a borrowed Islington flat with a baggage belt tightened around her beautiful neck. Last Monday, a jury found that the 24-year-old model and would-be star had been murdered by Malka. Ten months after her death, fashionable London is still mourning.

Kadamba Simmons always wanted fame, and, for much of her life, looked set to achieve it in an altogether less grisly way than was ultimately her fate.

Almost from the day she was born, at Charing Cross Hospital in London in May 1974, she had a sultry beauty that made her stand out from the crowd. She was also clever – she read James Joyce’s Ulysses when she was just 10 – but it soon became clear that she was not destined for a life of quiet respectability. She left Holland Park Comprehensive with a bad truancy record and just one exam pass (in Drama), moved out of her father’s west London home (her parents had divorced, amicably, when she was six), and rented a flat in Notting Hill, west London.

By the time she was 16, all-night clubbing had become a habit. She fell in with friends like Boy George, who had been her childhood idol. She dated Bros singer Matt Goss. And, recalls her father, John, a 50-year-old video producer: `She didn’t just go out and get a bread and butter sort of job.

She did bits of work. She would sit in a crowd on the film set, be hired by a magician to be sawn in half. There wasn’t a lot of money in it.’

Then came modelling. At 17, Kadamba became a Martini girl; then she signed a contract for Pantene shampoo. Film work arrived, too. She played alongside Julia Robertsin Mary Reilly, then secured roles in a sci-fi movie and a horror film. For a time the cash rolled in, and rolled out just as quickly.

Her weekly taxi bill soon topped [pounds sterling]400. She was having the best time of her life.

At 19, Kadamba met the man who was to be the love of her life. Nellee Hooper was 10 years her senior, but, as a record producer for Bjork and Madonna, he was well suited to a shared life in London’s fast lane. `She was completely spontaneous as a person,’ he recalled tearfully after her death. `Every man who met her fell totally in love with her. Every woman wanted to be just like her. When she walked into a room, people like Bjork or Noel and Liam Gallagher were completely humbled. Everyone would see her as a bigger star than themselves.’

Despite this adoration, after two years the affair fell apart. The dazzling couple, both fiery and ambitious, hurt each other too much. Hooper started criticising Kadamba’s figure; she began to believe that she was short and fat. Some said the speed of their existence, the all-night parties, the frenzied clubbing, wore the relationship out. According to Kadamba’s mother, Satchi, the end came when Hooper was photographed on the town with Naomi Campbell. Kadamba walked out.

At first, Kadamba coped quite comfortably, going on a clothes-shopping spree to deaden any pain. Only later did she realise how much Hooper had meant to her. She was talking about him until the day she died.

After Hooper, Kadamba searched hard for happiness, and echoes of that search can still be heard in places where the party people dwell, from the neon-lit streets of Soho, where she lived for a while in a flat above Bar Italia, to the cosmopolitan Portobello Road, where she shared an apartment with girlfriend Meg Matthews (whom she introduced to Noel Gallagher). People remember her in the Met Bar, The Emporium, Browns, Flavor in Berkeley Square and Bar Central in the King’s Road. Everyone can remember the girl whose face seemed to light up every party of the mid-Nineties.

But the search for pleasure was partly a flight from pain. Even her father admits that she slept with men out of friendship, as a way of giving and receiving affection. Notes found in her private papers after her death show that she temporarily turned to cocaine for solace, too.

It was around this time that she had her famous affair with Liam Gallagher, whom she took round to the Chelsea studio of her friend Bob Carlos Clarke, the society photographer, predicting that Liam’s new band was going to be huge. Kadamba called it a sexy, rock ‘n’ roll fling, but privately she called Liam a `northern yokel with bad table manners’. After two weeks of touring in 1994, Kadamba rang her mother to protest that the lifestyle of a rock star’s girlfriend was too exhausting. After six months, Kadamba cooled the relationship.

By then, she had taken the star role in a controversial film noir called It’s Different for Girls, which was screened on television – to her parents’ horror – after her death. Her sister Kumari calls it `bad from beginning to end’. Kadamba plays a mistress in a tangled relationship who lures her lover away from his girlfriend for sexual romps involving asphyxiation. In the end, armed with a tie and a plastic bag, she accidentally (with grotesque irony) helps to kill her lover in the bath.

