Susanna Reid recalls how Bill Turnbull reacted to cancer diagnosis

‘I’m grateful to have known him’: Emotional Susanna Reid pays tribute to Bill Turnbull as she recalls him saying he couldn’t have had ‘any complaints’ if he’d died after prostate cancer diagnosis because he’d had a ‘wonderful life’

  • Bill Turnbull died at home in Suffolk on Wednesday five years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer
  • Former BBC Breakfast presenter revealed in March 2018 that he had been diagnosed the previous November 
  • His former co-presenter Susanna Reid recalled on Good Morning Britain today what Turnbull said at the time
  • He had said: ‘If it was all to end tomorrow, I couldn’t have any complaints. I’ve had a really marvellous time’

Bill Turnbull said after his prostate cancer diagnosis five years ago that he ‘couldn’t have any complaints’ if he was to die the next day, his former co-presenter Susanna Reid recalled today following his death aged 66.

The former BBC Breakfast presenter revealed in a Radio Times interview in March 2018 that he had discovered he had the illness the previous November while filming for The Great British Bake Off’s Stand Up to Cancer special.

While appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, an emotional Reid recalled what Turnbull had said at the time, saying his words ‘really hit home to me when I read them’ and that she was ‘so grateful to have known him’. 

Turnbull had said: ‘The contract I thought I had with life has been shortened quite a bit. You have to be positive, don’t you? I know I’m not going to get cured and I’m realistic about the long-term prospects, but they’re not bad.

‘Most importantly, I really do think I’ve had a wonderful life, with amazing experiences as a reporter and a presenter. And if it was all to end tomorrow, I couldn’t have any complaints. I’ve had a really marvellous time.’

Reid, who first worked with Turnbull more than 25 years ago as his producer when he was a correspondent for BBC News in Washington, also told GMB today: ‘I was absolutely knocked sideways yesterday by the loss of Bill.’

She continued: ‘He was such a funny person to be around… and I don’t want to sound sombre talking about him because he had such a sense of humour. I remember when he presented on this programme, we called him a ‘saucepot’ because he definitely had a way with the double entendres, he really did. He was delightful company.’

Susanna Reid appears on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today in front of a series of photos of her former co-host Bill Turnbull

Susanna Reid joins Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today as they remember Turnbull

Susanna Reid also appeared on BBC Breakfast today an said Turnbull helped one of her children overcome their fear of dogs

Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid present Good Morning Britain together on ITV on February 26, 2020

Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid on GMB on November 23, 2016 when promoting his album ‘Bill Turnbull’s Relaxing Classics’

BBC Breakfast presenters Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid are pictured on the sofa together on April 5, 2012

Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid present BBC Breakfast on March 2, 2007. Turnbull joined the BBC One programme in 2001

Reid also recounted today how Turnbull helped one of her children overcome their fear of dogs, saying her former colleague was like ‘the dog whisperer’.

She told BBC Breakfast presenters Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt how Turnbull’s dogs were ‘such an important part of his life’. Reid said: ‘When we all moved up to Salford he invited me and my family, my children, to his home to spend the day with Sesi and the dogs. My middle son at the time was absolutely petrified of any animals. 

Bill Turnbull was ‘one of the best men’ says former Wycombe captain

Matt Bloomfield after winning the League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium in 2020

The former captain of Wycombe Wanderers has said Bill Turnbull was ‘one of the best men you could wish to meet’.

The broadcaster, who has died aged 66, was an avid supporter of the football club and on many occasions commentated and was seen at their matches at Adams Park.

Matt Bloomfield said of Turnbull: ‘Bill was just one of those real special men who I was lucky enough to get to know. He was obviously at the top of his game as a professional and just a real, real special human to get to know. He always made you feel comfortable in his presence, in his company, he always wanted to make you laugh and enjoy it. 

‘He was just a real, real good person, a massive supporter, our most famous supporter, one of our biggest supporters and friend of the club. Then when I got to know him more, he invited my wife and my children, we went around for lunch a few times. He was there at our best moment at Wembley a couple of years ago when we got promoted to the Championship.

‘So, he’s played a massive role in my time at Wycombe Wanderers and he was an absolute gentleman, and just one of the best men you could wish to meet, and I’m just so grateful that I got to know him so well over a number of years.’

Bloomfield captained Wycombe Wanderers to Championship promotion after they beat Oxford United in the League One play-off final at Wembley in 2020. Following this monumental match, the team played in the Championship for the first time but were relegated back to League One at the end of the season.

Bloomfield added that having the former BBC Breakfast presenter as an avid and long-term supporter of the club ‘meant everything’. 

He said: ‘Because the amount of effort he gave to being a Wycombe Wanderers supporter, the amount of support he gave us through thick and thin, he was there for us whenever we needed him for his support. He would always support what we were trying to do as a football club and as a team, and he was vocal in that support, and he’d follow us and he’d do everything he possibly could to support us.

