Ashley Jensen dad

Ashley Jensen was abandoned as a baby by her dad and has ‘a secret sister’ she hasn’t met

Ivar Jensen has spoken to press in the past and admits he walked out on Ashley when she was a baby

Actress Ashley Jensen is currently playing a cop with a secret past in crime drama Shetland, but she’s had to battle her own family troubles in her real life – not least her absent dad.

Ashley, 54, portrays DI Ruth Calder in the popular BBC show, who replaced favourite Douglas Henshall in series 8. Ruth reluctantly arrived on Shetland to follow an investigation, but viewers soon learnt she was born on the Scottish island. She has a past she wants to forget, and a troubled relationship with her dad…

And the dramatic storyline isn’t so different from her own childhood. While Ruth’s Reverend dad disapproved of his daughter’s behaviour, Ashley’s dad just disappeared.

Here’s everything you need to know about Shetland star Ashley Jensen’s difficult relationship with her dad, who spoke to the press after she became famous.

Ashley Jenson in Agatha Raisin
Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin in the cosy crime drama of the same name (Credit: Acorn TV)

Who are Ashley Jensen’s mum and dad?

Ashley Jensen was born on August 11, 1969, in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. She was raised by her mother, Margaret, in Annan, until she left home at 14 to study drama at the National Youth Theatre in London.

Speaking about her mum, Ashley once said: “My mum Margaret was a single parent but, though life was a bit of a struggle, she gave me every encouragement.”

Talking to the Guardian about the beginnings of her career in acting, Ashley recently revealed her mum was an early audience member: “Making people laugh was always something I enjoyed. It’s an intoxicating feeling to command the atmosphere of a room in a positive way. Even before I started doing theatre I was a comedy-centric child and a keen observer of people. I’d do daft voices and put on little shows for my mum. At school I always felt like I was an outsider, but in a positive, eccentric way.”

She went on to say: “I loved to dress up, and could often be found painting freckles on my face or sticking a bit of facial hair on my chin so I could look like a man. My mum used to say to me, ‘Why are you dressing like that?’ because I’d experiment with weird clothes.”

Ashley Jensen’s dad Ivar Jensen was not around during her childhood, or since. He left the family home when Ashley was a baby. In the past, Ashley has refused to talk about her absent dad.

Who is Ashley’s dad?

Ashley Jensen’s dad is Ivar Jensen. He admits he left Ashley and her mum when she was just a baby. Talking to the Daily Mirror in 2006, after Ashley’s career had taken off, he revealed he hadn’t seen his daughter for more than two decades. That was 17 years ago.

Ivar Jensen, who would now be 79 if he’s still alive, walked out on Ashley’s mum, Margaret, the year after they wed. He left Margaret with baby Ashley to bring her up alone, after cheating on her.

Years later, Ivar admitted he was “a total bastard” to her. He stopped paying any maintenance when he married another woman and had two more children. However, while Margaret and Ashley struggled, Ivar became a multi-millionaire property developer, “with a Bentley parked in the drive of his £750,000 Lancashire home”.

Speaking to The Mirror, Ivar said: “I’d rather she wasn’t famous. Then I could talk to her. Being famous makes it difficult for me, because Ashley might think I’m getting in contact because of that very fame.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of her. But I bet she doesn’t like her fame – and nor do I. For me, it doesn’t matter whether she is a secretary or on the dole, I will still be proud of her. Her fame means nothing to me.”

Talking about his relationship with Margaret, he described how they met in a self-service restaurant 1964, and became “childhood sweethearts”.

The couple married in Glasgow in 1968, after Margaret became pregnant and, with no money, began married life in a caravan. Ivar was later offered a building job in London soon after qualifying as a civil engineer.

Margaret and Ashley subsequently went back to Scotland while Ivar served out his notice in England. Despite following them back, Ivar had an affair with another woman and had a child by her.

Ivar revealed he DID meet Ashley when she was a teenager in 1985, but she didn’t “warm” to him.

Ashley Jensen on Graham Norton's sofa
Ashley Jensen recently appeared on The Graham Norton Show (Credit: PA Media/Ian West)

Does Ashley Jensen have a secret sister?

Two years after his tabloid interview with the Mirror, Ivar spoke to the Daily Record in 2008. He claimed that Ashley has a sister she has never met. He said she is nearly the same age as Ashley and looks similar to the Ugly Betty star.

Ivar has fathered four children by three women. Ashley with his first wife Margaret, two children Vicky and Jamie with his second wife Jacqueline Preston, and a fourth child was the result of his affair while married to Ashley’s mum.

He said: “I had an affair when I was with Ashley’s mum and that’s where my other daughter came from. She came out of the blue. Then her mum committed suicide. It’s like something out of a Mills and Boon novel.”

Talking about his daughter Gillian, Ivar said: “She looks like me and Ashley. Gillian hasn’t spoken to Ashley.”

Read more: Ashley Jensen, who plays DI Ruth Calder, ‘doesn’t know if there’ll be another series of Shetland’

YouTube video player

Shetland continues on Wednesday nights at 9pm on BBC One.

What do you think of Ashley Jensen’s story? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor