TV REPORTER'S SECRET- EXCLUSIVE FRONT PAGE- MAIL ON SUNDAY- JUNE 2008

This sad story tells how a girl adopted by ITN correspondent Michael Nicholson from Brazil now desperately wanted to be reconciled with him after a three year rift.


Ana-Paula Nicholson contacted us through our publicist Jonathan Hartley (www.publicityagent.co.uk).


The story was sold to the Mail on Sunday newspaper as an exclusive and appeared on the front page with three pages inside.


It looks as if- as a result of this senstively and sympathetically written story- Ana-Paula and the veteran broascaster will be reunited.


Read full story below.


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ADOPTED FROM BRAZIL: DAUGHTER ITN'S MIKE NICHOLSON KEPT SECRET.

Mail on Sunday newspaper


Veteran ITN correspondent Michael Nicholson won praise and admiration when he adopted a nine-year-old orphan girl from war-ravaged Bosnia.

He wrote movingly of their close relationship in the acclaimed bestseller Natasha's Story, on which the award-winning film Welcome To Sarajevo was based.

Today, though, The Mail on Sunday reveals that Mr Nicholson has a second adopted daughter from his travels rescued this time from the slums of Brazil.

Life of extremes: Ana Sliva Mattias who was adopted by ITN reporter Michael Nicholson from the slums of Brazil at the age of eight, has found it hard to adapt to life in Britain

But in contrast to the highly publicised and apparently successful adoption of Natasha, Ana Sliva Mattias has remained unknown to all but his closest friends and family. And, sadly, despite his generosity in giving her a new life, their relationship has now all-but broken down.

Ana has today decided to tell her remarkable story for the first time, speaking honestly about her problems adapting to life in Britain, in the impassioned hope of a reconciliation with the father she once idolised.

She was a wide-eyed girl of eight when Mr Nicholson first encountered her in the summer of 1996. He was reporting for ITN on the desperately impoverished street children of Sao Paulo, where she was scavenging to survive.

Hardened from covering 15 conflicts during his 25-year career, he was still visibly saddened by  Ana's plight. Determined to help her, he ignored professional protocol and flew her to Britain for vital medical treatment at huge personal expense.

Mr Nicholson and his family looked after her as she recovered from the operation, then decided to adopt her. They enrolled her in a private school and provided her with what they hoped was enough emotional and financial security to put her traumatic past behind her.

Yet for all the Nicholsons' generosity, and for all her seeming good fortune, things have not turned out well for the 19-year-old.

Today she is a single mother, living not in the Nicholsons' sprawling Georgian home in Haslemere, Surrey, but in a single rented room at a nearby YMCA. She has spent the past three years flitting from hostel to hostel, racking up debts and acquiring drug habits.

Father and daughter have not spoken for two-and-a-half-years.

She accuses him of neglecting her, while he says she moved out of her own accord. Both now express a desire to be reunited, and the corrosion of their relationship to this degree must be a source of anguish for Mr Nicholson.

It is not as if he was new to the difficult business of adopting a foreign child when he took in Ana.

Four years earlier, while on assignment in Sarajevo, he had smuggled nine-year-old orphan Natasha Mihaljcic out of the country and adopted her. In Natasha's Story, he told  in detail how, over the years, she had slotted seamlessly into his family, bonding with his wife, Diana, and their two sons, William and Tom.

Limelight: Michael and Diana with Natasha, their other adopted daughter, who Michael wrote about in his bestseller Natasha's Story

Perhaps he came to regret the publicity because Ana's adoption was kept secret   until now, at least.

'I had an amazing bond with Dad and I will always love him,' she says. 'I was a Daddy's girl and he meant everything to me. I regret the way I behaved when I was younger and the mistakes I made.

'But I'm angry with him as well as myself.  He has to recognise that he has another daughter, and now a grandson. I need his support more than ever and I wish we could go back to the father-daughter relationship we once shared.'