‘His standing within the BBC and the career that he led, and the aura, just the aura that he had about him, and when he visited us he led a team building, a team development day a year or two ago, and he just had the lads in his hand, he could just conduct the audience however he wanted, he was just a special man who just had this presence and aura, and it meant as much to him to spend the day with the squad as it did for the squad to spend the day with him.

‘So, it was a real mutual appreciation. We were just so lucky to have him as a friend of the club, as a supporter of the club, and as a personal friend. I’m so grateful that I got to know him so well.’

‘We couldn’t have a pet at home, he would be scared if there was a cat in the garden, and he was literally sitting in the kitchen. And Bill, very gently, took that in hand, and he encouraged my son to throw a ball for Bonnie, Bill’s beloved black labrador.

‘And by the end of that day, my son had completely lost his fear of dogs. We were able to have a cat at home. He was like, he was like the child whisperer, or the dog whisperer, or Dr Dolittle.

‘I mean, he could converse with the animals. He was amazing, they were so important to him and he wanted everybody to have that same experience.’

Also today, Reid said her former breakfast co-host was like the ‘father of BBC Breakfast’.

Featuring alongside Turnbull’s other colleagues from over the years, she said: ‘He mentored everybody on the programme, he was like the father of BBC Breakfast.

‘He taught me everything, he taught so many of us everything about journalism, about television and about being a decent person in this industry… he was kind, compassionate and wise and a great friend, and I loved every minute of being with him, and we are really going to miss him.’

Another former co-star paying tribute today was Louise Minchin, who praised Turnbull for being ‘kind with his time’ as she revealed he was one of the first people she consulted when she decided to leave BBC Breakfast.

She was among the names appearing on the programme this morning to pay tribute to the show’s former presenter, who died on Wednesday after a ‘challenging and committed fight against prostate cancer’.

Minchin, who first appeared on the broadcaster’s flagship morning news show in 200l, said farewell to BBC Breakfast in September 2021, while Turnbull signed off from the sofa in 2016 after 15 years.

During Minchin’s final programme, Turnbull featured in a moving tribute saying she was ‘most of all a warm, sunny person who will always be my friend’.

She told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think it was kindness and generosity with his time and even when I was still in contact with him – we’re still members of a lottery syndicate which I’m still playing and I will go on playing, by the way. But he always was kind with his time. 

‘So for example, when I took the decision to leave BBC Breakfast, the first person, one of the first people, I talked about making that decision was Bill, and you know, he was ill at the time, but he took time out of his day to have a long conversation with me about that.

‘And I think we all really appreciated that, you know, he had a huge stature, a very important reputation, but he always would give back to all of us.’

Minchin also recalled how Turnbull had been a ‘stickler for grammar’ and praised the work he had done to campaign to raise awareness about prostate cancer, following his own diagnosis in 2017. 

And Minchin said presenting BBC Breakfast with Bill Turnbull had been an ‘absolute treat’.

Speaking to the morning programme, she told Munchetty and Stayt: ‘I loved working with Bill, and I love what we’ve all said about him.

‘He was just so funny. He had that mischievous, naughty, wicked sense of humour. And sometimes you’d see the glint in his eye and you’d go, ‘Oh, no, I’m gonna go’ and once I’d gone, there was no stopping.

‘I remember first when I started working with him, he said, ‘Now there’s one rule here, you must always laugh at my jokes’. And sometimes they weren’t funny, but I always laughed, every single day. 

‘And the joy of listening to all of us talking about him and looking back over my photos is that, those are the memories I’ll take back. They’re just little giggles that we would have all of the time.’

Bill Turnbull with his wife Sesi as he leaves BBC Breakfast for the last time after 15 years of service on February 26, 2016

Bill Turnbull with his daughter Flora Turnbull in a Twitter post for his birthday that she posted on January 25, 2021

Former BBC Breakfast and Classic FM presenter Bill Turnbull has died at the age of 66, his family revealed yesterday morning

Bill Turnbull was a contestant in the third series of Strictly Come Dancing, when he partnered with Karen Hardy

In addition, Minchin said she would not be such a good journalist if it was not for Turnbull.

Bill Turnbull’s legacy inspires opponents of Sizewell C to ‘fight on’ 

Campaigners opposing the Sizewell C nuclear power project have said Bill Turnbull’s legacy as an ‘amazing friend and supporter’ of their cause will inspire them to ‘fight on’.

The ex-BBC Breakfast presenter’s death was announced yesterday – the same day that Boris Johnson used his final policy speech to promote the nuclear scheme and pledged £700 million of taxpayers’ money towards it.

The reactor is expected to be built by energy firm EDF, close to Turnbull’s home town of Theberton in Suffolk. During the planning phase, Turnbull gave a passionate speech warning of the ‘awful devastation’ the project would have on the area.

