EXCLUSIVE Grief-stricken Tina Malone: ‘I’m devastated – but I feel Paul with me every day’

In a heartbreaking interview, Tina Malone opens up about losing her husband Paul just four months ago, and shares her determination to campaign for change in his memory

tina malone and her husband

by Annabelle Lee |
Published on

Over the years, Closer has interviewed Tina Malone many times, and her love for her husband Paul has always shone through, once describing him as “the fabric of her life”. But her world was shattered when she announced in March that Paul had sadly died aged just 41.

In an emotional interview, former Shameless star Tina, 61, tearfully tells us, “I am heartbroken and I will never get over it. We were so in love. Things will never be the same, but I have to be strong for Flame.”

Tina – who shares 10-year-old daughter Flame with Paul – tells us that he took his own life after battling with PTSD and depression for years, following 13 years serving in the Army.

From the ages of 16 to 29, Paul was a member of the 22nd Regiment of the Cheshires, serving tours of Iraq, Afghanistan, The Falklands, Belize and Northern Ireland. After witnessing the horrors of war, he was diagnosed with PTSD three years ago, but struggled with deteriorating mental health, particularly in the past year.

tina malone and her husband
the couple were so in love ©Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

She explains, “People keep saying to me, ‘It must have been a shock’, but it wasn’t. For me, there were no unanswered questions. Paul felt lost and useless, and he told me every day that he wanted to take his own life. When he got drunk, he would talk about Iraq and what he saw. He turned to drink, drugs, painkillers – anything to numb the pain. It is devastating.”

Recalling that morning back in March, Tina says she immediately feared the worst when she saw police cars in the local area, knowing Paul hadn’t come home the previous night. She then received a call and a knock on the door from police officers.

She tells us, “I said, ‘It’s Paul, isn’t it?’ I knew as soon as I opened the front door and I just collapsed. While the police were there with me, texts started to come through on my phone from Paul – they were delayed as I have an old phone. He told me how much he loved me and Flame.” Tearfully, she adds, “Life will never be the same again.”

It’s been four months since he passed away, but Tina – who married Paul in 2010 and describes him as a “besotted” father and “romantic and kind” husband – says the house is exactly as it was when Paul left, and that keeping his belongings close has helped her in her grief.

tina malone and her daughter
tina with her daughter danielle ©Closer

She explains, “His toothbrush is still there, I’m sitting here looking at his boots under the table right now. His gym bag is in the hall, his coats are hanging up. I’ve washed all his clothes, ironed them and put them away. Flame and I cope by talking to him out loud, we talk to him every single night. I won’t refer to him in the past tense, I can’t have it. We feel his presence every day, and without a shadow of a doubt he is here with us. It’s a comfort to me.”

She adds, “Flame ran into my room shortly afterwards and said, ‘Daddy just came into my room and kissed me goodnight’, and she says she saw him waving and smiling at her. We feel his spirit around us.”

For Paul’s 42nd birthday, which fell at the end of May, Tina says she and Flame cooked some of his favourite foods and took them to his graveside. She recalls, “People might think it’s crazy, but we cooked a ribeye steak, Flame stuffed olives with garlic and we got three bottles of Peroni beer. We took them to his grave and we sat and chatted to him. It was special to us and we felt close to him.”

Tina says that the support from the local community and her friends and family has been completely overwhelming, and has helped her and Flame in their darkest hour.

tina malone in the big brother house
tina was on celebrity big brother in 2009 ©Shutterstock

She says, “The community spirit has been incredible. From my butchers to my local Sainsbury’s. People have sent cards and flowers. Flame’s school has been fantastic, the headteacher and deputy head turned up at our door with flowers. My priest has never been away from my door. And the Army lads, they couldn’t have done more.”

She adds, “I have had friends marching in the house, one will get the leads for the dogs to take them out, the other is making me a cup of tea, cleaning and peeling spuds and carrots, bringing in bags of shopping. It has been unbelievable, the kindness of people.”

Tina says Paul’s funeral in April was a mixture of heartache and celebration, with the community and the Army coming together to celebrate his life.

“Over 500 people came and 78 soldiers lined the route,” Tina recalls. “At the church, Paul came in to I’m Jealous Of The Angels by Donna Taggart, it is a beautiful song and everyone was just wailing. He left to You’ll Never Walk Alone and his coffin had a Liverpool FC flag on it and his belt from the regiment. We are Catholics so he was buried, and I bought a plot big enough for me, him, Flame and my mum, so one day I’ll be with him in there.”

tina malone and her husband paul on loose women
tina and paul together on loose women ©Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

She adds, “After the funeral, we partied until late. We ate all of Paul’s favourite food, and I was the first on the dance floor because, well, that was just me and Paul.”

Despite honouring her husband in the most beautiful of ways, Tina says her grief is still so raw.

She says, “I saw an old couple walk past my house yesterday, holding hands, they must have been in their 80s. I thought, ‘I’ll never have that again. I’ll never be touched, picked up, kissed, loved by a man I love, ever again’. Not because it’s impossible, but it’s just not what I want. I have never and will never love any other man like I do Paul. I want to be with him, and I will be with him one day.”

As she looks to the future, Tina – who is also mum to Danielle, 42, from a previous relationship – says she will put all her energy into her family and finding some good to come of such tragic circumstances. She is dedicated to fighting for improvements to mental health services in this country and getting people support when they need it. In 2022, there were 5,642 suicides registered in England and Wales, three-quarters of which were male. The suicide risk is higher among veterans, according to the latest statistics from 2021, and Tina is calling for more support for people coming out of the Army.

She says, “Paul had been in the Army since he was 16, so at 29 he came out and said, ‘What do I do now?’ After Paul died, one of the soldiers said to me, ‘The British Army are incredible at teaching you how to be a soldier, but they don’t teach you how to be a civilian’, and that’s the problem. In other countries, when you leave, you are given a pot of money that you can use for re-training or setting up a company.”

As well as fighting for more mental health support, Tina is also launching a charity named Paul’s Flame, alongside Paul’s sister, which she hopes will become his legacy. The charity aims to help those with cash payments during desperate times.

closer magazine

She explains, “We want to create a pool of cash that can be for anyone who needs it during times of crisis: a veteran who might be homeless and need a deposit for a flat; a family who can’t afford a new washing machine or to feed their children. I know how absolutely desperate we were for help in the past, and then I think about people who have no family or friends to help them out.”

Wiping away tears, Tina adds, “I want to help those so desperately in need and show them that there is kindness out there if you look for it. I’m ploughing all my energy into being productive. I will make changes, I will do it for Paul. I miss him dreadfully, I’m heartbroken. But I like keeping him alive, I have to keep his spirit alive.”

'I'm making a documentary to help others'

Tina exclusively reveals to Closer during our interview that next month she will start filming a documentary about the high rate of suicide in the UK. She says, “Suicide is just not being addressed in this country, even though it is such a huge killer. If this documentary helps one person, I will be happy. I just want there to be changes, I want the government to do something about the lack of funding towards suicide prevention, and I want to give people hope that things can get better.”

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit Samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

For more information about Paul’s Flame, please visit justgiving.com

WATCH: Nik and Eva Speakman on how to combat mental health issues

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us