Articulate and unnervingly honest, Ana has experienced both extreme poverty and privilege in the course of her short lifetime. Shaking with nerves, her turquoise eyes mist with tears as she speaks of her love for her adoptive father.

Her natural father, she was told, had been a drug trafficker and her mother had abandoned her at birth.

Brought up by her 65-year-old grandmother, Donna Maria, the pair ate from bins and scraped a living in Sao Paulo selling cardboard boxes they picked up off the filthy streets. 'Home' was a cellar. Surrounded by crack addicts and slum gangsters, Ana was trapped in a hand-to-mouth existence with almost no chance of survival.
Shootings were a fact of life. She was given drugs to hide in her underwear when the police were around.

Disease had robbed her of her left eye and she was suffering from a rare form of spina bifida. A lack of nerve cells in her back meant she was unable to control her bowels. Desperately malnourished and needing an operation her grandmother could not afford, she was facing an early death when she met Mr Nicholson.

'At first I was scared,' she remembers. 'I'd never seen a white person before. But he shook my hand and gave me sherbet-coated sweets. A Brazilian journalist called Jan Rocha [who had put Michael in contact with Donna Maria] helped interpret, and he promised he'd be back the next day.'

Michael kept his word and by the time he had finished filming a few days later he had acquired Ana's trust. 'He seemed very interested in my life and felt sorry for me,' she recalls.

ana

Life in the slums: Ana in the slums of Sao Paulo

A few months later, Michael suggested she came to England where he would pay for the life-saving operation to enlarge her bowel. She would stay with him while she recovered. 'My grandmother explained it was the best thing for me to do,' says Ana.

'She must have been putting on a brave face, because if I'd seen her upset I would not have wanted to go. As it was I was excited.'

Jan drove her to the airport, and she was met at Heathrow by Mr Nicholson and his wife, and driven to their home. They threw away her tatty clothes, gave her shoes her first ever pair and her own bedroom. 'They gave me a pink nightie and a pink fluffy robe,' she recalls. 'I slept in a bed for the first time. It was heaven.'

Through pointing and hand gestures, she got to know her new family. 'Michael treated me like an adorable baby girl,' she says. 'Diana wasn't as friendly, but then she hadn't had as much time to get to know me.'

Her arrival also meant a sister for Natasha, who was then 15, and had little in common with the couple's sons, Tom and Will, both in their 20s at the time. 'I gave her someone closer to her own age to bond with,' she says.

'Michael told me what had happened to her. He told me more about his job as well. I got more excited about seeing him on television than the rest of the family, who'd got used to it. I'd stay up late to watch his news reports.'

Six months into her stay, Ana had her operation at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, paid for by donations from Mr Nicholson friends and family. After a month she was discharged and began a slow recovery, encouraged by Mr Nicholson.

Slowly, she learned to speak English. 'My first words were to Dad: "Cheeky little monkey." He was always tickling me and Diana taught me to say them.
'He taught me to hold a pen, and to read and write. He took me on walks to help me build up my strength, and taught me to sail. I went for drives in his Bentley, too. He said it was red, but it was pink really.
'And we loved watching black-and-white films. I soon built up a strong bond with him. He became my world and I loved him to bits.'

Michael enrolled Ana into St Bartholomew's Primary School for Girls, the same school Natasha had attended. 'Although we got on well it wasn't a sibling-type relationship,' she says.

'Natasha would do her own thing with her friends. We were very different. She had come from war and I'd come from poverty.

'We didn't automatically get on just because we'd both been taken in by Dad. Because Tom and Will were older I only really saw them at family gatherings.'

Nonetheless, in December 1998 Michael decided to adopt Ana. 'I fitted so well into the family that one day, when he picked me up from school in his Bentley, he asked if I wanted to join them for good. I was thrilled,' she says.

By all accounts, she had a charmed upper middle-class lifestyle, with lunches by the family swimming pool in summer and generous presents  for birthdays and Christmas.

