Who is CJ de Mooi, the former Egghead arrested over alleged ‘killing’?

He changed his name to de Mooi which means ‘the beautiful’ in Dutch


Once, he was best known for his slick hair and quizzing prowess. Now, he’s making headlines for a murder he allegedly committed in the Netherlands 20 years ago. Here is the story of the quiz master we have grown up with on our screens – and how he came to find himself in court after writing about the “killing” of a homeless man in his autobiography.

Yorkshire roots

Born Joseph Connagh, he spent his youth in Barnsley, West Yorkshire, before running away from home aged 17, following an abusive childhood. After spending some time homeless in Rotherham and Sheffield, he travelled to London, where he got a ferry to Amsterdam, then moved on to Cologne to embark on a modelling career which lasted for four years.

Tumultuous youth

In a 2014 interview with the Daily Mirror, CJ revealed that his upbringing was so far removed from the celebrity lifestyle he’s become accustomed to. He told the Mirror: “I grew up in a violent, racist, homophobic household in Rotherham. It just wasn’t me”. He spent two months sleeping on a park bench in Rotherham before he made the decision to walk to Sheffield, around six miles away, “with just the clothes on [his] back”, before hitchhiking to Waterloo’s “Cardboard City”, a shelter built by the homeless, and the homeless, in London. Here, he resorted to shoplifting and began begging to survive, recalling that he was “frightened the whole time”. After a year there, he stowed away on a ferry to Amsterdam, where he slept rough for 18 months before heading to Cologne.

Change of name

Aged 19, de Mooi changed his name by deed poll and said: “I no longer want to be associated with my family” and “I don’t refer to them as my family. They are just blood relatives”. De Mooi translates into Dutch as “the beautiful”; a reflection of his modelling career at the time.

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A stroke of luck

A chance encounter outside a club in Cologne changed everything for de Mooi. He met a model scout who gave him some money to get him off the streets, and told him to contact the agency for work. “I was unbelievably lucky”, says de Mooi – and he was, as he found work in the modelling world which allowed him to build up enough money over four years to make his way back to the UK where he turned his life around, beginning his quiz career, and becoming hugely involved with Amnesty International

Quizzing career

In 2000, the vegetarian and teetotaller began applying to quiz shows, and found himself on The Weakest Link, where an angry outburst won him a place on a “bad losers” version of the show, which he went on to win.

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In 2003, he became one of the original members of the Eggheads, dubbed “Britain’s greatest quiz team”. He announced that he was leaving the show to pursue an acting career. Apparently, the acting world didn’t suit him, as he returned to Eggheads a few years later, replacing 77-year-old Daphne Fowler.

Autobiography

CJ, who is a three-time London Marathon finisher, first came under fire for claims he made in his 2015 autobiography, titled CJ The Autobiography of CJ de Mooi: My Journey From the Streets to the Screens. He wrote, of a mugger he claimed to have punched and thrown into a canal in Amsterdam in 1988: “He caught me on the wrong day and I just snapped… I fully suspect I killed him. I’ve no idea what happened to him”.

Arrest

After touching down at Heathrow airport on Wednesday 21st September, CJ was arrested and detained under a European arrest warrant issued in the Netherlands in connection with the murder claims he made in his autobiography. The Dutch authorities are requesting a grant for further questioning about the incident, and de Mooi has been granted bail until November, when he will attend a further hearing.

He appeared cheery on Twitter this morning, saying: