Nikki Grahame’s Big Brother ex Pete Bennett has revealed he jumped in a cab and rushed to her side after learning about her illness.
It was announced by her friends over the weekend that Nikki had died aged 38 Friday morning, following a 30-year battle with anorexia.
The reality star, 39, spoke on Monday about how once he saw the fundraiser for Nikki’s eating disorder treatment he dashed over to try and help her.
Candid: Nikki Grahame’s Big Brother ex Pete Bennett has revealed he jumped in a cab and rushed to her side after learning about her illness
Pete admitted he thought the ‘love he had for Nikki would boost her up’, when he went to visit with his girlfriend – who is a mental health nurse.
Speaking on Sky News, Pete explained his reaction to seeing the fundraising page, and said: ‘I was like: ‘Oh my God, she’s really really ill.’
‘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.’
Long-term friends: The reality star, 39, spoke on Monday about how once he saw the fundraiser for Nikki’s eating disorder treatment he dashed over to try and help her
He continued: ‘My heart goes out to everyone who was trying to help her.
‘Carly, her best friend, I know is really struggling, my heart goes out to her. I know what it’s like to lose a best friend, especially when you’re trying to save them.
‘I knew she was ill in the last lockdown – she told me not to say. She rang me up and said ‘Pete I’m ill, come and get me’ – I was busy at the time.’
Explaining the affect lockdown has had on those who suffer from mental illness, Pete said: ‘This has really highlighted it. Look what it’s done.
Sad: Pete admitted he thought the ‘love he had for Nikki would boost her up’, when he went to visit with his girlfriend – who is a mental health nurse
‘It has taken one of the best characters that the world has ever seen. This is rubbish, man.’
It came hours after Pete posted a sweet video of the pair on his Instagram.
The Big Brother 7 winner 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’.
Hearbreaking: It came hours after Pete posted a sweet video of the pair on his Instagram
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.
Night out: The Big Brother 7 winner, paid tribute to the late reality star on Saturday evening and has now followed it up with a throwback clip of them together
Throwback: 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’
‘Follow me!’ Nikki then asked if they could go somewhere where they would play American rock band The Dawes, while Pete instructed: ‘Follow me!’
Addressing the heartbreaking news, a grieving Pete expressed his gratitude towards fans for their support when they raised money for anorexia treatment last month.
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.’
Grieving: 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 on Saturday
‘It’s overwhelming’: Addressing the heartbreaking news, a grieving Pete expressed his gratitude towards fans for their support when they raised money for anorexia treatment
Emotional: 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’
The TV star wrote in an accompanying caption: ‘R.I.P Nikki. Thank you for Carly Cunningham and Leon for starting the Amazing Nikki fundraiser, sadly earlier today I found out she just passed away from anorexia.
‘Im gutted, we have lost a true character, my bb7 posse feel like we’ve lost a family member, our series just wouldn’t of been the same without her!
‘Even through our ups and downs we have still remained close through the years, and it was so nice to visit again recently with my girlfriend ,sing Kate bush songs and have fun like the good old days!
‘I’m just sad that it was the last song we ever sang. Thank you for the memories my friend , you will sorely be missed, I hope you’re not hurting anymore and finally at peace. I’ll See you in heaven Nikki ❤️. Lots of love Pete Xxx.’ (sic)
Happy times: The pair fell for each other in the house and enjoyed a brief romance after leaving the show (pictured in the BB house in 2006)
Pals: The musician called off their romance after just a month, but the pair remained friends (pictured in 2006)
In the weeks before her tragic death, Pete, who Nikki met in the Big Brother house, visited her amid her tough anorexia battle.
The pair fell for each other in the house and enjoyed a brief romance after leaving the show.
The pair, who’ve maintained a friendship since 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.’
Still close: In the weeks before her tragic death, Pete, who she met in the Big Brother house, visited the TV star amid her tough anorexia battle
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
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.’
Struggles: The media personality told her social media followers she ‘seriously can’t deal’ with it
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.
During an interview on This Morning, Susan Grahame, 66, revealed the Big Brother icon struggled with the isolation periods and gym closures brought by the nationwide lockdowns, admitting: ‘COVID-19 really put the cap on it.’
On how her daughter took a turn for the worse amid the global crisis, Susan told hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby: ‘I think last year really put the cap on it with Covid.
‘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)
‘It sounds crazy but even stuff like gyms closing, which is quite important to Nikki as she needs to know she can exercise.
‘The isolation, she couldn’t see anyone. I offered to stay with her but she said ”I need to stay in my own home”. It’s been really hard for her, really hard.
‘She had terminal loneliness… she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.’
Susan also insisted Nikki was getting back on track before the pandemic, sharing: ‘It all came to a grinding halt.
‘With Nikki, she would get through the year knowing she had friends abroad and would visit them, and she spent a lot of time last year cancelling all her holidays.’
Admitting that she was initially apprehensive about the fundraiser set up friends of her daughter’s to raise funds for Nikki’s treatment, Susan said: ‘It was run by me a day or two before by Nikki’s friends. I was apprehensive.