At 11 she was enrolled at the girls-only Royal Grammar School in Guildford, where she excelled at lacrosse, swimming, ballet and drama. 'I made friends easily. Dad said I was naturally talented and that he was proud of me.'

Idolised: Michael Nicholson pictured touring Brazil's slums in 1996, was idolised by his adopted daughter Ana

Michael would return from jobs abroad laden with gifts for his children. 'My favourite was a teddy bear he bought from America, that I named Yankee Doodle,' she says.

'And once, when he was making a documentary on Christopher Reeve, he took me to the studio in London where I watched him do the voiceover. I was so proud.'

Yet family life was not without its complications. Diana, who as a housewife stayed home to look after the children, was clearly closer to Natasha than Ana, having had four years to bond before the Brazilian girl arrived. By the time Ana reached 13, it began to bother her.

'When Dad was away which was often  I used to feel left out,' she says. 'The only time Diana would talk to me was when she was annoyed with Natasha.'

Growing introverted, she started to question her life back in Brazil. 'I felt like I didn't belong. When he was home I'd snap at him for silly things and ask him why he'd bothered to bring me to Britain,' she says. 'I must have sounded ungrateful, but really, I just wanted to discover my past.'

She was told her mother had been uncontactable, and she didn't know whether her grandmother was alive or dead. She would often run away, sometimes for hours, sometimes days at a time. 'I'd turn up late for school or go and stay with friends,' she says.

'Sometimes Dad had to call the police. When I got back he'd say he was disappointed in me. It was worse than a punishment. I hated the thought of letting him down and I vowed to behave myself.'

There was worse to come, however. At 15 she was found to be having a relationship with one of the school's 18-year-old classroom supervisors. He was sacked and she was expelled.

Michael arranged for her to go to Guildford College to study child care the following year.

'He was devastated, but I'd begun to grow resentful about how over-protective he was,' she says. 'Having seen everything horrible there was to see in Brazil I didn't see what harm could come to me walking home in the dark.'

She started stealing from her parents, something she now very much regrets. 'I'd take the odd 20 to buy sweets and cigarettes,' she admits. 'They grew suspicious and started searching my bag. Sometimes they caught me but I wasn't punished. I just got the "disappointed" speech.'

Meanwhile, Natasha graduated with a diploma in sports science. And her profile was raised further when she revisited the Sarajevo orphanage from which she had been smuggled.

But Ana's very existence was kept under wraps by Michael. 'I'd like to think he was protecting my privacy,' she says. 'He was protective over Natasha, too, and her coverage hadn't always been good. I couldn't talk to Natasha about how I felt. She was Little Miss Perfect and had never got into trouble.'

ana

Looking for reconciliation: Ana's relationship with her adopted father Michael Nicholson broke-down but she is hoping to rekindle it

Ana, however, sank deeper. She used the money she stole to buy cannabis, and started self-harming.

'The first time I cut myself I was 14. It was after an argument with Dad,' she says. 'He slammed a door in anger and a picture frame with a photo of me inside fell from the wall and smashed.

'I used the glass to cut my arms. He made me go for counselling but I dropped out.
'I smoked cannabis because it was an escape from the depression I felt. I don't think my parents suspected. Drugs didn't belong in my family so they wouldn't think of looking out for them.'

She left home shortly before her 16th birthday, in June 2005, after another argument with Michael.

'I wanted to go to the cinema with my boyfriend of the time, a woodwork student, but he said I couldn't,' she recalls. 'I started screaming and he changed his mind.'

When she stormed past his office on her way out he called her in. 'He said that he and Diana were terrified that they'd lost me. Then he said he wanted me to meet a woman he knew who ran an orphanage in Sao Paulo.

'He said I could earn my way working for her, that he thought that was what I wanted to do. Yes, I had said years earlier that I wanted to go back, but only in a fit of anger. He knew I  didn't mean it.'

