Pete Bennett has spoken about how he and late ex-girlfriend Nikki Grahame struggled to maintain their relationship after they left the Big Brother house.
Speaking to Heat Magazine, the musician, 39, said they felt “under pressure” when they left the house in 2006.
The couple met and fell for each other during Big Brother 7 - with Bennett the eventual winner. They stayed together for about a month after the show finished. They remained friends until her death earlier this month.
Nikki’s body was discovered on April 10 in her London home. She was just 38.
The Big Brother star had documented her three -decade battle with the eating disorder in two books -Dying To Be Thin in 2009 and Fragile in 2012.
Bennett told the magazine: “In the end, it was really hard to maintain a relationship out of the house. Everyone wanted a piece of us, and we were doing big interviews together as a couple, but people were watching our every move, and it was so much pressure. I think she was too much for me to handle – without Big Brother telling her off!
“When we split up, it was quite raw between us for a while. Plus, I went a bit off radar, so we drifted apart. But about a year later, we started messaging each other again. Nikki would call me and say in her funny voice, ‘Peeeeete! Can I come and see you?’ And she came and watched me play in my band. She was really supportive like that. I think we were always just destined to be mates, and we really cared for each other.”
He also said he was in “awe” of Nikki when he first met her - adding: “She was so funny, dramatic, kind, sweet and princess-like. She had on bunny ears when she arrived, and she was like no one I had ever met before. She was such a character.”
His words come just hours after the hospital where Nikki Grahame was being treated for anorexia has launched an internal investigation following the star’s sudden death after she was discharged.
A full internal investigation is now taking place at Dorset County Hospital, as Nikki’s family said they believe she was discharged too early.
A spokeswoman for Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Staff at the Trust were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Miss Grahame, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Miss Grahame at this very difficult time.
“A full internal investigation into the circumstances of Miss Grahame’s death is currently underway. This is in line with standard procedures following any sudden death.
“All information and findings arising from this investigation will be shared confidentially with Miss Grahame’s family, and thereafter with the Coroner as part of any Coronial process.
“The Trust will do everything it can to assist the Coroner in any ongoing Coronial process.”
A source close to the star’s family suggested they believed she shouldn’t have been released.
“Those close to Nikki feel she would be alive todayif she hadn’t been discharged so soon,” they told the Sun.
“Her family feel she wasn’t strong enough physically to care for herself. It’s left them shocked and heartbroken. It’s an extremely difficult time for them.”
It comes after a GoFundMe appeal set up to fund Nikki’s treatment has been reactivated so well-wishers can donate in her memory.
A message on the site read: “We just wanted to let you know that we are turning donations back on for anyone that would like to make a donation in Nikki’s memory, as lots of people have been asking if they can still donate.”
The GoFundMe page can be found here.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk