DJ Tim Westwood accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women

·16-min read
<span>Photograph: Lia Toby/PA</span>
Photograph: Lia Toby/PA

Exclusive: Seven women accuse ex-Radio 1 DJ of predatory behaviour in joint investigation by the Guardian and BBC


The renowned DJ Tim Westwood has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women who claim he misused his position in the music industry to take advantage of them.

Three women have accused the DJ of opportunistic and predatory sexual behaviour, while four others allege they were groped by him at events.

The women, who were in their late teens or early 20s when they say the incidents happened, described their experiences to the Guardian and BBC News as part of a joint investigation into the former BBC Radio 1 DJ.

The earliest alleged incident took place in 1992; the most recent in 2017.

One of the women said: “Someone taking advantage of my naivety and lack of confidence isn’t something that I should have to carry with shame.”

Westwood has strenuously denied all the allegations. A spokesperson said they were completely false and denied in their entirety.

In response to the allegations on Tuesday the BBC said it was “shocked”. A spokesperson said: “The BBC is against all forms of inappropriate behaviour and we are shocked to hear of these allegations. The BBC has strict codes of conduct for all those engaged by the BBC, including on-air presenters.”

The women, who are all black, decided to tell their stories in the aftermath of anonymous allegations of inappropriate behaviour about Westwood circulating on social media in June 2020.

In a statement at the time, Westwood denied any wrongdoing, saying the allegations online were fabricated, false and without foundation.

The Guardian and BBC, which has released a documentary on BBC Three about the story, have since spoken to seven women who make a range of separate allegations about the DJ’s conduct.

Westwood in 1999.
Tim Westwood in 1999. The veteran DJ remains a key figure in hip-hop music in the UK. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Some of the women say they felt unable to talk about their experiences before. They feared their accounts would not be taken seriously because they were so young at the time the alleged incidents happened – and that racial discrimination would also lead people to minimise, dismiss or ignore their claims.

Three of the women have accused Westwood of opportunistic and predatory sexual behaviour when they agreed to meet him, thinking they would be discussing the music industry or their own work. They were 17, 19 and 20 at the time of the alleged incidents.

A further four women claim the DJ groped them while they were having a picture taken with him after one of his nightclub performances.

The Guardian and BBC know the identities of all the women, who are not known to each other and have never spoken. None of the women had reported their interactions to the police; all have asked to remain anonymous.

Now 64, Westwood has been one of the best-known names in hip-hop and rap in the UK for the past 40 years. He became the genre’s unmistakable voice when he started hosting BBC Radio 1’s first Rap Show in 1994, credited with giving fresh talent an unparalleled platform while enticing the biggest rappers in the world – from Public Enemy to Jay-Z – onto his show.

Westwood has always courted a degree of controversy, often playing to a bad-boy image with on-mic banter that can be provocative and sexually explicit. In 1999, he was injured in a drive-by shooting, with one bullet going through the seat of the car he was in and another through his arm.

He became a key figure in black music in the UK and was named best DJ at the Mobo (Music of Black Origin) awards multiple times.

After 20 years, the self-styled Big Dawg, left Radio 1, as part of a shake-up of its Saturday night schedule, and now hosts a show on Capital Xtra as well as regular club nights.

A source at the BBC said the allegations were “appalling and disturbing” and said the corporation was not “sitting on” any information that would aid an investigation into the former Radio 1 DJ.

Lawyers acting for Westwood said he was a well-respected and highly successful DJ. They said he strenuously denied in their entirety the serious allegations being made against him.

“Any suggestion that he acts, or has acted, in the way described would be false and seriously defamatory.” They said he wanted to make clear that he did not behave in the manner described.

The Guardian has approached Global, the parent company of Capital Xtra, where Westwood is currently employed, for comment.

The women

Isabel

Isabel* was 19 when she says she was the victim of Westwood’s alleged predatory behaviour in 2010. He was 53 at the time. The university graduate described wanting to pursue a career in music – she grew up in the Midlands, singing gospel and writing her own songs.

When she discovered Westwood was DJing at a nightclub in her home town in 2010, she says she hoped to get her music into his hands. “At that moment, he was the main gatekeeper for access to what I needed to do,” she says.

Interactive

She described to the Guardian and BBC putting together a demo CD, with her contact details inside, and says she went to the nightclub, supported by her best friend and stepmother.

Isabel says they managed to give the CD to the DJ, who, to her excitement, called her the next day and suggested meeting in London. “We were thinking that this is a really good lead at this point,” she says. “He wants to act on this quickly.”

She says a few days later she took the train to London for an afternoon meeting and met Westwood at Oxford Circus, where he picked her up in his car. Isabel says her “complete assumption” was that they were going somewhere to talk about her music. “The phone call was the only interaction we’d had before that,” she says. “There was nothing flirtatious or romantic about the nature of the conversation.”

