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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Rose Hill

Strictly stars sadly no longer with us as series 20 final approaches

With Strictly nearing the end of its 20th series, it's clear the beloved BBC dancing show is as strong as ever.

While fans love the dancing, a large part of Strictly's charm is the investment of the personal lives of those involved and seeing them grow and develop.

Each week, fans get an insight into their daily routines and the show sheds a new light on both well-known and lesser-known stars.

Tragically, over the 18 years the programme has been running, some of its celebrity competitors, staff and even presenters are no longer with us.

As the show gears up for its semi-final, we pay tribute to stars we've loved and lost...

Caroline Flack

Love Island host Caroline Flack shone as soon as she stepped onto the dance floor.

Paired with professional dancer Pasha Kovalev, she triumphed in 2014 by wowing viewers with a number of incredible performance.

But it's her gorgeous Rhumba-inspired showdance to Robbie Williams' Angels that is the dance etched into fans' minds.

Caroline Flack wowed with her impress Strictly routines (BBC/Guy Levy)

Attached to billowing pieces of fabric, Caroline performed a balletic routine with Pasha that saw the pair win the show.

Tragically, Caroline died just six years later in 2020 after taking her life at age 40.

Lynda Bellingham

Known at first for her soothing 'Oxo mum' voice, Lynda Bellingham became a household name after appearing in All Creatures Great and Small, Doctor Who and Second Thoughts, to name a few.

In 2007, she became part of the Loose Women panel and in 2009, she took part in Strictly with Darren Bennett.

Lynda Bellingham performed with Darren Bennett on Strictly (PA)

The pair lasted until week four when they were knocked out after failing to impress with their Foxtrot to Calendar Girl.

Sadly, Lynda was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and died just over a year later aged 66.

Paul Daniels

Fans might remember Debbie McGee's incredible routines with Giovanni Pernice, but her late husband Paul Daniels competed in Strictly seven years earlier in 2010.

The magician had been partnered with Ola Jordan, but they were sadly the second couple to leave the competition. He died in 2016 at the age of 77.

Paul Daniels with Ola Jordan on Strictly (PA)
Paul's wife Debbie competed on the show seven years later (

Debbie, who appeared on Strictly a year later, recently said that performing on the show helped rebuild her life after her grief of losing Paul.

"I had the best partner in Giovanni, and I was back in show business again," she told Hello magazine.

"People knew who I was before, but I was still the magician’s assistant. Since Strictly I’ve been Debbie McGee in my own right."

Neale Pirie

The Strictly family were left devastated in 2015 after hair designer Neale Pirie collapsed and died.

Neale, 42, had phoned a relative complaining of chest pains but ­paramedics who rushed to his Leicester home ­yesterday were unable to revive him.

At the time, Strictly's head make-up artist Lisa Armstrong tweeted: "Utterly devastated and heartbroken over the loss of my sidekick and dear friend."

While Karen Hauer, who had her hair done by Neale for her wedding to Kevin Clifton, wrote: “Absolutely heartbroken at the loss of our beautiful friend @Nealepirie. I can’t believe your gone .. RIP.”

Gary Rhodes

Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes swapped the kitchen for the dance floor back in 2008 and was partnered with pro Karen Hardy.

The pair were the third to be eliminated after Phil Daniels and Gillian Taylforth.

Gary, who was awarded an OBE IN 2006, was a well-known restaurateur and had appeared pm a number of TV shows including MasterChef and Hells Kitchen.

Gary Rhodes competed in Strictly with Karen Hardy (BBC)

His death at aged 59 shocked the cooking world in November 2019. The chef had died after suddenly being taken ill at his home in Dubai during a break while filming a new TV series.

It was later confirmed by his family that his death was the result of a fatal bleed on the brain after collapsing.

His wife of 30 years Jennie Rhodes was with Gary in his final moments as he died from a subdural hematoma after being rushed to hospital.

