Stars pay tribute to Bill Turnbull after journalist died aged 66 following battle with cancer

Stars pay tribute to Bill Turnbull after journalist died aged 66 following battle with cancer

Stars have paid tribute to ‘brave’ Bill Turnbull after the ‘talented’ journalist died aged 66 following a battle with prostate cancer. The former BBC Breakfast presenter’s family revealed that he died ‘peacefully’ at home in Suffolk after a ‘challenging and committed fight’ against his cancer which had been diagnosed in November 2017.  Former BBC Breakfast colleague Louise Minchin, 53, who has known Turnbull for over 20 years, said she ‘loved how he made me laugh’. ‘He had a wicked, naughty sense of humour which was infectious, and the audience and the programme team loved him for it’, she told The Sun. ‘As well as being great fun, he was a talented, insightful and rigorous journalist with a sharp eye for detail. His sense of how to use exactly the right tone when faced with the most challenging of news stories was impeccable. ‘Sitting beside him on those early mornings, I always felt I was in safe hands, and I know the viewers did, too.  ‘Both inside and outside work, he was kind and generous with his time, and his wise words were much appreciated by me and many others.’ And Sian Williams, who spent more than a decade hosting BBC Breakfast, told The Telegraph: ‘Bill joined me as BBC Breakfast co-anchor. And that friendship, forged in adversity – and laughter – continued and deepened.  ‘You don’t get up at 3.30am every morning to go to work if you don’t like who you’re working with. It meant a partnership based on companionship, not competition.  ‘When things went wrong, which they often did, we had each other’s backs.’ Former Strictly Come Dancing professional Karen Hardy described him as ‘such a gentleman, such a mentor, life-changing for me’, she recalled their first Strictly meeting. His wife described how her late husband made the family laugh every day and they were ‘immensely proud of him’. Sarah ‘Sesi’ McCombie said ‘Billy’, whom she married in 1988, was ‘dignified and brave throughout’ his five-year battle with prostate cancer which left him ‘often in pain’, adding that the final week of his life was ‘very special’. Ms McCombie said in a statement: ‘Our lovely Billy died yesterday evening almost five years after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. The last week of his life was very special, as the whole family was with him and we shared some wonderful moments. Even though he was often in pain, Bill was dignified and brave throughout, and he was his usual determined self right to the very end. Billy made us laugh every day and we are immensely proud of him – he was the heart of our family. It’s hard to imagine life without him.’ Turnbull had spoken excitedly about returning to his Classic FM show just weeks ago after a ten-month break due to his ill health. He had tweeted on August 4: ‘Roll over Beethoven – BIll Turnbull’s back @ClassicFM! Yes, I’m returning to host the most exciting classical music show on the airwaves this Saturday from 10 till 1. Don’t miss it!’  He went on to present three final Saturday morning shows on Classic FM on August 6, 13 and 20 – with the radio station tweeting last month that it was ‘a delight to have much-loved broadcaster Bill Turnbull back’. The news of his death was announced live on air by his emotional former colleagues Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt during yesterday morning’s BBC Breakfast. Both visibly tearful, the duo remembered their predecessor on the BBC One morning show as ‘our friend and former colleague’ and an ‘amazing’ journalist with a ‘wise head’.  Turnbull, who appeared on the programme from 2001 until 2016, revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis in March 2018 and detailed his treatment in a Channel 4 documentary called Staying Alive. In October last year Turnbull announced he was taking a leave of absence from his show on Classic FM for health reasons. But he returned to the radio station last month to host on Saturday mornings. Classic FM confirmed to MailOnline that his last show was just 12 days ago, on August 20. His daughter Flora, who is an English and drama teacher, tweeted: ‘We are so proud of him.’  Stayt said on BBC Breakfast: ‘Welcome back. We have some sad news to bring you this morning. Our former colleague, former Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull has died. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017.’ Munchetty then read out a statement from his wife Sesi which said: ‘Our lovely Billy died yesterday evening almost five years after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. The last week of his life was very special – as the whole family was with him and we shared some wonderful moments.’ Stayt added: ‘She goes on to say even though he was often in pain, Bill was dignified and brave throughout and he was his usual determined self right until the very end. Billy made us laugh everyday and we are immensely proud of him. He was the heart of our family, it is hard to imagine life without him.’ Munchetty continued: ‘Of course all of us here, sending love and support to Bill’s family, Sesi his wife, and I think today after we get over the shock of this we will start remembering the really fun things Bill did, like when I presented with him his energy was amazing.  ‘He came into this programme and threw everything at it, every single day. He was funny when we sat here on the sofa, he was a brilliant journalist and he loved this programme and he loved serving you, the audience. So I’m sure you will miss him, but we certainly will too.’ And Stayt said: ‘He was a wise head, he didn’t take himself too seriously when he sat here which is a great combination. BBC Breakfast played a highlights reel of Bill Turnbull’s career, which began at BBC Radio Clyde in Glasgow. He went on to report on the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Paying tribute, the short obituary clip described him as ‘a much-loved fixture in people’s homes’ who was ‘straight-forward about the condition, clear with his advice’ after he announced his prostate cancer diagnosis. Turnbull told viewers after his diagnosis: ‘For heaven’s sake go and get yourself tested – if you catch it early then that’s much better than finding out too late.’ BBC Breakfast’s obituary concluded: ‘His openness had a remarkable impact – the number of people getting treatment for prostate cancer went up by more than a third in a year. helping thousands of other men remains perhaps his greatest legacy.’ Munchetty also said: ‘I can only say that as a team, we are in shock this morning. We know what he meant to you, so many viewers, and I can honestly say that having worked with Bill so closely, Mike [Bushell, sports presenter] you did, Charlie, we all did, but he cared so much about this programme and the audience and Sesi’s words about him being funny and lively until the end, that’s what Bill did. Bushell said: ‘I remember when he joined, it was like ‘wow, Bill Turnbull’s joining Breakfast!’ We knew him as a really serious correspondent and when he joined and started working with him, I did the odd Breakfast shift and realised how funny he was, how he could change the mood brilliantly between the hard news and the lighter stuff and he was so funny.  ‘And then we developed this bandhood, and he was really instrumental in getting me more regularly on the BBC Breakfast sofa, he became a mentor so I owe him so much. And Munchetty added: ‘I did my first ever shift with him on Breakfast. My first ever presenting shift. He just, he drove this programme didn’t he? And that’s what, you know, great presenters do and great journalists do. We are of course sending our thoughts and condolence as well to Sesi and to Bill’s family. We will miss him very much. Stayt also said: ‘One side of it, of course, is the professional side that we all knew well. But the most important thing this morning of course is his family so we wish them all the best.’ Turnbull’s former co-presenter Susannah Reid wrote on Twitter: ‘Bill was the kindest, funniest, most generous man in the business. I feel lucky to have worked with him and he taught me everything. But above all, he was devoted to his family and I am heartbroken for them. RIP Bill. We will miss you so much.’ Williams also thanked Turnbull ‘for the laughter and friendship’ on Twitter. ‘Goodbye, Billy. The kindest, most generous of presenters. A wonderful friend for 30 years. And a man devoted to his family. All thoughts and love with them,’ she wrote. You will be so, so missed – thank you for the laughter and friendship xx’.  