But she says that when the journey lasted longer than she expected and her surroundings became unfamiliar, she started to become anxious. “We got in the car. He made the most minimal amount of small talk. I could tell that he wasn’t particularly interested in the music thing,” she says.

Isabel says she was looking away from him but then turned to find Westwood had undone his trousers and was exposing himself.

“I didn’t actually see him undo his trousers. What alerted me to the fact that he was exposing himself was the fact that he actually tapped me to turn around to look. I’ve looked and I’ve seen and I’m like, ‘Oh, no, oh no, like, oh my God’,” she says.

Isabel says she felt scared but unable to get herself out of the situation. She says they arrived at a flat, which she believes was his, where he offered her a drink – which she refused.

It was in this flat, which Isabel says was strewn with records, that she claims she was the victim of a second episode of opportunistic and predatory sexual behaviour.

She claims that when Westwood came back from getting himself a drink in another room, he was naked.

“That’s when I noticed that he’s got a condom and he’s removed it [from the packet] and started putting it on,” she says, adding that she recognised the condom from a campaign Westwood had done with the brand Durex – which he promoted at events.

“I remember the packet because they had this slogan on it. They had his face on the other side,” she says. “I remember him throwing it down. I remember the fact that it was yellow. Like, I remember that very vividly because I remember that was kind of when my brain also started to shut down.”

She says Westwood initiated sex, and although she did not vocalise her misgivings, she was “frozen”.

“I didn’t have any sort of guard up for that situation,” she says. “It’s all very reactive … because it’s just happening. And the shock factor of it is so overwhelming that it kind of disorientates the rest of the way you think. It’s like you’re stunned.”

Isabel says Westwood then left the room. When he returned she had her bag on her lap to indicate she wanted to leave, and he took her to a train station.

She says that as he dropped her off he tried to give her one of his mix CDs but she refused.

Isabel says she felt “stupid” on the train journey home. “I just remember feeling so deflated. So sad. Feeling really ashamed of myself and bad.”

She says she remembers getting a text message from her friend who had been waiting to hear how the meeting had gone.

“I didn’t say what happened but I sent a text to let her know like we didn’t listen, it didn’t happen. We didn’t listen to my music … it’s not gone down like that.”

Isabel’s stepmother told the BBC and Guardian the whole family had been excited about Isabel meeting the DJ, hoping for a breakthrough in her career. But she knew instinctively that something “was wrong” when her stepdaughter would not talk about the meeting.

But she says after she heard Isabel’s story, she felt guilty for not chaperoning her – and says she cried when Isabel disclosed that her silence was partly due to fears that her family would be disappointed in her.

Like others the Guardian and BBC spoke to, Isabel says she became aware in 2020 of allegations being made by women on social media alleging misconduct by Westwood.

Isabel says she is telling her story now because she felt what had happened to her was an abuse of the DJ’s position.

“It is a privilege to be able to do what you love as a job and it’s a privilege to be given a platform to do it on,” she says. “So it’s a massive violation when you abuse that.”

Westwood has strenuously denied acting in the manner described by Isabel.

Pamela

Pamela’s* story shares similarities with Isabel’s. Now in her 40s, Pamela was 20 when she says she first met the DJ through friends. It was 2000 and she was active in the youth rap scene, working with aspiring young musicians. The DJ – then in his 40s – wanted to connect with a younger audience and asked her to do work experience with him, she says.

She says he reassured her mother on the phone, and Pamela travelled to London to meet him for work experience. But when Westwood picked her up from King’s Cross train station in a large American-style car he soon began touching her leg and face while he was driving, she alleges.

She says while she was batting his hand away he was not concentrating on the road and was driving erratically. A police officer on a motorbike pulled up alongside the car and knocked on the passenger window. Pamela says she sat in silence as Westwood apologised and was told to keep his eyes on the road.

Pamela says she had expected to stay on her own in a hotel, although this had not been discussed, and instead she says he drove her to what she understood to be his flat. “If you’re going to do an internship somewhere, you’re not expecting for that person to take you to their house. That’s unprofessional,” she says.

After some hours, the DJ sat next to her and tried to kiss her neck and remove items of her clothing, she says, adding that she moved away, trying to replace them. “I didn’t give him any kind of come-on. There was no flirtation,” she says.

She says when Westwood initiated sex, she remembers thinking she could not get out of the situation. “I’m in London alone with this man. Now if I try to get out of this, who’s to say how he’s going to react. So I just submit to it.”

She says she has not spoken about the encounterin its entirety, until now. “People like me don’t ever get believed when we speak about stuff like this, so we don’t,” she says, adding that she found the encounter “traumatic”.

“It was disgusting and I felt like shit afterwards, really disgusting,” she says.

She says the work experience he offered never happened, and she went home as soon as she could.

Pamela later spoke to a friend who works in the music industry and they encouraged her to talk about her experience in this investigation.

Tamara

Tamara* says she first met Westwood when she was a 17-year-old member of a British R&B group and he was in his mid-30s and the “No 1 hip-hop DJ at the time”.

She says when he asked if she wanted to “hang out”, she thought it was to talk about her career. “He could make or break your career,” she says. “If you wanted to get any kind of exposure, you would try to get your demo to him and pray that he would play it. He had absolute power.

“Within the recording industry and the black community, despite him being a white man, he had absolute power.”

But Tamara says that once they were in a flat she believes was his, without saying anything he pulled down her trousers and underwear. She claims he then began performing oral sex on her.

“There was no talking. There was no kind of communication about that. It was just before I knew it, that’s what was happening,” she says.

Tamara says she was taken aback and at first tried to push his head and shoulders away. “And then I realised that, you know what? I’m in a position where it’s already gone too far,” she says.

“I’m already far from home. I wouldn’t even know how to leave this particular place. I wouldn’t know how to get home from here ... Then he finishes and it’s as if that hadn’t happened.”

The woman says they then had casual sex two or three times over a period of three years.

Looking back at those encounters, Tamara says she was so young she lacked “the strength and courage” to say: “‘No … I don’t feel right about this’, because I didn’t feel right about it.”

Now with a daughter in her 20s, Tamara says she has decided to share her experience for the first time after her daughter showed her the online allegations about Westwood that surfaced in 2020, adding that she was concerned his ongoing regular club nights meant he was often in contact with young women.

In 2021, Tamara watched the BBC documentary Music’s Dirty Secrets and contacted the producers asking them to investigate the DJ.

Farah

The Guardian and BBC also spoke to four other women who claim they were groped by Westwood when they posed for a picture with him, after he had performed DJ sets.

The Guardian and BBC have seen the Snapchat footage and the images the women say were taken during the encounters.

The earliest dates to 2000, when Farah* was 19 and working with a promotional street team during Bristol carnival.

Afterwards she says she met Westwood, then in his mid-40s, at an afterparty and recalls him asking about her work.

She says when the event had finished, the street team gathered to take a photograph with the DJ, but as it was being taken he put his hand inside her T-shirt and grabbed her breast.

“Just the thought of somebody doing that – I felt cold. And I felt dirty. I felt humiliated, embarrassed. That I’d done something wrong,” she says.

Claire

Two women allege they were groped in 2009, when the DJ was in his early 50s.

In the summer, Claire*, then 20, went to a nightclub in Ayia Napa – the DJ had been playing and she says she queued to take a photograph with him after his set. But as her friend was taking the picture, she claims Westwood said “lemme grab some ass” and put his hand down the back of her denim shorts.

“As I was shocked, I froze and felt very intimidated,” she says. “He then started asking if I was interested in going back to where he was staying to ‘chill’, as I was stood, still mentally trying to process what just happened.” She says she turned down the offer.

Loretta

Later in the year, before Christmas, Loretta* says she also posed for a photograph with the DJ after he had performed at a nightclub in Essex. The then 19-year-old says she felt the DJ’s hand go down her back and grab her bottom, before resting on her neck.

“In that moment, I was kind of frozen and I didn’t really know how to react,” she says. “I mean, I know how I would react now as a grown woman, but as a teenager, I really didn’t.”

Nyla

Nyla* says she met Westwood nine years later, in 2017, when she was 22 and he was 59 and DJing at a New Year’s Day event in London.

She says he got his security to ask her on stage, and when she did he used the microphone to declare her “the pengest girl in the rave”.

At the end of the night she says her friend wanted a video of the DJ. While the pair posed, Nyla says Westwood moved his hand down her back and up the back of her skirt.

“I couldn’t really do anything to stop it or prevent it. So it felt like that had been taken out of my hands,” she says.

Nyla says Westwood called her the next day on Snapchat – she thinks after getting her number from a guest list – “asking if I want to hang out and stuff” and telling her she did not have to come alone and could bring friends. She says before long she ended the conversation and blocked his number.

“Sometimes I just feel like his persona or his kind of stage character, people take that really lightly and see it as something that’s sort of satirical when actually it’s not really funny,” she says.

“I didn’t have a chance to voice my own opinion in that moment. I didn’t really feel like a human. I just felt objectified.”

*Names have been changed.

  • Tim Westwood: Abuse of Power is on iPlayer and airs on BBC Three at 21:00 on Tuesday 26 April.

alexandra.topping@theguardian.com

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