Emma Willis left shocked and upset after discovering violent family history on Who Do You Think You Are?

It isn’t every day that you discover your distant grandparent stabbed and tortured two men, but that is exactly what Emma Willis was forced to hear when she took part in the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ series.

The 41-year-old presenter found out that her five-times-great great grandfather Richard Fowler broke into the home of Catholic Michael Egan and his son Thomas in Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, and stabbed them a number of times and then tortured them for information.

She was clearly shaken when she was told her family history in the upcoming BBC episode – set to air on August 3 – and on the verge of tears, she admitted that she couldn’t defend her relative.

Emma said: ‘That’s horrific. How can you defend doing that to somebody?

‘That was exactly what I didn’t want to find out.’

Emma with her paternal grandmother Edna Griffiths in 1994 (Image: Steve and Cathy Griffiths/BBC)
Emma with her paternal grandmother Edna Griffiths in 1994 (Image: Steve and Cathy Griffiths/BBC)

Richard believed the men he attacked were making weapons for a group of Catholics called the United Irishmen who were opposed to British rule.

According to a report published by Ireland’s The Press, the blacksmith and his son were tortured in 1797. They were ‘knocked down and received many desperate stabs: naked, and bleeding as they were, they were then conveyed to the guardhouse of Dunlavan, and, on daring to complain of such treatment, were again knocked down and beaten in a most unmerciful manner.’

Emma isn’t the first celeb to be shocked by her family history on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Pop star Cheryl also discovered that her great-grandfather had illegitimate twins with his housekeeper, leading to the birth of her grandmother, while viewers saw Jeremy Paxman cry in the last series and Danny Dyer discover he has blue blood.


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