Protest group Stop Sizewell C said it was ‘devastated’ by the newsreader’s death, describing him as an ‘amazing friend and supporter’ whose legacy would inspire the group to further oppose the project. 

The group said: ‘Bill was an amazing friend and supporter but he and his family would want us to fight on, and we will, with all our hearts, to honour him. We send our love and deepest condolences to all who knew him.’

Alison Downes, executive director of the group, said Mr Turnbull became increasingly involved after they met at a pub, and described him as having ‘this amazing can-do attitude’. She said: ‘He was passionate about Minsmere, about Sizewell beach, about the sandlings. He loved walking the dogs all over this beautiful area. He was very driven by the wildlife.’

Ms Downes said Mr Turnbull was ‘always upbeat and always positive’ and ‘very good at rousing’ the campaigners through making videos, talking to the media, and hosting events where Sizewell C was discussed. ‘He was enormously important to the campaign. He was a great supporter,’ she said.

‘But also, for me personally, he was something of a mentor, and he and his family were so supportive and they always had time to talk about the campaign and throw ideas around. And just the level of support they gave me was incredibly powerful.’

She told BBC Breakfast: ‘He wasn’t just a team for me, he was a team for the whole of the production team. I know that we all loved him so much.

‘And it wasn’t to say that he wasn’t sometimes tough on us, tough on me, if he thought that you weren’t, you know, being rigorous in your journalism, that you were using words that were on that unofficial banned list, he’d always come up to you and have a kind of quiet word.

‘But that was always done with the programme at its heart.’

She added: ‘I wouldn’t be such a good journalist if it wasn’t for him and that kind of eye for detail.’

Turnbull was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2017 and later detailed his treatment in a Channel 4 documentary called Staying Alive.  He died at home in Suffolk.

Turnbull’s former Strictly Come Dancing partner Karen Hardy also remembered him on BBC Breakfast.

Speaking from New Zealand, she said: ‘I thank him for really being a big part of where Strictly is today. He brought that family entertainment, (he) had the most incredible family that he was forever talking about.’

Hardy, who partnered Turnbull on the BBC One series in 2005, added that he was an ‘absolute gentleman’ telling Munchetty and Stayt: ‘And we’re celebrating him which is magical.’

And Turnbull’s former co-host Sian Williams shared memories from their time on BBC Breakfast’s red sofa together.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she recalled: ‘When we were interviewing a star and it had gone on too long and one of us was stumped for questions, we had a code phrase to ask the other to jump in: ‘So, what next for you?’.

‘We had code words for when we were wanting to laugh but not allowed to, we knew not to look at one another if we reported a very sad story because we’d both go.

‘We held each other up. In three decades, we never fell out or bickered. The viewers loved him because on-screen he was who we all knew him to be off-screen.’

Turnbull’s family praised the treatment he received at the Royal Marsden and Ipswich hospitals, St Elizabeth Hospice and from his GP.

His relatives said in a statement issued yesterday morning: ‘He was resolutely positive and was hugely buoyed by the support he received from friends, colleagues and messages from people wishing him luck.

‘It was a great comfort to Bill that so many more men are now testing earlier for this disease.

‘Bill will be remembered by many as a remarkable broadcaster who brought warmth and humour into people’s homes on BBC Breakfast and Classic FM.’

BBC Breakfast hosts past and present celebrate the programme’s 25th anniversary in 2012, including (Left to Right) Angela Rippon, Francis Wilson, Chris Hollins, Glyn Christian, Selena Scott, Sue Cook, Sian Williams, Mike Smith and Bill Turnbull

Camilla walks with Bill Turnbull as she attends a Bees for Development event at Marlborough House in London in June 2019

BBC Breakfast presenters (left to right) Bill Turnbull, Louise Minchin, Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt 

Bill Turnbull died ‘peacefully’ at home in Suffolk after a ‘challenging and committed fight against prostate cancer’

(From left) Sally Nugent, Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin attend the Tric Awards in London on March 10, 2015

In 1990, Turnbull became a correspondent for BBC News and reported from more than 30 countries, covering notable stories including the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the OJ Simpson trial.

He joined BBC Breakfast in 2001 as a presenter alongside Sian Williams and they worked together until 2012 when she left after the programme moved from London to Salford.

He made numerous television appearances outside of BBC Breakfast, including as the presenter on BBC One’s Songs Of Praise.

Other TV appearances included Strictly Come Dancing, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Through The Keyhole, Celebrity Mastermind, Would I Lie To You?, Pointless Celebrities and Room 101, and he also featured in dictionary corner on Countdown.

In 2011 he played himself in Doctor Who episode The Wedding Of River Song. He is survived by his wife Sesi, who he married in March 1988, and their three children Henry, Will and Flora.

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