The extent of British designer John Galliano's long-term addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs is expected to emerge on Wednesday as he stands trial in Paris for racist insults against three people.
The flamboyant couturier, who is in a rehabilitation centre in Europe after treatment for addiction in the US, will attend the Paris criminal court hearing in front of three judges.
He could face up to six months in prison and €22,500 (£20,000) in fines if convicted of "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" after three people said he shouted racist and antisemitic abuse at them in a bar.
Several French anti-racist associations have lodged civil complaints against the designer along with the people who claim he insulted them.
Galliano's lawyer, Aurélien Hamelle, told Agence France Presse this week that the designer was in "an altered state" at the time of the events and did not remember what happened. He said the alleged comments did not reflect Galliano's beliefs as he was "not racist or antisemitic".
A source close to Galliano told the Guardian: "John is still in rehab. The treatment will be long and arduous and ongoing for a long time in the future, but he is humble, apologetic and hopeful that he can recover."
At the trial, a portrait is expected to emerge of the designer as a tortured genius suffering from addiction, overwork and personal problems.
Galliano was swiftly sacked from his post as creative director of the French fashion house Dior after he was arrested in a drunken state in February for allegedly shouting anti-Jewish and racist insults at a couple in the trendy La Perle bar, metres from his Paris home. Police said he had drunk the equivalent of two bottles of wine.
The couple told French radio Europe 1 he had said to them: "Dirty Jewish face, you should be dead" and "Fucking Asian bastard, I will kill you". He allegedly repeatedly called the woman "ugly" and a slag. A police official said Galliano exchanged slaps with the couple.
The row began at about 9pm at the bar in the Marais district, the historic centre of the Jewish community in Paris, which was heavily targeted in the deportation roundups of the Nazi occupation and which is now known as a gay area full of fashion labels.
Galliano denied the allegations and counter-sued the couple for defamation.
The trial, which is expected to last about five hours, will also deal with a second case. A 48-year-old woman came forward days after Galliano's arrest, claiming he had insulted her in the same bar in October. He allegedly mocked her appearance before making racist insults in English.
Five witnesses will give evidence, including women who were sitting near Galliano in the bar on 24 February. They will say they did not hear him make anti-Jewish remarks. Friends of the woman who claims that she was insulted in October will support her case.
Earlier this year, a video was released by the Sun online appearing to show Galliano on another occasion telling two women: "I love Hitler. People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed." No one made a complaint regarding the video and the case will not feature in the trial.
Born in Gibraltar, the son of a British plumber and a Spanish mother, Galliano grew up in south London and said his work was inspired by his mixed roots. His lavish collections and theatrical shows always ensured Dior a place on the front pages, but he was said to have been abusing alcohol and struggling to manage his heavy workload.
In a statement earlier this year, Galliano accepted the accusations had "greatly shocked and upset people" but denied the claims made against him.
But he added: "I must take responsibility for the circumstances in which I found myself and for allowing myself to be seen to be behaving in the worst possible light. I only have myself to blame and I know that I must face up to my own failures and that I must work hard to gain people's understanding and compassion.
"Antisemitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offence."
Please login to add to favorites
Already added to favorites
Added as Favorite