Nikki Grahame’s ex Pete Bennett fought back tears on Tuesday as he discussed the last time he saw the star before her death at the age of 38.
The former Big Brother star, 39, admitted Nikki had been ‘so lonely’ before she passed away last week, after resurfaced social media posts showed how much she’d been struggling during lockdown.
Pete added that he was still ‘lost for words’ three days after Nikki’s tragic passing was revealed, after she had checked herself into a private hospital for her eating disorder last month.
Moving: Nikki Grahame’s ex Pete Bennett fought back tears on Tuesday as he discussed the last time he saw the star before her death at the age of 38
Pete said: ‘When we saw each other again that night, when I went over there, it was magic – she came out of her shell.
‘She was reminiscing about Big Brother, she wasn’t well obviously but she was still there. It was one of the most special nights I ever had with Nikki.
‘A lovely bond and experience to see each other again, the fondest memory I’ve got of her now.
‘She was lonely, she was stuck in north London, all by herself, I’m lucky enough to be in Brighton where there’s lots of people around, but she was stuck there all by herself.’
Long-term friends: The former Big Brother star admitted Nikki had been ‘so lonely’ before she passed away last week (pictured during the last time he saw her)
Isolated: Speaking on Tuesday’s Good Morning Britain, Pete said: ”She was lonely, she was stuck in north London, all by herself… she was stuck there all by herself’
Pete added: ‘I’m lost for words still, I really am, just yeah it’s been a mad wave of emotions and I can’t really, I’m still speechless trying to put it together what happened.’
The former reality TV star said that he and Nikki did lose touch for several years following their stint together in the Big Brother house in 2006, but they had reconnected as lockdown hit during the Covid pandemic.
He said: ‘As soon as I saw the GoFundMe link and I was in London at the time, I didn’t know she was that ill.
Difficult: He added: ‘I knew she was ill, I’d seen pictures of her out with Imogen and she contacted me in the last lockdown and she told me she’d been hospitalised again’
‘I knew she was ill, I’d see pictures of her out with Imogen [Thomas] and I knew she was looking thin, she contacted me in the last lockdown saying she’d been hospitalised again and she wanted me to come and rescue her or something.
‘She got out again, we were still in contact… But recently when I saw the GoFundMe, it was a shock. When I saw her recently it was a complete difference, it was quite a shock.’
‘We did a Rylan reunion and she looked quite ill, but when I saw her recently it was quite a shock.’
Helping her: ‘But she got out and we were still in contact and I was giving her some big ups, I said come on you’ve got a great life,’ Pete added
On Monday Pete broke down during an emotional appearance on Sky News as he explained his reaction to seeing the fundraising page for Nikki’s private hospital treatment.
He said: ‘I just got in the cab and went over there with my girlfriend, who is a mental health nurse. We just tried to give her love and support.
‘Me and Nikki had a great connection. I thought the love I had for her would boost her up and get her out of the darkness.’
The Big Brother 7 winner previously paid tribute to the late reality star on Saturday evening and has now followed it up with a throwback clip of them together.
The sweet video shows Nikki and Pete on a night out together, as she asked him to take her ‘somewhere cool’, while Pete joked she had ‘dragged him out.’
Apart: The former reality TV star said that he and Nikki did lose touch for several years following their stint together in the Big Brother house in 2006
Nikki then asked if they could go somewhere where they would play American rock band The Dawes, while Pete instructed: ‘Follow me!’
Following the news of her death, Pete struggled to hold back his tears and raised a bottle of wine in memory of his former partner as he paid tribute in an Instagram video.
Pete said: ‘I thought to myself yeah we could save her, but we couldn’t. But it’s okay she’s in a good place and she’s not suffering anymore.’
The musician recently visited his fellow reality star, who suffered from anorexia, and had documented the trip in a haunting final photo of her shared publicly.
Addressing the heartbreaking news, a grieving Pete expressed his gratitude towards fans for their support when they raised money for anorexia treatment last month.
Candid: On Monday Pete broke down during an emotional appearance on Sky News as he explained his reaction to seeing the fundraising page for Nikki’s private hospital treatment
Heartbreaking: The Big Brother 7 winner previously paid tribute to the late reality star on Saturday evening and has now followed it up with a throwback clip of them together
Final post: Nikki admitted months previously she was struggling to ‘deal’ with another coronavirus lockdown in what was to be her final social media post
The media personality said: ‘I just want to say thank you for all your love and support since the fundraiser came out. I think that was amazing, we got loads of money. The amount of love and support we got was overwhelming and heartwarming.’
Pete broke down as he added: ‘So I’d just like to raise a f*****g glass, or bottle of wine more like, for Nikki Grahame.
‘All the love from us at Big Brother 7, we really love you Nikki and you were a true winner man, you were really great, you f*****g rocked it babes. Just want to say we’ll miss you babe. See you later Nikki.’
In the weeks before her tragic death, Pete, who Nikki met in the Big Brother house, visited her amid her tough anorexia battle.
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is a serious mental illness where a person restricts their food intake, which often causes them to be severely underweight.
Many also exercise excessively.
Some sufferers may experience periods of bingeing, followed by purging.
Sufferers often have a distorted view of themselves and think they are larger than they really are.
Untreated, patients can suffer loss of muscle and bone strength, as well as depression, low libido and menstruation ceasing in women.
In severe cases, patients can experience heart problems and organ damage.
Behavioural signs of anorexia include people saying they have already eaten or will do later, as well as counting calories, missing meals, hiding food and eating slowly.
As well as weight loss, sufferers may experience insomnia, constipation, bloating, feeling cold, hair loss, and swelling of the hands, face and feet.
Treatment focuses on therapy and self-help groups to encourage healthy eating and coping mechanisms.
Source: Beat Eating Disorders
The pair fell for each other in the house and enjoyed a brief romance after leaving the show.
Pete and Nikki, who maintained a friendship following their split, were seen sweetly cuddling in her final snap, with Nikki leaning towards Peter as they wrapped their arms around each other.
Captioning the image shared on his Instagram page, Pete wrote: ‘Pete and Nikki March 2021 ♡ visiting my nikki and still cuddling to this day :).
‘Remember the fundraiser to help get her into a specialist anorexia clinic is in my bio! #savenikkig.’
In June last year, Nikki opened up about her relationship with Pete, noting that she ‘loved him’ at the time but it was ‘never meant to be’.
She said: ‘I hated it when I realised I was falling in love with Pete Bennett. It was never meant to be. But I loved him at the time. Truly, it was special.’
The Northwood native had previously admitted she was struggling to ‘deal’ with another coronavirus lockdown in what was to be her final social media post.
Alongside a video montage of some of her infamous tantrums in the Big Brother house, she wrote: ‘My reaction to the second national lockdown announcement.’
In her caption, she added: ‘Not this again….seriously can’t deal #lockdown #f**kcovid19 #fml.’
Just two weeks ago, Nikki’s mother claimed her daughter’s 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday she added that the star ‘felt lost’ after her fame fell away and that lockdown was the final blow for her eating disorder.
Susan Grahame, 66, claimed her child’s 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of coronavirus lockdowns.
She told The Telegraph: ‘This last year has just about floored her… From the first lockdown, it was hellish.
‘She struggled because she couldn’t go to the gym. Then in December she fell down and cracked her pelvis in two places and broke her wrist. I stayed with her for three or four weeks because she couldn’t do anything.’
She said: ‘When you’re up there and you’re having a great time, working your socks off, it’s marvellous. But then it can stop. And Nikki said she did feel quite lost when it stopped.’
Nikki’s sad death was confirmed online by her friend Leon Dee on Saturday. A statement on the GoFundMe page read: ‘It is with great sadness, we have to let you know that our dear friend Nikki passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April.
‘It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age.
