THOMAS COHEN arrived alone at court. It was a sobering moment. The tall, attractive 24-year-old stood in front of the coroner at Gravesend Old Town Hall to answer questions with great dignity about the demise of the woman he loved, Peaches Geldof. Members of the press said they’d expected a show of strength from Geldof’s family, but, on the day, her husband chose to appear alone and without legal representation.
His long hair looked unkempt but he wore smart black trousers, a waistcoat and a tie. There was concern that he would stumble and he appeared extremely nervous, but didn’t break down, and the hesitant catch in his throat lessened as he carried on answering questions with moving honesty. Coroner Roger Hatch led Cohen through the evidence sensitively, prompting him to revisit the painful months earlier this year that led up to the death, from a heroin overdose, of the beloved mother of his two children.
Hatch asked whether Cohen had believed his wife when she told him her drug tests were negative and he replied that, in hindsight, he now presumed that this was not accurate. He went on to speak about finding messages on the 25-year-old’s mobile that indicated she was taking drugs again, and he said he’d confronted her then; she led him to her stash of drugs hidden in the loft, where there was £500-worth of heroin; together they flushed it down the toilet.
Cohen left the courtroom through the back door, having left the impression of a well-brought-up, mature young man who had been a steadying influence on Peaches Geldof, and a deeply devoted husband.
It was Cohen who found his wife’s body on April 7 this year at their home in Wrotham, Kent, with fatal levels of heroin in her system. Their one-year-old son Phaedra was also in the house. Since then Cohen, Phaedra and the couple’s other son, Astala, two, have been living with his parents in New Eltham, south-east London, where there are frequent visits from his older sister Holly, 26 — a devoted aunt. A source says Cohen is now looking for a new home for his young family.
Bob Geldof has spoken about how “amazing” they are; how they are “doing fantastically with the children”; and 17-year-old Tiger Lily, Peaches’ youngest sister, gets on well with Cohen.
Like Bob, he’s a musician, and he sang the Leonard Cohen song Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye at his wife’s funeral, accompanied by family friend Jools Holland.
A source close to the family says that the dignity and honesty that Cohen displayed on Tuesday comes in part from his parents — committed Jewish socialists who met on a kibbutz. The local rabbi has been helping them in their grief. Cohen is described as “incredibly mature and grounded” and the picture that emerges of his family is one of a stable, loving unit. The same source (who asked not to be named) said the family is attending therapy.
Peaches was also very close to the family and Sue Cohen, Thomas’s mother, regularly spoke to her on Facebook and Instagram, delighting in the growing family. She captioned a picture of her grandchildren on a recent family holiday: “A lot of people to squeeze into a photo now!”
Cohen grew up in south London and went to Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar, where former pupils include illustrator Quentin Blake and journalist Will Hutton. His mother Sue is an artist, and Cohen recently took his sons to her exhibition of wooden sculptures at the Enclave Gallery in Deptford. Keith, his father, is a social worker for Lewisham council and works with young people. A friend says: “He is an incredible man; a devoted social and youth worker. Thomas has also done some social work in Lewisham but doesn’t like to make a big deal of it.”
Cohen and his sister had a happy childhood — trips to Kew and holidays by the seaside. He and his school friends experimented with eyeliner, Sixties music and vintage clothing; in 2008, they formed the band S.C.U.M. Cohen was the lead singer. He delayed university in order to concentrate on music and found success, touring Europe and working with the Rough Trade record label, as well as with Portishead and The Kills. The band played all over east London, in the Shacklewell Arms and the Old Blue Last. Bassist Joseph Williams left amicably because he wanted to pursue his law studies; in January 2013 the band split. However, they remain very close; Cohen’s former bandmates are incredibly fond of his sons and have been helping him through the past months, sending him lots of music videos.
Cohen and Peaches started dating in December 2010; they mixed in the same music circles. She had returned to London after living in the US and a brief marriage to American Max Drummey, also a musician. She said at the time that this marriage was “a little bit nuts”.
From the very start, Cohen and Peaches were infatuated; they shared a love of music, particularly of Lee Hazelwood. Cohen told a newspaper how captivated he’d been by this warm, intelligent, funny woman: “From the moment we went out ... I knew that I didn’t want to spend a day away from her — really for the rest of my life. I fell in love the first night we spent with each other and it was the same for her.”
Cohen loved to cook for her and she in turn spoke about how she had never been happier, and how proud she was of his talents as a musician. Their son Astala was born in April 2012 and they married in September that year, in St Mary Magdalene and St Lawrence church near Faversham, Kent, where Peaches’ mother Paula’s funeral was held. Phaedra was born the next year.
Cohen said he’d always wanted to be a father, and Peaches was a firm advocate of attachment parenting; she spoke about how having children had altered and anchored her. Her friends say she would bring her babies in to work meetings. Both sets of grandparents helped out with childcare, and Sue Cohen was particularly close to the boys, posting pictures of them playing musical instruments and commenting on how they were following in their father’s footsteps.The couple moved to Kent in October last year and neighbours say they seemed a pleasant, loving young family. But another friend says that Peaches struggled with the move. “She didn’t like living in the countryside and he did. They grew apart before Peaches died, because of the drugs — his family hate drugs.”
Peaches had a history of drug abuse, but had been trying to control that. Five months before her death, the coroner reported, she was clean. In the weeks before her death, she regularly attended rehabilitation appointments and collected subscriptions for the heroin substitute methadone. On the day Peaches died, the children had been with their father and grandparents while Thomas rehearsed some new music, inspired by Scott Walker. Cohen’s father brought Phaedra home and Peaches gave him a bath. At the inquest, detective Paul Fotheringham, who led the investigation, said: “There is no indication that Peaches intended to take her own life ... ”
After her death, Cohen led the tributes: “My beloved wife Peaches was adored by myself and her two sons. I shall bring them up with their mother in their hearts every day. We shall love her for ever.”