‘Covid put the cap on it’: During an interview on This Morning, Susan, 66, revealed the Big Brother icon struggled with isolation and gym closures brought by lockdown
‘First of all we were desperate, we haven’t had much help with the NHS, we had one place, she had been failed there five or six times.
‘I was worried that appeal, Nikki would come in for attack, with saying she was attention seeking, people could be nasty and she doesn’t need that.
‘I spoke to her and she said, ”please stress how overwhelmed I am by people’s kindness, tell everyone I’m going to try my level best to beat this, I’m going to get my life back”.
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
‘It’s so frightening for an anorexic because if they start to eat normally, it’s gonna go out of their control. She felt it was the one thing that she could keep control over with everything going around her.
‘When she started to get sick, she would be like, ”don’t be upset, look how well I’m doing”. It was like she was trying to divert the attention.’
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.
‘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.’
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.
The original page read: ‘She has been battling for most of her life and as you can see, Nikki is now in a very bad way so we need to do something quickly.
‘Over the past years Nikkis family and friends have tried so desperately to get Nikki all the help possible through the NHS but unfortunately the treatments have failed and we have exhausted every avenue possible, and now Nik is unfortunately in a very bad way, this is now our last hope.
‘This is why we feel that getting her treatment in a specialist clinic is the only option left for her.
Nikki’s friend, TV presenter Rylan Clark-Neal, also appealed to his followers to help with donations.
‘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
Rylan, who won Celebrity Big Brother 11, said on Twitter: ‘This is v hard to read but sharing with permission. If some of the family could help in any way I know it would be greatly appreciated. Sending love x.’ (sic)
A further update revealed that Nikki was set to start treatment in mid-March.
A source told MailOnline at the time: ‘Nikki would like to thank each and every single person for their kind and generous donations.
‘She has seen the wonderful messages and wishes pouring in both personally and through her GoFundMe Page and has nothing but gratitude.
‘On hitting the GoFundMe target last weekend, those close to her started the long, and at times difficult, though always productive process of finding Nikki the best possible facility and care she requires.’
They added: ‘Due to the incredible donations received we’re pleased to report that a private facility which is able to admit her has been found and her road to recovery will begin from Monday (22 March).’
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?’
The TV star began suffering from anorexia aged eight, and has never had a period or produced eggs which would allow her to conceive due to her condition.
After first being admitted to an eating disorder unit at the age of eight, she was force-fed through a tube, and has caused long-term damage to her oesophagus from years of purging.
The TV star was always incredibly open about her anorexia, often appearing on TV to speak about her experiences as well as chronicling them in her books.
Speaking with the Daily Mail in 2008, Nikki revealed that she spent the majority of her childhood in different institutions including the Maudsley, Hillingdon Hospital and children’s psychiatric unit Collingham Gardens in London.
Wow: Her pals, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee, exceeded their £50,000 goal on their GoFundMe page in March, which was set up to cover the costs of Nikki’s therapy
She was then admitted to Great Ormond Street and treated there for two tears before being placed into care.
Nikki detailed how she during one stay at an unnamed unit she was: ‘shoved in a cubicle’.
She said: ‘I had to use a bed pan, have bed baths and it was just awful. I just sat in a cubicle for 24 hours a day with no stimulation. I sat there like that for three months.’
She also detailed how she was force-fed by nurses and by a tube inserted into her stomach which she would rip out.
Reflecting on a low point in her teenage years ahead of being admitted to Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, Nikki said: ‘I was a walking skeleton. I was 15 years old and weighed 4st 3½lb.’
She was there for eight months and put on 6½lb before trying to overdose, reports the paper.
In 2011, Nikki suffered a relapse after reducing her daily intake to just 400 calories.
Close: The dynamic duo reunited on TV for the first time in 10 years back in 2016
In the wake of the news, a host of names, including BB hosts Davina McCall and Rylan Clark-Neal, took to social media to share their sadness over Nikki’s death.
Nikki appeared on the seventh series of Big Brother UK in 2006, finishing in fifth place. She returned to the show in 2010 for the Ultimate Big Brother series.
After entering the house dressed as a Playboy bunny, she quickly became known for her temper tantrums and Diary Room histrionics, including the now infamous ‘who is she?’ rant.
Nikki was evicted on day 58, but went back into the house after the remaining contestants picked her to return.
After Big Brother, she bagged her own reality show, Princess Nikki, which saw her attempt to keep various jobs.
She also appeared on a slew of shows including Celebrity Scissorhands, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and The Weakest Link, and a Channel 4 poll named her the 12th most ‘written about’ person of 2006 in the UK.
‘I am so desperately sad’: Former BB host Davina McCall sent her condolences to Nikki’s loved ones in a heartfelt tweet
Devastated: Fellow housemate Glyn Wise, who came runner-up in their series, shared a photo of himself and Nikki as he declared he was ‘beyond upset’ at her passing
Tragic: Rylan Clark-Neal called his late pal a ‘Big Brother icon’ and added that he was thinking of Nikki’s friends and family in a touching tribute shared to Twitter
‘I can’t breathe’: Nikki’s fellow Big Brother 7 star Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace shared her complete shock at the news
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
History: The TV legend pictured with Davina McCall in 2010 on Ultimate Big Brother