Mr Nicholson has made clear he had no intention of sending Ana to Brazil, but, terrified that he might, she ran away that night, staying at a friend's house. 'My parents called the police and all the parents of my friends,' she says.

'They knew I was all right as I was still going to college, but I didn't make contact with them for a couple of months, by which time I had handed myself in to the police. Then I wrote them a letter, saying I was sorry that I'd hurt them but I didn't want to go back to Brazil.'

From this point on, Ana and her father, now 71, take different views of how events unfolded, although both agree that the relationship collapsed to the point of near estrangement.

She says her parents' response to her leaving was to send a letter through social services in Guildford, simply wishing her luck for the future, accompanied by a suitcase of her belongings.

'None of my photos were in there and nor was Yankee Doodle,' she says. 'But they did send him to me when I asked.

'For my birthday he sent me a card with a bad joke saying, "If you think you're so much better than your parents then move out." Inside he'd written "I guess you already have. Good luck." '

A few months later, she moved in with her boyfriend. As she fended for herself she dabbled in cocaine, got in debt and, in January 2006, became pregnant. 'I called to tell Michael, as I thought he'd want to know,' she says.

But as Ana's pregnancy progressed she began to consider her behaviour in younger years. 'Knowing I was bringing a new life into the world made me think about
my own parents. Suddenly I was so ashamed of what I put them through.'

Dropping out of college, she started taking care of her health. And watching her father on TV, by now reporting on Tonight With Trevor MacDonald, she began writing Mr Nicholson more letters, and emails, at least once a week.

'I said sorry so many times,' she says. 'But I only got a few replies, and eventually Dad asked me to stop writing. He said he'd had to choose between the rest of his family and me, that my behaviour had made Diana ill and that I had made my decision. So I tried to stop.'

But she found it difficult. Her son, Maxi, was born in September 2006. Afterwards she wrote to Mr Nicholson and asked him if he wanted to see his grandson. 'He sent me a huge, expensive-looking bunch of flowers, but didn't mention a visit,' she says.

A year ago, she broke up with Maxi's father, who is also 19. She flitted from hostel to hostel, and, this January, social services gave temporary custody of Maxi to her ex's mother.

'I had run up 1,500 of debt and am not allowed him back until I have saved up enough money to be able to house us both,' she says. 'I miss him a lot and am still allowed to see him.'

She is adamant, though, that money has never been the motive behind her attempts at reconciliation. 'He sent me the odd card with 30 in it, but I never asked for any money.'

She has been staying in the YMCA in Guildford for the past three months, paid for by the council. They have provided a counsellor for her and she has now stopped taking drugs.

She is determined to put her past behind her and save up enough money to get accommodation and regain custody of her son.

'When he's old enough I want to go back to college to study drama or photography. Then I'd like a part-time job.'

She admits she is less concerned to see Diana or Natasha. She has not had any contact with either since the day she walked out. 'I've always been in her shadow,' she says of Natasha. 'Where was my book, and the film in my honour?' she asks. The tone is humorous, but she is only half joking.

What she wants most of all, however, is to be reunited with her father. Last
week she wrote another email to him, saying she was in trouble and asking him to get in touch. To her surprise, her father replied through social services, and it now seems that some level of contact may resume.

'I am ashamed of my behaviour, but in a way I was just like any other troubled teenager,' she says. 'I don't think I deserve to be cut out of his life. I want to say to him that I'm sorry, and please don't forget about me. He may have Natasha, but he's got another daughter, too.'

The past 48 hours have brought better news, however. When contacted by The Mail on Sunday, Michael Nicholson denied abandoning Ana: 'We looked after her for ten years,' he said.

'I paid for her operations and schooling and I don't think we could have done more for her.

'She decided she wanted to live her own life. I thought she was perfectly happy. She is still my adopted daughter and I would be open to the idea of being reconciled.'




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