Katie Hopkins’ image as a super-bitch is a fiddle according to her former violin teacher – as old photos emerge of his “sensitive” and “unassuming” student.
Keith Chivers says the acid-tongued Big Brother star was once charming, well mannered, popular, always on time and respectful.
New pictures have emerged showing the controversial star aged 17 at music class clutching a novel and wearing a turtleneck sweater and heart-shaped locket.
Her butter wouldn’t melt smile led to teachers and fellow pupils describing her as a model student and teenager.
She attended Stella Maris School in Bideford in Devon and gained awards for public speaking.
She also played violin for Bideford Youth Orchestra for six years – having passed Grade 8 at age 14.
Graham Andrews, publicity officer for the orchestra, said he would never have guessed what would become of the “convent girl”.
He said: “In those early days of Beethoven sonatas and Bach fugues there was no indication of what to follow.
“She worked her way up from third violin to become orchestra leader in her final years.
“In her early days she was quiet, unassuming, always easy to talk to and mixed well with Bideford Youth Orchestra colleagues.”
Music teacher Keith Chivers remembers her as a perceptive and talented musician.
He said: “She was sensitive and mixed well with all the others. She was outstanding musically, a talented violinist.
“She was never late and she was always respectful and listened well.”
It came as a huge surprise to Keith when he saw controversial Katie on television.
She said: ‘”To me, she will always be that sensitive young musician. In those days you couldn’t help but be charmed by the young Katie.
“I’d love to think that she is still playing her violin.”
Fellow violinist Lewis Andrews added that Katie was “the life and soul of the party”.
He said: “There was no inkling of her future career when we used to hang around.
She was just great fun and pleasant company.”
And Lewis thinks the TV persona is all an act.
He said: “My own view is that there is a certain front to her. She had found a very niche niche in the celebrity market for an outspoken lady.
“If she came in and was lovely everyone would get bored. They want her to say all those bitchy things.”
Steve Whitaker, rotary club youth exchange chairman, also remembers the young Katie as an avid traveller.
He awarded her with a year bursary from Bideford Bridge Rotary Club to go to Australia when she was 17.
He said at the time: “Katie’s quite a girl. She will be a good ambassador for our club, for North Devon and for England.”
Once sweet Katie said at the time: “I just want to see everywhere in the world.
“I’m hoping to take my violin out too – if there’s room on the plane.”