Among the growing stack of sexual assault claims being made against former BBC presenter Tim Westwood, surely the most alarming are those made this week by four women who were still children when the former BBC Radio 1 DJ allegedly preyed on them.
One was just 14 in the early 1990s when she says Westwood, then in his 30s and one of the most influential figures on the British music scene, had sex with her.
She says it later led to her trying to kill herself.
Another was a 16-year-old schoolgirl when, in 1997, she claims Westwood, who turned 40 that year, started an ‘unhealthy and controlling’ sexual relationship with her.
In total ten women, all of them black, have now come forward with highly disturbing allegations about Westwood’s predatory sexual behaviour spanning a 30-year period.
Throughout his time at the BBC, Tim Westwood openly made heavily sexualised comments to female stars or commented on their bodies while interviewing them on air (Pictured: Westwood at the NEC in Birmingham)
One accuser, who was just 14 in the early 1990s at the time of the alleged incident, says Westwood, then in his 30s and one of the most influential figures on the British music scene, had sex with her
The hip-hop DJ, who is the Suffolk-born son of an Anglican bishop and often mocked for his pseudo-Jamaican accent, vehemently denies any wrongdoing but a growing number of claims have been made against the now 64-year-old in recent months and years.
The Met Police says it is carrying out enquiries. The BBC is conducting an internal review regarding their former employee who presented Radio 1’s Rap Show for 19 years before leaving to work for Capital Radio in 2013.
But perhaps the most troubling question of all is why it has taken the BBC so long to look into Westwood’s concerning sexual behaviour?
For, until last week, BBC bosses, including director-general Tim Davie, denied knowing about any allegations despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Cambridge-educated Davie admitted in April — when several women went public with claims against Westwood, ironically via a BBC3 documentary — that their testimonies were ‘shocking’ and ‘appalling’, but insisted: ‘I’ve asked and we looked at our records and we’ve seen no evidence.’
Yet, as the Mail has discovered, claims about Westwood’s disturbing sexual behaviour, particularly towards young, vulnerable black women, have been circulating for years, including on social media where, in 2020, testimonies circulated under the hashtags muteTimWestwood and survivingTimWestwood.
‘Whatever the BBC may say, there were always alarm bells going off about Tim Westwood but nobody wanted to hear them,’ said leading black British author and TV presenter, David Matthews.
‘The BBC ignored all the warning signs because Westwood made them cool and up to date. He gave them a line into hip-hop which was becoming mainstream and he was one of them, a middle-class white man, so they cut him a lot of slack.’
In 2004, when he fronted the BBC series The Trouble With Black Men, one of the researchers suggested Matthews interview Westwood who, despite being white, had become one of the biggest names in the black music industry.
‘I said, “thanks but no thanks”. I didn’t want to lend him any credibility,’ says Matthews.
Rising to fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Westwood’s seal of approval, or its absence, could make or break music acts.
He gained further fame as host of the UK version of the MTV show Pimp My Ride between 2005 and 2007.
Westwood presented Radio 1’s Rap Show for 19 years before moving to Global’s Capital Radio
And while the BBC’s statement about Westwood last April said it had ‘strict codes of conduct’ for employees, in 2006, with Britain facing a problem with street violence, then Prime Minister David Cameron accused Radio 1 of encouraging knife and gun crime, singling out the station’s Saturday night schedule which featured Westwood’s hip-hop show.
More recently, Westwood, who has never married and is believed to live alone in West London, has been heavily criticised for promoting ‘drill’ music, which glorifies gang violence, murders and stabbings and features lyrics often derogatory to women.
In 1999, he was hit in the arm during a drive-by shooting in Kennington, South London, after a gunman on a motorbike riddled his car with bullets.
Westwood later said the attacks were linked to gang activity and were an attempt to extort money and prevent him from playing in the area.
His chosen career couldn’t have been more unlikely for the son of Bill Westwood, the former Bishop of Peterborough who was, until his death in 1999, a regular contributor to Radio 4’s Thought For The Day as well as a member of the Broadcasting Standards Council.
Westwood, who was born in Lowestoft in 1957, was privately educated at Norwich School but later transferred to Hewett Comprehensive.
He left education after his A-levels and earned money as a roadie, setting up sound systems for DJs. By 1982, he had a slot on the pirate radio station London Weekend Radio. From there he went to Kiss FM and then Capital.
He arrived at Radio 1 in 1994 at a time when the BBC station was desperately trying to shed its ageing audience and ‘redefine the mainstream’ as then Radio 1 Controller Matthew Bannister put it.
According to David Matthews: ‘Back then, all the gatekeepers to black music were white and he came along, the son of a bishop, and morphs into the template for Ali G.
‘You could not make it up. He was foisted on to black people who accepted with a cynical shrug that this is how Britain does things.’
After the BBC3 documentary which featured claims of sexual assault and predatory behaviour by six anonymous black women, Westwood’s latest employer, Global Radio, the parent company of Capital Xtra, announced he had ‘stepped down from his show until further notice’.
