'Bake Off' star John Whaite says family 'just stopped' when sister disappeared

Julia Hunt
John Whaite demonstrates his cooking skills at Blackheath Common on September 10, 2016 in London. (Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

Great British Bake Off star John Whaite has told how he feared for his sister’s life after she went missing in Portugal.

The chef appealed to his social media followers for help earlier this month when his sister Victoria Cunningham vanished at Faro Airport in Portugal.

Cunningham, who suffers from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), was later found safe, with Whaite saying it was “just in time”.

Talking about his sister’s illness, Whaite said on Loose Women: “Over the past seven years or since she had her first child, she has serious bouts of what we thought was post-natal depression.

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“Then mum started to realise that she was dreading Victoria coming on her period, during that time, or the time around it, she would get very distressed. She’d become a different person. Straight away, two or three days after the period she’d be back to her regular self.

“Mum put her in touch with a consultant specialist in female hormonal and gynaecological health. That was the person who said, ‘I really think you’ve got Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder’.”

Cunningham was due to travel home from Portugal earlier this month, when she had a breakdown related to her condition.

“It hit at the airport,” said Whaite, who won the third series of Bake Off in in 2012.

“She was due to come home. This moment of sheer panic and distress and anxiety hit and she just fled, she fled the airport.

“It’s very different for every woman; it’s case by case.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Cat Dresser and John Whaite attend the National Television Awards at 02 Arena on January 23, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)

“One thing for Victoria is it makes her want to crawl out of her skin and get away from wherever she is. So she left. She dropped her passport and ran away.

“Our whole family just stopped. We just didn’t know what to do.”

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He admitted: “We were [in fear of her life]. She’d talked about suicide in the past, so it was a real concern.”

After Whaite appealed for help, pictures of his sister were all over social media and she was recognised by a stranger.

“If it wasn’t for that angel, we don’t know what would have happened,” said Whaite.

He said: “She’s an amazing mother, she’s a fabulous sister – I hope she’s watching because I want her to know how much love and affection I’ve got for her.”