UK TV presenter Bill Turnbull dies after lengthy battle with prostate cancer

Former BBC Breakfast host passes away 'peacefully' aged 66 at home after being diagnosed with the disease in 2017

Bill Turnbull announced he was stepping down from his show on Classic FM in 2021 for 'health reasons'. Photo: Classic FM
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British TV presenter and journalist Bill Turnbull died “peacefully” at home at the age of 66 on Wednesday after a “challenging and committed fight against prostate cancer”, his family has said.

The Classic FM host was diagnosed with the disease in November 2017, and subsequently earned plaudits after detailing his treatment in a Channel 4 documentary called Staying Alive.

In October last year he said he was taking a leave of absence from his show on Classic FM for health reasons.

Turnbull's family praised the treatment he had received at the Royal Marsden and Ipswich hospitals, at St Elizabeth Hospice, and from his GP.

“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.”

He 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 formerly called.

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.

Turnbull co-anchored alongside Susanna Reid, with the pair presenting together until 2014, when Reid left the show to join ITV. Turnbull's other co-hosts included Louise Minchin.

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.

Reid tweeted her sadness at his loss.

“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 heart-broken for them. RIP Bill. We will miss you so much”

Turnbull 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 included 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.

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Updated: September 01, 2022, 11:03 AM