Although only 21, Kadamba was both convincing and luscious in the lurid role. No one knows what it did to her young mind, but after five months of filming, there was a new man in her life: boxer Prince Naseem Hamed. Kadamba had engineered the introduction herself. Carlos Clarke spotted her in Bar Central and said he was on his way to The Emporium to see Naseem, and `she just got up and said she wanted to come along, too’.

`I got quite excited,’ admits her father. `A week before, I had seen Prince Naseem on a documentary and I thought if only those two could meet, they would spark each other off. She used to wear a leopard-skin dress when she saw him – his own trademark. But in the end, it fizzled out. He wanted her to become more Muslim in her ways, but she was still swearing and liked a drink. She never converted to Islam. She wouldn’t change.’

Not then, anyway: there was too much fun to be had. `Every time there was a trendy place or bar, she was there – every party, too,’ says Angie Klein, music promoter and friend of Nellee Hooper and Meg Matthews. `When she walked into a room, everyone knew who she was, even if they had only met her once.’

These were, says her best friend Skiny Power, wild days, with lots of drinking and all that goes with it. At her 21st birthday party – vodka-soaked strawberries and champagne at the Rose Garden in Regent’s Park – the police were called when the music got too loud; at the rented Soho flat, she gleefully ripped up the carpet and painted the floorboards silver (her father is still paying off the damage bill at [pounds sterling]50 a month); and so on.

But later, as often as not, she’d sit up all night talking – about Nellee and what might have been.

`Kadamba went on many adventures and every one of those was motivated by love,’ says Power. `She was so pushed to find that soul mate, and she didn’t want to wait for him to come to her.’

Eventually, however, Kadamba changed. She realised, says Power, there was more to life than standing around in nightclubs. The modelling jobs became a chore. The really big film offers never materialised, and she got tired of turning up at castings on time. At one stage, she was on the dole. She had once confessed that she yearned for babies, marriage and a proper home of her own. Now she was afraid it would never happen.

She began to stay in at night, to take walks in the park, to read books by DH Lawrence and watch films like Room with a View. `Kadamba stopped being the London girl,’ recalls Power. `She realised she wasn’t going to find her soul mate at parties. Gradually she became a daytime girl.’

Then, in 1997, Goa beckoned. Kadamba was asked to make a film there, Wonderland, with Scott Neal (PC Luke Ashton in The Bill). The work was hard but satisfying. Never mind that it was 16 hours a day standing in the stifling heat. Never mind that the project ran out of funds and has never been screened. She stuck it out – bravely, say her family – and fell in love with the place. The beaches, the sea, the relaxed hippy lifestyle – it all suited her. Even when filming ended, she made only a fleeting visit to London before returning to Goa. `She was no longer in the rock scene or the club scene,’ says her mother. `All she wanted was to get back to Goa.’

According to Kadamba’s sister, Kumari, the enthusiasm was mutual. Goa was as captivated by Kadamba as London had been before. `It was just the same.

Everyone knew Kadamba. They loved her.’

Kumari, a 20-year-old actress, is petite and well- spoken. But her quiet voice falters frequently as we sit in her Notting Hill flat discussing her dead sister. It is still a struggle to control her emotions, especially after the trauma of the Old Bailey trial. When the court heard detailed evidence of Malka’s clumsy, brutal killing of Kadamba, Kumari rushed from the public gallery in tears. Her sister, she says, was `my best friend’.

Kumari joined Kadamba in Goa for a six-week holiday in the spring of 1998, and was at her side when the man who would kill her walked into her life. At first, she recalls, Kadamba was entranced. Despite pleas and warnings from her then boyfriend, Kadamba moved into Malka’s rented shack the morning after meeting him.

`Every morning, Yanny would wake up before her and pick fresh flowers,’ says Kumari. `Then he’d melt candlewax into hearts and put them beside her bed.

He had no money, only a small pension from the Israeli army, so he couldn’t give her anything else. It seemed so romantic. Kadamba’s eyes were sparkling. She was glowing.

`I always thanked him for making her so happy. I used to say it because it was the only thing Yanny and I had in common: the happiness of Kadamba. But they were so different, really. He had long curly hair and luminous clothes.

