Whatever happened to Amy Winehouse’s ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil?

The couple in 2009  (Yui Mok / PA Wire)
The couple in 2009 (Yui Mok / PA Wire)

Amy Winehouse’s soulmate. The troubled ex-husband who inspired the singer’s Grammy Award-winning album Back to Black and divorced her to “set her free”. A “junkie” and “hopeless heroin addict” who admitted introducing her to the drug and remains — in the eyes of many fans — the individual responsible for her untimely death from alcohol poisoning at the age of just 27.

These are just some of the phrases used to describe Blake Fielder-Civil, the tall, charming, tattooed production assistant Winehouse first met in a pub in 2005, married in a spontaneous wedding in Miami, and later divorced after a tempestuous and often violent six-year on-off relationship — now the subject of a star-studded new biopic, Back To Black, directed by Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson, and starring Industry’s Marisa Abela.

Former Bafta rising star Jack O’Connell, 32, who starred alongside Emma Corrin in Netflix’s recent adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, plays Fielder-Civil. He was seen during filming this week, dressed in Fielder’s trademark hat, chains, and rings, with red scratch marks across his face as he and Abela recreated the day Winehouse and Fielder flew to an Essex rehab centre together in 2007.

Unlike previous on-screen depictions of Winehouse’s life, which her father Mitch says have cast him as “the villain”, the new film is being made with the blessing of Winehouse’s family — fuelling speculation that Fielder-Civil, 40, now known by the shortened surname Fielder, will be made the villain of this particular show.

“I don’t think I ruined her, no... I find it disrespectful to imply I was some Machiavellian puppet master,” the recovering drug addict and self-described actor Fielder said four years after Winehouse’s death, adding that he felt like he was “paying the price” for the years he spent with the singer.

Several years later, in 2018, he told Piers Morgan that he would “always carry a burden of guilt” for what happened to Whitehouse, but that, “Amy didn’t do anything Amy didn’t want to do”.

“I feel I am the only person that’s ever taken responsibility and has done since Amy was alive,” he said, in a nod to the singer’s father, Mitch Winehouse, who had previously accused Fielder of “killing” his daughter.

Fielder – now a father-of-two with his ex-wife Sarah Aspin and believed to be living in Leeds with a new partner, Bay Wright – has since claimed he wants to reconcile with Mitch and “genuinely plea for his forgiveness”. That reconciliation is not yet believed to have taken place, though Mitch’s ex-wife, Winehouse’s mother, Janis, 66 has since defended Fielder, saying their love was “complicated” but “intimate and genuine”.

So what became of Fielder, what’s his relationship with Winehouse’s family now — and what will he make of his villainous casting in Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming film?

Certainly, Fielder’s absence from public life since Winehouse’s death stands in stark contrast to the period before it. For years, theirs had been a love story for the ages: a meeting of two artistic souls over a jukebox and pool table in a Camden bar in 2005, in a whirlwind romance that played out in the public eye and quickly turned into a tabloid staple. Fielder, a part-time literature student who made a living handing out flyers for local nightclub Trash, was in another relationship at the time – but that ended within a month, and he and Winehouse quickly became inseparable. She had ‘Blake’ tattooed on her chest within a week of meeting. He got ‘Amy’ inked behind his ear. Six months in, he left her for his ex-girlfriend and Winehouse released Back to Black, the now-iconic breakup album largely credited for catapulting her to global megastar status.

Six months later, Winehouse and Fielder were back together, surprising their families with a shock engagement in April 2007. They eloped to Miami Beach in Florida a month later without their families and Fielder is reportedly seen in wedding footage shouting: “Who’s paying for this? I’m broke!” – fuelling speculation he was after Winehouse’s money, which he has always denied.

Backstage at Coachella in 2007 (Michael Buckner / Getty Images)
Backstage at Coachella in 2007 (Michael Buckner / Getty Images)

Back at home, Winehouse reportedly tried crack cocaine and heroin for the first time — the moment loved ones say she noticeably changed. The relationship quickly became a destructive and turbulent one. Arrests, public spats, and rehab stints followed, one of which resulted in a now-notorious photo of the couple: him with scratches on his neck; her in smeared eye make-up and bloodied ballet pumps, which he has since said was fuelled by a row in which he self-harmed. They claimed to love each other unhealthily; that they would have died for each other. “I feel love is somehow killing me,” Winehouse herself is heard saying in old footage. They divorced in 2009, him claiming it was to “set her free” from the tabloids and silence her father Mitch, who had accused Fielder of being “manipulative”.

Fielder went on to have a brief relationship and a son, Jack, with another woman, Sarah Aspin, whom he met in rehab, before continuing an on-off relationship with Winehouse in 2010. He and Winehouse had reportedly planned to remarry, but he ended up in jail for burglary and possession of a firearm.

