Ronan Keating’s former mistress has spoken for the first time about their passionate affair — and how the Boyzone singer wept as he swore his love for her again and again.
Dancer Francine Cornell, 28, revealed how the pop star’s heart was torn apart during their year-long relationship by the anguish of deciding whether to leave his wife Yvonne and their three kids for her.
But she denied wrecking the couple’s marriage, claiming Ronan and Yvonne were already drifting apart.
And she insisted he was the one that made the running in their romance, telling her, ‘I need you. I can’t not have you in my life’ — then wooing her with hints that they would one day wed.
Francine said last night: “I have constantly been painted as the scarlet woman who ruined a perfect marriage. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The marriage was already in trouble before either Ronan or his wife knew who I was.”
Ronan, 35, met the leggy blonde in 2009 after she was hired as one of eight dancers on Boyzone’s six-week UK and Ireland tour.
And she was stunned when he told her out of the blue during a soundcheck that he’d fallen for her.
Their affair led eventually to Ronan and Yvonne separating in 2010 — and to an announcement last April of their planned divorce after 14 years of married life.
Francine was living with boyfriend Nick Robbins in Chelsea, West London, when she got her Boyzone gig, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
She said\, “Getting a big arena tour was amazing. I’d climbed the ladder and finally got where I wanted to be. A few days into rehearsals the boys came and said hi. They were really friendly. I remember thinking that they were like schoolboys…always messing about.”
Francine added, “Ronan was lovely. After a while I noticed he’d look at me and I thought, ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ I was secretly panicking. One day near the end of the tour he came up to me at a soundcheck and said, ‘I’m really sorry I keep staring at you, I can’t help it’.
“Any girl would be flattered, but it made me a little nervous. Then one night after a show in Newcastle, everyone on the tour went to the bar at the hotel.”
“Up until that night I hadn’t had a proper conversation with Ronan. He can be very quiet. But gradually people drifted away and we had a one-on-one conversation. We found out more about each other…we were both on the same wavelength. It was as if we had known each other forever. Everything was very easy and natural.”
Francine added, “Not a lot happened on the tour, though we kissed. One night we sat up talking, eating a packet of Monster Munch (pommie chips/crisps) together. We were chatting and I realised the relationship I was in wasn’t right, because I was feeling something for somebody that was more than I was feeling for the person I was in a relationship with.”
“However when we walked away from the tour in June, Ronan didn’t have my number and I didn’t have his. ‘That was that’, I thought — ‘Back to our real lives we go’.”
But the couple’s relationship was instead about to reach new heights.
Francine said, “A couple of days later I got a phone call and it was Ronan. He had got my number from his bandmate Stephen Gately.
“Ronan said, ‘I needed to speak to you, I miss you. I want to see you. I’m in London next week, will you come and see me’? I was relieved I’d spoken to him. I went to meet him and that was that. It was so good to see each other. We’d really missed each other.”
The pair began a clandestine affair, meeting in hotels on Ronan’s regular trips to the UK from Ireland. But after each visit, he would slip back home to join his family.
Francine, who then split with boyfriend Nick, said she understood Ronan’s need to return home.
She said: “I said to him numerous times, ‘You’ve got to go back to your wife and kids. If it’s not working for you, come and find me’.
“He led me to believe that his relationship with Yvonne was more platonic than anything else. He loved her dearly — she was the mother of his children — but he wasn’t in love with her. Life on the road meant they’d led separate lives. It doesn’t condone what I did, but that’s the place he was at.
“Sometimes Ronan and I would agree that we would end it and that we wouldn’t ever talk again.
“Then he’d ring up crying, saying, ‘I can’t do this any more, I need you, I need you. I can’t not have you in my life’. I’d say, ‘No you have to go back and make it work’.
“He was the one who pursued me, most definitely, I made the mistake of falling for it and not having the strength to walk away.”
Stephen Gately became Francine’s confidant, meeting her for coffee and chatting with her about Ronan. His death at 33 in October 2009 brought Ronan and Francine closer.
Francine said: “Ronan took the news really badly as he was in a bad place to start with emotionally.
“His life was in tatters. He and Yvonne had grown apart, so he needed me then more than ever.”
Francine believes Ronan was fearful about the effect that news of their affair may have on his career.
“Ronan was constantly worried about what other people thought of him with his squeaky-clean image,” she said. “As a Catholic, leaving his wife would just be the worst thing and everyone would judge him. Obviously we could never walk down a street hand-in-hand. We went for dinner once and I’d fly out to his solo tour whenever I could.
“One of the nicest things we ever did was to get separate taxis to Hyde Park in the middle of the night to go for a walk — both wearing hats to disguise ourselves.
“I never asked Ronan to leave Yvonne. He was the one who’d bring it up. He’d say, ‘It’s you I love, you’re the one I want to be with. I love Yvonne as she’s the mother of my kids, yet I’m in love with you. But I can’t do this to my children’. Once I asked, ‘Do you think I’ll still see your name on my phone in 20 years’? He said, ‘In 20 years, we will be married’. At the time it was nice and I think it’s what he believed.”
When Yvonne rumbled the affair, she reportedly flung Ronan out of the $5 million Irish mansion they shared with children Jack, 13, Missy, 11, and seven-year-old Ali.
Francine said: “She was furious and acted like any woman would.”
After trying and failing to patch up his marriage, Ronan began spending time in Australia where he has now fallen for 30-year-old TV producer Storm Uechtritz.
Last week Ronan went on TV to talk about betraying his wife, and said in an interview with Piers Morgan: “I was wrong.
“I made a choice and because of that there were devastating effects in people’s lives.”
New love Storm gushed after the interview: “The rest of the world finally got a real glimpse of the incredible man I know — genuine, kind, loving and trustworthy.” But Francine, who is moving to Canada for work after the saga dented her career, still finds it hard to move on.
She said: “Ronan and Yvonne have managed to move on and find peace. I’d like to be able to do the same, but I’ve never had closure.
“I think a part of me wishes that could be me — that that could have happened then. But now is different and I just wish him well.”