Minchin highlighted Turnbull’s sense of humour in a tribute shared on Twitter. ‘Sending my love and thoughts to the family of my wonderful friend Bill Turnbull. He was a brilliant journalist, a stickler for accuracy, passionate about @BBCBreakfast and a fabulously supportive and kind team-player,’ she tweeted. ‘Most of all he was great fun, I love how he made me laugh. Xx’ Turnbull’s family praised the treatment he had received at the Royal Marsden and Ipswich hospitals, St Elizabeth Hospice and his GP. They added: ‘He was resolutely positive and was hugely buoyed by the support he received from friends, colleagues, and messages from people wishing him luck. It was a great comfort to Bill that so many more men are now testing earlier for this disease. ‘Bill will be remembered by many as a remarkable broadcaster who brought warmth and humour into people’s homes on BBC Breakfast and Classic FM. ‘He was also a devoted Wycombe Wanderers fan and an ever-aspiring beekeeper. ‘Bill was a wonderful husband and father to his three children; his family and friends will miss how he always made them laugh, and the generosity and love he shared with those around him.’ Speaking to the Daily Mail in February 2020, Turnbull said he was refusing to plan his funeral but admitted he had chosen the music. He also revealed how he had given up alcohol, meat and was doing yoga in attempt to improve his health. He said at the time: ‘I don’t think there’s a heaven and a hell. I think, like everything else, we go into the ground, our bodies get turned into something else and we move on. ‘I believe there is a loving, benign spirit that’s with us in some way in this world, in this galaxy, in this universe. You can call it whatever you want but I believe it’s with us all the time and you can tap into it. That’s a great thing.’ He smiles. ‘I’m still learning, so in some ways I am starting [with religion] all over again.’ BBC Radio 4 Today presenters Nick Robinson and Mishal Husain paid tribute to former BBC Breakfast presenter Turnbull following his death. Speaking on the programme, Robinson said: ‘We’ve lost a very dear friend and an extraordinary broadcaster. ‘There was a warmth to his broadcasting. People who watched breakfast television every day just knew how warm Bill was and perhaps what they forgot was what a bloody good journalist he was. ‘This was a man who’d been a correspondent in Washington, who travelled 30 countries. He’d been in Moscow, he’d covered wars, he’d reported on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. ‘And that combination of a razor-sharp intellect, wit, humour and humanity came out every day when he was on Breakfast. It came out when as a reporter, and listeners of Classic FM will have heard him present beautifully as well, his love of music. ‘I remember fondly, you do (too) Mishal – we’ve both been visitors to his house – that he and his wife, who met together, they met on this programme.’ Husain added: ‘He’ll be remembered across BBC News. Bill Turnbull, rest in peace.’ Former BBC presenter Dan Walker said it was an ‘honour to sit on his sofa’. He tweeted: ‘Bill Turnbull was so kind and generous when I took over from him on BBC Breakfast. He was full of brilliant advice and it was clear just how loved he was by his colleagues and the audience. It was an honour to sit on his sofa. My thoughts are with his family and friends.’ Weather presenter Alex Beresford shared a video showing himself and Bill Turnbull attempting yoga exercises on Good Morning Britain. ‘Such sad news!’ he tweeted. ‘I had the absolute honour of working with Bill Turnbull a handful of times and as you’ll see below he was strong, flexible, professional and warm! RIP’. BBC director-general Tim Davie said of Turnbull: ‘Bill was a much loved and respected broadcaster and journalist – not just by viewers but by all those lucky enough to have worked with him. ‘He always struck the right tone, no matter what the story. Warm, wise, professional and caring, he will be much missed by us all. ‘Our thoughts go out to his family and many friends.’ Former head of BBC TV News Roger Mosey said: ‘I am so desperately sad about the death of my dear friend Bill Turnbull. I will always remember him with our dogs and in the sunshine – and with great love.’  Former BBC Breakfast presenter Steph McGovern said: ‘Absolutely gutted that our Bill Turnbull has passed away. ‘A fantastic broadcaster and a brilliant friend… I learnt so much from him. And we had some cracking arguments about how you should pronounce words like ‘poor’. We all loved him. RIP Bill.’ And BBC broadcaster John Simpson described Turnbull as ‘charming’ as well as being a ‘sharp reporter’. He tweeted: ‘Very sorry to hear of the death of my former colleague Bill Turnbull. ‘He was charming and relaxed, and managed to combine being a clever, sharp reporter with sympathetic understanding as an interviewer. And he faced a vicious disease with great courage.’ And Piers Morgan said: ‘RIP Bill Turnbull, 66. One of the best broadcasters in Britain, and such a smart, funny, warm & generous-spirited man.  ‘Fought his illness with typical stoicism, courage and humour. Bill made presenting live TV look so effortless, which was his great talent. Such sad news.’ Lord Alan Sugar tweeted: ‘Sadly Bill Turnbull has passed he was a great presenter and a nice guy R.I.P’. And presenter and writer Danny Wallace described Bill Turnbull as ‘a brilliant man’. In a heartfelt tribute, he tweeted: ‘Bill Turnbull was my friend. ‘He was hilarious, with a huge brain. He sent me a book just recently which I’ll treasure. I sent him a Beano. ‘I got a dog because one day in his kitchen he told me to get a dog. He was a brilliant man. I’ll miss you, pal. I’ll look after the dog. x’ Quiz show presenter and author Richard Osman posted a short message on Twitter following Turnbull’s death. ‘RIP Bill Turnbull, such a kind, intelligent man, and a wonderful presenter. How very sad,’ he wrote. BBC Breakfast presenter Mike Bushell tweeted: ‘We are numb devastated by the passing of dear friend and former colleague Bill Turnbull @BBCBreakfast legend, my mentor 20 years ago, incredible talent to move from the harder news of the day to lighter stories with his clever wit warmth, our love, thoughts with his family. ‘One of my favourite days since first meeting Billy when he helped me find my feet on the Breakfast sofa was a day out to watch him commentating on his beloved @wwfcofficial against @lufc 2009. ‘He was brilliant at everything he did and most importantly the most wonderful company’. And  BBC presenter George Alagiah congratulated Turnbull ‘for setting an example for all of us living with life-threatening illness’. He tweeted: ‘Very sad day for the millions who knew Bill from TV and for colleagues at the BBC. ‘Well done Bill for setting an example for all of us living with life-threatening illness. RIP’. Alagiah was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in 2014. Philip Noyce, the managing editor of Classic FM, also paid tribute to Turnbull, saying in a statement: ‘I’m deeply saddened by this news. ‘Bill was an absolute treasure of Classic FM whose presence on and off the air will forever be missed. ‘He was a very gifted journalist and presenter, and he loved radio and understood its ability to connect with people on a personal level – something he did with ease and aplomb. ‘As well as being an outstanding broadcaster, Bill was a family man, a devoted father and husband, who loved the company of friends (including the four-legged variety), and was passionate about music, football, nature and his beloved bees. ‘We have lost an exceptionally talented broadcaster, but most of all we’ve said goodbye to a fine man who will be dearly missed by us all at Classic FM, as well as his many listeners.’ Former BBC Breakfast presenter Turnbull joined Classic FM in 2016 where he hosted Saturday and Sunday programmes from 10am to 1pm.  He also launched and presented Classic FM’s Pet Classics, to help keep pets and their owners relaxed during fireworks season. In October 2021 he took a leave of absence from the radio station. Turnbull started his broadcast career at Scotland’s Radio Clyde in 1978, joining the BBC as a reporter for the Today programme in 1986 before becoming a reporter for BBC’s Breakfast Time two years later. In 1990, Turnbull became a correspondent for BBC News and reported from more than 30 countries, with notable stories he covered including the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the OJ Simpson trial. After moving back to the UK, he became one of the main presenters on BBC News 24, as it was called back then. Turnbull also worked for BBC Radio 5 Live, including presenting Weekend Breakfast. He joined BBC Breakfast in 2001 as a presenter alongside Sian Williams and they worked together until 2012 when she departed after the programme moved from London to Salford. The presenter co-anchored alongside Susanna Reid, with the pair presenting together until 2014, when Reid left the show to join ITV, and Turnbull’s other co-hosts included Louise Minchin and more. Recalling his most memorable moments from his breakfast career as he signed off from the red sofa in February 2016, he recalled ‘nearly getting into a fight with a ventriloquist’s dummy called Bob’ and wearing a jumper made of dog hair. ‘It was all right, it was just very warm and I couldn’t get the stuff off me for weeks,’ he said. He made numerous television appearances outside of BBC Breakfast, including as the presenter on BBC One’s Songs Of Praise. In 2005, he competed as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing partnered with Karen Hardy, and was the seventh celebrity