A traveller. A hippy. She was a girl who had enjoyed the sophisticated life of London. She knew right from the beginning that the love affair with Yanny would not survive after Goa.’

Kumari believes that Kadamba told Malka the truth about her feelings the night he killed her. The shocking news that she wanted to end the relationship sent the Israeli into a rage. `He was in a very fragile state mentally and I think that was what may have set him off.

`At his Old Bailey trial, Yanny lied. He said that he and Kadamba tried to commit suicide. Kadamba would be the last person to do that. She was looking forward to the future – but not with Yanny.

`Even in Goa, I began to feel there was something not right about him. I didn’t really like him at all and he couldn’t stand me. He never talked about his family or his parents. He was mixed up and went on and on about hating the army. He was capable of cruelty, too. I remember looking after a kitten at a beach house which we visited. Yanny just chucked it out of the window, five times, and finally threw it in with the pigs outside. That is what he was like.’

Malka had had a string of girlfriends before Kadamba in Goa. He would give them fresh flowers, too. According to Kumari: `One girl who was screwed over by him warned Kadamba: `He’s a nutter, a maniac.’ But she just wouldn’t listen.

`He’d use drugs, normally acid, at parties, and he was secretive about how much. The last party we were at, he scared me. He was completely off his head. He was standing right by these huge speakers. He was running on the spot and his face was distorted. I know he was on drugs, but he looked completely possessed.’

It was the first time that Kumari felt really frightened for her sister.

THE FINAL CHAPTER in Kadamba’s life began in April. She was broke, Kumari was returning to London, and it seemed like a good time to return to Europe and revive her career. The day after Kumari left Goa, Kadamba and Malka left, too, initially to spend some time in Germany.

`As soon as Kadamba reached Berlin, their relationship changed,’ says Kamari. `He became emotionally reliant on her. She kept ringing home in London and saying she was really unhappy. She never said that Yanny was wonderful or marvellous anymore. She just said she hated Germany. Sometimes, things were so bad between her and Yanny that they stayed in different rooms of their flat all day not talking.’

Finally, after a month in Germany working with Malka on a fruit juice stall, Kadamba came back to London, where a film role was in the offing. She spent a week seeing old friends, arranged to borrow a flat in Islington and flew back to collect her belongings. When she returned to London a second time, leaving Malka behind, the phone calls started. `He was crying all the time,’ recalls Kumari. `He was promising he would kill himself and was hysterical.

She was trying to think what the hell to do. I felt really sorry for her.’

That was Friday, June 12. At midday on Saturday June 13, Yaniv Malka arrived like a bad penny on the Eurostar at Waterloo Station. Kadamba met him and they spent the day together.

In the early evening, she telephoned her father from the borrowed Islington flat. She was laughing at the time, and her father and Malka exchanged `hellos’ during the call. It seemed normal enough. Nothing to make anyone suspect that Malka was now dangerously unstable, or that within a few hours Kadamba would be strangled.

Kumari left London that same day. In between acting jobs, she flew to Ibiza for the summer season, to work as a waitress in the Manumission nightclub.

It was there, at 11pm on Monday, June 15, that her distraught mother arrived to break the terrible news.

`I thought there must be something wrong with Dad. The idea of Kadamba being hurt never entered my head. I begged her to tell me what was wrong. She explained it was the worse scenario anyone could possibly imagine: that Kadamba had been strangled and Yanny had been charged with murder. I couldn’t understand how all this had happened in just one day. Yanny had not even arrived in London when I left.

`That night, I cried like a baby for hours until I passed out. The pain I felt was actually physical and I can’t really remember anything after that for three weeks. Not until Kadamba’s funeral in July.’

The last time Kumari saw her sister had been the day before she left, in the study of their father’s Shepherd’s Bush flat. Kadamba was fielding yet another sobbing phone call from Malka in Germany. `I went to say goodbye because I was flying to Spain the next morning. But she was busy talking and was all upset. She looked so unhappy. I mouthed to her that she did not need all this from him. I said, `Just put the phone down’, and she just sort of waved to me. So I never did get to speak to her.

`The next day, Yanny came over to London and killed her. Today, and every day, I feel angry that because of him I never even got to say goodbye.’