Former Strictly Come Dancing professional Karen Hardy wiped away tears as she remembered Bill Turnbull in a heartfelt tribute, saying he had been a mentor and crediting him with being a “legend of TV”.
The professional dancer, 52, was partnered with former BBC Breakfast presenter Turnbull, who has died aged 66, during her first stint on Strictly in 2005.
Turnbull was a contestant on the third series of the BBC One programme, becoming the seventh celebrity voted off, having danced alongside that year’s other famous faces including Gloria Hunniford, Patsy Palmer, Zoe Ball and the series winner, cricketer Darren Gough.
Speaking to BBC News from New Zealand, Hardy was tearful as she reminisced about Turnbull, who was a fixture on the BBC Breakfast sofa and screens for 15 years before his departure from the corporation in 2016.
Describing him as “such a gentleman, such a mentor, life-changing for me”, she recalled their first Strictly meeting.
She said: “When I met him, I had had an incredible career, I had been dancing for, gosh, 20-odd years, I’d won some of the biggest titles in the world and I had long retired.
“And out of the blue, I got this phone call from the BBC saying, ‘I’m not sure if you’ve heard about this TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, but we’d love to have you on it’.”
Describing the secrecy surrounding first meeting her Strictly partner, she said: “I was driven out in a BBC car, out into I don’t know, (what) seemed like a forest.
“There was this beautiful driveway we drove up to and all the way along I’m going, ‘What have I done? I’m coming out of retirement. I’ve won these titles. What am I doing?’
“And I didn’t know who would be behind this door, and I remember standing there and this gruff voice came out from behind going, ‘Good Lord, can we please just get on and get this over with?’
“And then I met this man that turned out to be my mentor, friend, gosh, so much he ended up being and I owe him so much because it was from that first show and my debut on TV that he made TV magical.
“He told me what it was about. He shared all the magic.”
Hardy became emotional as she spoke about Turnbull, adding: “For him, it was all about the truth and I remember him saying… he taught me about the news and it was always about seeking the truth and finding the truth no matter what.”
A message on Strictly’s official Twitter account said: “Sending heartfelt condolences to Bill Turnbull’s family and friends.
“A truly brilliant broadcaster turned ballroom dancer when he joined us on series three of Strictly.”