voted off the show. Other TV appearances include ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Through The Keyhole; the BBC’s Celebrity Mastermind, Would I Lie To You?, Pointless Celebrities and Room 101, and he appeared in the dictionary corner for Channel 4’s Countdown. In 2011 he appeared in the Doctor Who episode The Wedding Of River Song in which he played himself. His passion for beekeeping led to the 2011 publication of his book The Bad Beekeepers Club, a humorous account of the ups and downs of an apiarist. A tweet from BBC Breakfast said: ‘Former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull has died. He was 66. He was loved by our viewers. He was loved by his colleagues. ‘Bill will always be remembered for his warmth, humour and being a brilliant journalist.’ A tweet from Classic FM described the radio station’s former presenter as ‘one of the nation’s most admired broadcasters’. The tweet read: ‘We are very sad to say that Bill Turnbull, one of the nation’s most admired broadcasters who was much-loved by all at Classic FM, has died aged 66. Our thoughts are with Bill’s family at this time.’ Prostate Cancer UK tweeted: ‘Our friend and ambassador Bill Turnbull has died. ‘Bill worked tirelessly to raise awareness of prostate cancer following his diagnosis in 2017, and it was our privilege to work alongside him. Our thoughts are with Bill’s loved ones today.’ And NHS England shared information on prostate cancer along with a message saying ‘We’re sad to hear about the death of Bill Turnbull from prostate cancer.’ It tweeted: ‘1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer – that’s a dad, brother, uncle or best mate. Read about the symptoms, causes and tests for prostate cancer, and share with your loved ones.’ Tears for the man ‘who made TV magical’: Bill Turnbull’s Strictly dance partner Karen Hardy pays emotional tribute to the BBC Breakfast icon who was her ‘mentor’ after his death aged 66 following prostate cancer battle  Former Strictly Come Dancing professional Karen Hardy wiped away tears as she remembered Bill Turnbull in a heartfelt tribute, saying he had been a mentor and crediting him with being a ‘legend of TV’. The professional dancer, 52, was partnered with former BBC Breakfast presenter Turnbull, who has died aged 66, during her first stint on Strictly in 2005. Turnbull was a contestant on the third series of the BBC One programme, becoming the seventh celebrity voted off, having danced alongside that year’s other famous faces including Gloria Hunniford, Patsy Palmer, Zoe Ball and the series winner, cricketer Darren Gough. Speaking to BBC News from New Zealand, Hardy was tearful as she reminisced about Turnbull, who was a fixture on the BBC Breakfast sofa and screens for 15 years before his departure from the corporation in 2016. Describing him as ‘such a gentleman, such a mentor, life-changing for me’, she recalled their first Strictly meeting. She said: ‘When I met him, I had had an incredible career, I had been dancing for, gosh, 20-odd years, I’d won some of the biggest titles in the world and I had long retired. ‘And out of the blue, I got this phone call from the BBC saying, ‘I’m not sure if you’ve heard about this TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, but we’d love to have you on it’.’ Describing the secrecy surrounding first meeting her Strictly partner, she said: ‘I was driven out in a BBC car, out into I don’t know, (what) seemed like a forest. ‘There was this beautiful driveway we drove up to and all the way along I’m going, ‘What have I done? I’m coming out of retirement. I’ve won these titles. What am I doing?’ ‘And I didn’t know who would be behind this door, and I remember standing there and this gruff voice came out from behind going, ‘Good Lord, can we please just get on and get this over with?’ ‘And then I met this man that turned out to be my mentor, friend, gosh, so much he ended up being and I owe him so much because it was from that first show and my debut on TV that he made TV magical. ‘He told me what it was about. He shared all the magic.’ Hardy became emotional as she spoke about Turnbull, adding: ‘For him, it was all about the truth and I remember him saying… he taught me about the news and it was always about seeking the truth and finding the truth no matter what.’ A message on Strictly’s official Twitter account said: ‘Sending heartfelt condolences to Bill Turnbull’s family and friends. A truly brilliant broadcaster turned ballroom dancer when he joined us on series three of Strictly.’
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