Smoke and Mirrors

Stuart Rattle and Michael O’Neill were the perfect couple. Country boys from working-class backgrounds, they were bon vivants and lovers, the envy of all their gay friends—until tragedy struck. Stuart Rattle was at the peak of his design career, feted and entertained by hosts whose invitations were gold. A ‘Rattle’ interior was his ticket into this exclusive lifestyle. Michael O’Neill, his loyal and loving partner, employee, dog’s-body and whipping boy, was always three steps behind, never in the limelight. In the words of Paul Bangay, the international garden designer and Stuart’s former partner, ‘Michael really had to fit into Stuart’s way of life … Stuart had a definite style and lifestyle, and Michael took on that persona.’ It worked for sixteen years, until the fateful morning when Michael violently killed Stuart as he lay in bed. He tucked him neatly back in and brought him cups of tea, takeaway curries and glasses of wine, trying to convince himself he hadn’t committed this terrible deed. They even watched TV together. Five days later, Michael tried to preserve his much-loved partner’s dignity by setting fire to their apartment. How did it all go wrong? Smoke & Mirrors is the tragic life-and-death story behind the headlines.