Jason Wood

Comedian Jason Wood was the first ever contestant to be eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing in 2004.

The comic had been paired with pro dancer Kylie Jones, but they had failed to impress and were booted out of the competition in the first week.

There were nearly half the number of celebrities in the first series as there are now, with the show running for just seven weeks from May through to July.

Due to its huge success with the public, the show ran a second series just three months later.

Tragically, Jason died in his sleep just six years after appearing in Strictly, aged just 38.

Willie Thorne

Snooker pro Willie Thorne found that dancing didn't come quite so easily to him as his beloved sport when he competed on the 2007 series with Erin Boag.

The pair were the third to be eliminated after Brian Capron and Stephanie Beacham following their Tango to Lisandro Adrover's Obertura.

Willie was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2015 after a psychiatrist ordered routine blood tests and underwent treatment.

Snooker player Willie Thorne died in June 2020 (PA)

He revealed in March 2020 that he had been diagnosed with leukaemia and in June 2020, he was placed in an induced coma after suffering respiratory failure in hospital in Spain. A day later, his carer confirmed that he had gone into septic shock and had not been responding to treatment.

He died aged 66 after his life support was withdrawn.

Bill Turnbull

After joining the BBC Breakfast team in 2001 with Sian Williams, Sarah Montague, Mishal Husain and Susanna Reid, he surprised viewers by joining the third series of Strictly in 2005.

Paired with pro Karen Hardy, the pair were the seventh to be eliminated after impressing the judges and public.

Following the show, Bill continued to have a successful career in TV. However, he revealed in March 2018 that he had been diagnosed the previous year with prostate cancer.

He died at his home in Suffolk on August 31 2022, aged just 66.

Bill Turnbull died at his Suffolk home in 2022 following his terminal cancer diagnosis (PA)

Bill's heartbroken wife Sarah, known as Sesi, had released a statement read out on BBC Breakfast.

An emotional Naga Munchetty read: "Our lovely Billy died yesterday evening. Almost five years after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

"The last week of his life was very special as the whole family was with him and they shared some wonderful moments.

"Although Bill was often in pain, he was dignified and brave throughout and he was his usual determined self right until the very end. He made us laugh everyday. We are immensely proud of him. He was the heart of our family. It's hard to imagine life without him."

Sir Bruce Forsyth

Known as Mr Strictly himself, Sir Bruce Forsyth was the beating heart of the BBC dancing show, with much of its early success attributed to him as an incredible, warm host.

The beloved British entertainer had a huge career spanning across more than 70 years, which saw him present several game shows such as The Generation Game, The Price Is Right and Play Your Cards Right. He was also recognised by Guinness World Records in 2012 as having the longest TV career for a male entertainer.

Sir Bruce Forsyth was beloved on Strictly (BBC)

Co-presenting Strictly alongside Tess Daly from 2004 to 2012, he became known for his brilliant ad-libbing and telling some of the less fortunate dancers in the competition that they were his "favourite".

After retiring from the show he stayed at home with wife Wilnelia Merced, who cared for him while he suffered from ill health towards the end of his life.

He made his last TV appearance in 2015 on Strictly Children in Need Special and later underwent surgery for his abdominal aortic aneurysm, meaning that he had to pull out of hosting the Christmas special.

He was admitted to hospital a few more times over the years with chest infections and died from bronchial pneumonia at his Wentworth Estate home on August 18 2017.

Tess was among those who paid a tearful tribute to Bruce at the time and shared an emotional Instagram post that read: "Forever in my heart. This is one of my favourite photos with Bruce.

"It was the last time we worked together in the studio in November 2015, for the Children in Need Strictly Special. It's hard to believe he is gone. He will be so greatly missed by us all.

"I grew up watching him on Tv then spent 10 years pinching myself that I was standing by his side in the studio on Strictly Come Dancing.

"Thank you Brucie for the good times. I will never forget. xxxxxxxx."

* Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

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