Five months into their relationship, cracks started to appear. Having struggled with a “lack of support” during their long-distance romance, the single mum was battling a personal situation – and a source close to the star reveals that Alex, at the time, had begged Richie to relocate from Perth to her hometown of Melbourne to help her through some “dark times and a medical complication”.
But having returned to his old life on the other side of the country, the rope access technician was dealing with his own problems after an injury kept him away from work.
“Richie was struggling with money at that time,” says a friend. “He had taken a lot of time off work for filming commitments and then months more doing the publicity circuit with Alex. His diminishing bank balance had started to worry him.”
Slashing the rent by $70 a week on his empty investment property in the hope of attracting tenants, Richie, 33, also asked his sister, Alana, to move in to his home to help him pay his mortgage.
This meant he was only heading back to Melbourne for paid appearances.
“That’s not how Alex had imagined it would be,” says a friend.
“She was lonely and going through some tough times. She wanted Richie by her side and for them to be a family, but he didn’t want to keep spending money on flights unless they were getting paid for it.”
Heartbroken Alex, 27, was at an all time low and desperate for someone to lean on, so she turned to her ex-boyfriend, paraplegic Tom Barbour – a move Richie has since described as “grubby”. And while their secret reunion was innocent, Richie was furious when he found out.
“He was so angry he found out that way,” says a friend. “It sealed their fate, really, and they never saw each other again after that.”