Winehouse started dating a film director called Reg Traviss and, by the time Fielder was released from prison, Winehouse was dead, found face-down on her bed by her live-in security guard after drinking massive amounts of vodka while watching YouTube videos of her own performances.

“I’m beyond inconsolable… my tears won’t dry,” he said on hearing of her death from behind bars, a month after he went in in 2011. He was banned from the funeral by her family, who blamed him for enabling Winehouse’s drug usage and introducing her to heroin despite her addictive character. He later got back together with Aspin and had another baby, a daughter called Lola, before splitting up again.

“She always thought I’d end up with Amy,” he has said of Aspin. “When [Winehouse] passed away, I guess she didn’t plan on me still being in love with someone who is not there. It’s almost harder in a way.”

Amy Winehouse with her then-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil (Chicago / PA Photos)
Amy Winehouse with her then-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil (Chicago / PA Photos)

The story has long since been heralded as a cautionary tale of the trappings of fame and drug addiction and Fielder, long blamed for Winehouse’s spiral into addiction, has remained largely in the shadows in the 12 years since. He is believed to be living in Leeds, after being released from the city’s prison in 2013, with many a media appearance over the past decade – some by choice; many more unlikely to be. In 2015, he told an interviewer he was drug-free, had been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and regretted introducing Winehouse to heroin, in a candid interview littered with many other bombshell claims: that he has since met a new girlfriend; that Winehouse had phoned him in jail and told him, “It’s always been you” before her death; that he had since been paid by a newspaper to be photographed visiting Winehouse’s grave for the first time — a decision he now says he regrets.

“I don’t think I ruined her, no. I think we found each other and certain people need to realise that she did have other addictions before she met me. She wasn’t a happy, well-adjusted young woman, you know, and I find it disrespectful to imply I was some Machiavellian puppet master,” he said at the time. “It sounds so ‘Woe is me’, but in a way, I’ve sacrificed a lot for those years with Amy... I almost feel like I’m being punished... If Amy were around now, she would still have the same issues. It’s what made her who she was, what made her so funny, or brittle, or pithy, or warm – all those good and bad things about her. It was who she was.”

Amy Winehouse and Blake leave their home in Camden, London (Joel Ryan / PA)
Amy Winehouse and Blake leave their home in Camden, London (Joel Ryan / PA)

The following year, Fielder was reported to have been put on life-support after a drug and alcohol binge – the same year he made a brief appearance in Lily Allen’s music video track LDN, in which he is seen trying to sell the singer flowers. Months later, he publicly claimed Winehouse had “slashed herself” in a bid to take her own life just eight weeks before she died.

Three years after that, days after the eighth anniversary of her death in July 2019, he infuriated Winehouse’s family further by making a £1 million claim to her estate (he’d already received a payoff of £250,000 after their divorce), with his lawyer arguing that Fielder was with Winehouse for six years, during which time she released some of her bestselling material. The family said Fielder “deserves nothing”.

“This is someone who spent a lot of Amy’s money during their time together,” a source close to the family said at the time. “He also spent a lot of their marriage in prison, bringing nothing but pain to everyone. To give him another penny would be too much. To say that it would be inappropriate for him to benefit from her estate would be an understatement.”

Just weeks later, Fielder made what many saw as another attempted money-grab, trying to flog “unseen” images of Winehouse. In November that year, he was arrested on suspicion of arson after a fire broke out in his flat in a 16-floor towerblock in Leeds. He had reportedly invited his neighbours in to “come smoke on this crack pipe.”

“I hope they lock him up and he doesn’t come back,” a neighbour reportedly said after his arrest, others calling him “a problem tenant” in the block. However, Fielder was not charged.

In July 2021, Fielder popped up in the press again, this time in pictures showing him kissing his new girlfriend, Bay Wright, at a service station as they pumped up the tyres on their car. The pair were said to be living together in a two-bedroom flat in Leeds, with Wright confirming that she was in a “serious relationship” with Fielder and was “pretty protective of Blake”.

“The proposal seems to have come very fast,” a source told The Sun later that month, of the pair’s rumoured engagement. “And while Blake and Bay seem besotted with each other, they do come from very ­different worlds,” a source said. “Bay is lovely – very ­normal and down-to-earth. But ­suddenly she is ­rubbing shoulders with stars like Pete Doherty, who Blake is still pals with. They kept the romance quiet for a while. She was telling friends that she was dating a music producer. She is very happy, but those close to her hope they haven’t moved too fast.”

The couple has kept a low-profile since then, but Fielder was photographed smiling on a walk with a female friend in Notting Hill in June last year. The last time he was publicly seen was five months later, in November last year, when he appeared at the inquest of his younger brother Freddy, 27, who died of a heroin overdose in a £40-a-night Leeds hotel after escaping from a mental-health hospital.

A mugshot of a younger Blake Fielder-Civil, in 2008 (Metropolitan Police / PA)
A mugshot of a younger Blake Fielder-Civil, in 2008 (Metropolitan Police / PA)

So what do we know of Fielder’s upbringing? His parents, Lance Fielder and Georgette Civil, divorced before he could walk and his mother remarried a headmaster called Giles, who Fielder had a strained relationship with. He also had a difficult relationship with his two stepbrothers and became severely depressed, reportedly cutting his wrists from the age of nine. He studied at Bourne Grammar School in Lincolnshire and started experimenting with drugs during his time there, dropping out of school at 17 and sleeping rough before getting a job in a pub and moving to London. He started hanging out at the nightclub Trash and taking cocaine, later working as a music video production assistant. Sometime before he met Winehouse, he was reportedly taking part-time literature and history of art courses at Birkbeck College in Bloomsbury.

Fielder met aspiring singer Winehouse four years later, in 2005, at a pub in Camden – and their relationship quickly became serious. Winehouse’s manager Nick Godwyn has since recalled an obvious shift he noticed in her. “Amy changed overnight after she met Blake,” he once said. “Her personality became more distant. And it seemed to me like that was down to the drugs. When I met her, she smoked weed but she thought the people who took class-A drugs were stupid. She used to laugh at them.”

Blake (right) spotted leaving Amy's house in north London (PA)
Blake (right) spotted leaving Amy's house in north London (PA)

Winehouse’s flat in Camden reportedly became a hub for musicians and drug-dealers after she met Fielder. Despite introducing her to heroin, he denied claims she had been on the drug for years. “In fact, me and Amy only used drugs together for maybe six months of our marriage, that was it. And, before that, Amy didn’t use drugs.”

For many years, at least, Fielder has appeared conflicted on the subject of his responsibility for the singer’s drug abuse. “Always, always but also I’m not ready to be the only person any more,” he said in 2015 when asked whether he feels responsible. “I feel I am the only person who has taken responsibility and has done since Amy was alive.”

Fielder’s mother, Georgette, has since taken part of the blame – for her son’s addiction, at least – on herself, saying she “wasn’t strong enough” to admit her son and daughter-in-law were addicts until it was too late. “He was her drugs mule,” she told The Sun in 2014. “I’ve finally seen him for what he really is — and it has broken my heart... I was in total denial that the son I loved was a hopeless heroin addict. I even watched him swallowing packets of drugs, wrapped in foil.”

Fielder wasn’t the only one in the relationship to become violent as a result of drugs. Winehouse found herself getting into physical altercations, too, assaulting a female fan at Glastonbury in 2006 and admitting afterwards that she’d “chin” Fielder, her then-husband, if he “says one thing I don’t like”.

The following year, Fielder assaulted a pub landlord and was sentenced to 27 months in prison for the attack and for later perverting the course of justice by trying to bribe a witness not to turn up in court. While he was locked up, Winehouse reached the peak of both her fame and her addiction, selling millions of records and winning five Grammys, including best new artist, song of the year, and album of the year. She dedicated her awards to her parents – and famously to, “My Blake, incarcerated”. In April 2008, she was arrested for slapping a man who tried to hail her a cab and, the following month, she was caught smoking crack.

Winehouse spent time in St Lucia and in rehab and reportedly began to realise the toxicity of her marriage. Shortly after his release from jail, Fielder filed for divorce, citing adultery and that he found it “intolerable” to live with the singer. The divorce was granted in 2009, but Winehouse continued to struggle with alcohol addiction. In June 2011, her European tour was cancelled after a disastrous gig in which she threw her mic to the floor and walked off stage. A month later, she was found dead.

Amy Winehouse and ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil (Yui Mok / PA Wire)
Amy Winehouse and ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil (Yui Mok / PA Wire)

Fielder reportedly dropped the second half of his surname, Civil, because of an estrangement from his stepfather – and indeed, his entire family. He refuses to talk to the press about his children to protect their privacy but interviewers who’ve met him over recent years say his tattoos tell a story all on their own: ‘Amy’ behind his ear in a nod to Winehouse, ‘Sarah’ on his back and his other arm in a nod to Aspin, and reportedly a ‘Chloe’ somewhere else on his body, plus the names of his two children, Jack and Lola. “Two fast to live, too young to die,” reads another, in a presumed nod to Winehouse.

Whether that quote is a nod to Winehouse’s early death is unclear, but Fielder’s most prominent tattoo is certainly unmistakable: an image of Winehouse, there on his forearm, holding a red balloon and crying. What will he make of O’Connell and Abela’s depiction of their relationship?

A clue might lie in his comments on his previous on-screen portrayals. “I feel that maybe, since the last film about Amy came out about two years ago, the documentary [Amy], there’s been a certain sort of shift in the blame to other parties,” he said in 2018. “But I feel that before that, pre that — and probably still now — I’m the only person that’s taken any responsibility.”

This latest biopic probably won’t help that feeling. The question now is, whether he’ll choose to speak out.