‘It’s been really, really hard’: Her mother Sue recently claimed her daughter’s 30-year battle with anorexia worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic (pictured together)
‘Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely.
‘We would like to request privacy at this difficult time, while Nikki’s friends and family process the sad news. Full details will be released as and when we know them.
‘All donations have been greatly appreciated and it was heartwarming for everyone including Nikki to see how much she was loved.’
A statement from Nikki’s representative shared on Saturday said: ‘It is with immeasurable sadness that Nikki Grahame passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April 2021. Please respect the privacy of Nikki’s friends and family at this tragic and difficult time.’
‘Not a day will go by without missing your smile’: Nikki’s friend Leon Dee paid tribute to his late friend and revealed money raised on GoFundMe will be given to charity (pictured in 2017)
Statement: The Big Brother icon died just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment
It is believed that the star was released from hospital in Devon a day before her tragic death.
Just last month Nikki’s pals had launched a fundraised to try and gather funds for her to receive specialist treatment, managing to reach a total of £65,539.
Prior to Big Brother, Nikki, then an aspiring actress, appeared as an extra in the BBC soap opera EastEnders and played a footballer’s wife in Sky One’s Dream Team.
She also appeared as a contestant on ITV dating show Blind Date and competed in the 2004 Miss Hertfordshire pageant.
Nikki also won a National Television Award for most popular TV contender and published two books, the autobiographies Dying To Be Thin and Fragile.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk
A Big Brother icon: Nikki Grahame’s best bits on the hit reality show
Get her some BOTTLED water!
Early on into her stay in the Big Brother house, Nikki was suffering from a migraine and only bottled water would help make it budge.
She said: ‘I need water, I’m not drinking that tap stuff, it’s absolutely disgusting, I actually haven’t got energy to talk to you I feel so dehydrated.’
Despite being reassured the water had been filtered twice in the house, Nikki was still not having any of it and burst into tears.
She said: ‘I’m not enjoying it, I’m not. I hate it, I f*****g hate it!’
Memorable: Nikki was accompanied by housemate Dawn Blake to the diary room when she launched into a meltdown over bottled water
The stolen bed
A tipsy Nikki also ensured to command attention after repeating ‘that’s my bed’ several times when she found another contestant in her bed.
Sitting in the infamous gold chair she told BB: ‘Someones stolen Nikki’s bed, it’s my bed I don’t like it and I just don’t like it’
During the rant, Nikki was dressed in suspenders following a challenge the housemates were set.
Air con woes
The star always seemed to be cold in the Big Brother house and arguing with others over the temperature setting on the air con.
After wrapping up as well as she could, Nikki asked BB: ‘How are we supposed to get out of bed in the morning with the f*****g air con?
‘It’s a blizzard, I’m going to catch a cold’
Made the show: The star would often throw her arms around while reclining in the gold diary room chair and making her epic rants
Nikki was left very unimpressed after housemate Richard Newman finished off the cornflakes – and told her there was porridge oats she could have instead.
She explained: ‘He’s had four bowls of Cornflakes yesterday! Four! And they’re not just normal bowls, they’re f*****g mountains of Cornflakes!
‘Like a mountain, and a whole bag of sugar. We’re going to run out of sugar.’
Who is SHE?
Perhaps Nikki’s most iconic moment came after housemate Susie Verrico put her up for eviction and the star stormed into the diary room.
Arriving in her bikini, Nikki fumed about Susie decision despite ‘not even knowing her’, telling BB that she was feeling ‘very venomous and angry’.
Nikki’s next line cemented her in reality show history – and provided plenty of memes in years to come – as she said: ‘Who is she? Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her?
And Nikki ended the rant with: ‘I can feel the venom pouring out of me as I breathe. I hate her, I tell you now. I’m going to find it very difficult to be pleasant to it. I don’t even want to look at it.’
Iconic: Perhaps Nikki’s most memorable moment came when she declared: ‘Who is she? Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her?’