At that time Westwood, who goes by the nickname Big Dawg, insisted that any sexual encounters were consensual but, throughout his time at the BBC, he openly made heavily sexualised comments to female stars or commented on their bodies while interviewing them on air.
Suggestive and sexist remarks during recorded interviews were made to, among others, Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland.
Westwood offered to massage her and suck her big toe after she complained of feeling unwell. He asked rapper Nicki Minaj for a lap dance while on air.
In May 2009, during Radio 1’s annual Big Weekend festival which was held in Swindon in Wiltshire that year, he put his arm around Grammy-nominated Barbados singer Shontelle while interviewing her and said: ‘Can we just turn around and see what’s happening at the backside?’ — before the camera panned to her buttocks.
When she thanked him ‘for having us’ on his show, he replied: ‘I’ll have you any day, darling.’
He went on to suggest that they went to a dressing room and ‘put the engaged sign up, lock the door, put the blinds down’.
While the singer replied: ‘You’re too much, Tim,’ he added that he was going ‘off to find two condoms’.
But it is the testimonies of the vulnerable, young women who allege they are Westwood’s victims that are most disturbing of all.
Six featured in the BBC3 documentary Tim Westwood: Abuse of Power which aired in April.
After the broadcast, another four women came forward and took part in a follow-up show which aired this week: Tim Westwood: Hip-Hop’s Open Secret.
The woman who claims to have been 14 when Westwood embarked on a sexual relationship with her is now in her early 40s.
Describing herself as a ‘vulnerable teenager’, she said she wanted to put the experience ‘in a box and throw away the key’.
Hearing the testimony of other women compelled her to tell her own story and she says she wants other women with similar stories to feel less alone.
‘It wasn’t their fault. They’re not to blame that they got taken advantage of and there’s no shame in any of that.’
As well as the woman who was 16 in 1997 when she claims Westwood embarked on a sexual relationship with her, two other women came forward in this week’s documentary.
One said she was 15 and working for Westwood’s promotional ‘street team’ in 1999 when he kissed her. Another says she was in Year 9 — aged 13 to 14 — when Westwood grabbed her breasts at an under-18s club night in 2006.
Of the women who came forward in April, one was a 19-year-old budding musician when she gave Westwood a demo CD and, after he called, agreed to meet him under the ‘complete assumption’ that it was to do with work.
She claims she was horrified when he exposed himself to her after driving her to his London home and so scared she ‘couldn’t move’ when, she alleges, he immediately initiated sex with her, putting on a condom from a special-edition Durex packet printed with the music star’s own face.
Two of the women said he had initiated unwanted and unexpected sex. One claimed she was subjected to unwanted oral sex and four accused the DJ of touching their bottoms and breasts.
One of the complainants, who was 17 when she met Westwood in the 1990s, said she was introduced to him after being talent scouted by R&B producers.
After agreeing to a meeting with Westwood ‘framed as a work opportunity’, she claims he took her to his flat and without speaking to her, ‘pulled down my bottoms’ before giving her unwanted oral sex.
‘There was this kind of power dynamic,’ she said. ‘He could make or break your career. He had absolute power within the recording industry and the black community, despite him being a white man.’
She told the documentary: ‘Who are they going to believe? This little girl from the Midlands or this big shiny star from London?’
The fact that complaints about Westwood have fallen on deaf ears for so long is blamed by some as the ‘adultification’ of black girls.
As one accuser put it on the BBC documentary: ‘People don’t see fragility in black women’.
More recently, Westwood has been heavily criticised for promoting ‘drill’ music, which glorifies gang violence, murders and stabbings and features lyrics often derogatory to women
Westwood left the BBC as part of ‘planned schedule changes’ in 2013 but that year he provoked outrage while DJ-ing at the University of Leicester after making explicit comments to a 2,000-strong crowd of students during freshers’ week.
He shouted: ‘Girl in the front row with the black dress on, I will be f****** you later.’
He also yelled: ‘This song goes out to all of those girls with clean, wet p*****s.’
Students told of their discomfort and outrage, describing his behaviour as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘derogatory’.
According to one female student: ‘It was just one of those, ‘Wow, too far for someone of your age’ disgust kind of things where everyone looked at each other.’
Westwood’s spokesman later claimed that the DJ had been referencing sexually explicit song lyrics and indulging in ‘non-offensive banter with the crowd’.
Westwood did not respond when the Mail put all of these allegations to him this week.
In 2020, he said that claims of sexual abuse being made against him on social media were fabricated and false.
In April, a statement from his representative said: ‘In a career that has spanned 40 years, there have never been any complaints made against him officially or unofficially. Tim Westwood strongly rejects all allegations of wrongdoing.’
What the future holds for the troubled star remains to be seen while the claims against him are investigated. The jury is also still out on the way the BBC has handled the horrifying allegations made against him.
If you have been affected by the issues in this article, the Samaritans are available for contact day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at email@example.com, or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.