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Zoe Ball says suicide of boyfriend Billy Yates has left her in shock for two years


Zoe Ball has told how the suicide of her boyfriend Billy Yates left her in shock for two years.

The 49-year-old Radio 2 Breakfast Show host began dating the cameraman in February 2017 after she split up with her husband Norman Cook, better known as DJ Fatboy Slim.

But in May that year, Billy, 40, was found dead at his London home after taking his own life.

Zoe – who has admitted in the past of feeling guilty about Billy’s death, wondering if she could have done more – said: “I believe I was in shock for two years. It’s like you can’t see beyond putting your feet on the floor and getting out of bed each day.

“Since losing Billy, I’ve met lots of people who’ve helped me have a better understanding of the complexities of mental health.

“But also, it’s key to remember there is help available for people living with mental health issues and there is hope.”

Billy – who had worked on shows including Antiques Roadshow, The Xtra Factor and Famous and Fearless – was stressed after becoming a victim of a convicted fraudster, according to friends at the time.

Zoe cycled from Blackpool to Brighton as part of a Sport Relief challenge in 2018 to raise awareness of ­mental health and explored the reasons for suicide in BBC1’s Zoe’s Hardest Road Home.

She started dating construction boss Michael Reed in December 2017 but they split in November.

Zoe Ball with her boyfriend Billy Yates before tragedy struck

But Zoe – who also presents Strictly: It Takes Two – is still hopeful of finding love again. She said: “You find it everywhere.

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“It’s in your friendships and your parents and your children and in music. Love fills your heart and it breaks your heart. It’s unpredictable, you don’t know where it’s going to come from.

“To feel love is the most incredible feeling in the world. To lose it will nearly end you and take you to your knees – but there’s always more.

“You know, I look at my kids or my friends and think, ‘I couldn’t love you any more’. And then I do. Love just keeps on coming.”

And it seems after some rocky times, she and Norman have found a mutual post-marriage relationship. They were the cool couple of the 90s.

Zoe Ball cycled from Blackpool to Brighton as part of a Sport Relief challenge in 2018 to raise awareness of mental health

She was the Radio 1 DJ. He was the biggest DJ on the planet. They met in Ibiza and their relationship was consumed by the lifestyle. The partying continued and they became parents to son Woody, now 20.

But they shocked the world in 2003 – or Zoe did – when she had an affair with unknown radio DJ Dan Peppe and left her husband.

Norman was heartbroken but, three months later, Zoe returned.

They had daughter Nelly, now 10, but were rocked again in 2015 when Zoe was pictured snogging singer TayTay Starhz at a Strictly wrap party. She and Norman split for good in 2016.

But it seems they are now happy co-parenting. Zoe said: “He is such a good friend and a good guy. He’s the best dad.

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“It’s not always been easy and it’s taken time. He’s been through a lot, I’ve been through a lot, but now we’re in a great place as parents.

You can read the full interview with Zoe Ball in the March issue of Red which is on sale this Thursday

“We sometimes look at them and go, ‘Wow, despite what we’ve been through, we made it’. Because they’re brilliant kids.”

Now, at the time she might have once crawled home, she is having to go to work presenting breakfast radio. No wonder she gave up booze in 2016, claiming it would kill her.

And Zoe admitted: “I’ve done a lot of work on my issues with booze. I’ve been able to forgive myself. It’s taken me a long time to grow up. There is help with AA and other support networks.”

And it seems much of the Ladette image was down to peer pressure. In the 90s, it was all about women not caring and being like the boys.


Denise Van Outen stole an ashtray from Buckingham Palace and boasted about it. While in 1999, Zoe was snapped with a bottle of booze and a fag in her mouth hours before she married. But she now claimed the image was never her.

Zoe – whose dad is TV maths boffin Johnny Ball – admitted: “I wish I’d known (when I was younger) that you don’t have to be what people are expecting you to be. You just have to be you.

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“When you grow up as a woman, there is that confusion where you think, ‘I need to be this or that to fit in’. Now, I’m very much like, ‘No, this is what I am.”’

Instead of looking for a party on a Friday night, she watches TV and hopes to catch a chat with her kids Woody, who starred on Channel 4’s The Circle, and Nelly.

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She said: “Sometimes my kids want to talk to me at nine o’clock when I’m trying to go to sleep, because I’m up early to do the radio show. But I’ll stay up and listen to them because I know that moment is invaluable.’”

And instead of hangovers, Zoe has to deal with managing the menopause.

The presenter – who goes on air at 6.30am every weekday – said: “It is awful. I’ve had young friends go, ‘Oh, will you shut up moaning about the menopause,’ and I said to them, ‘You wait, you’ll be knocking on my door in 10 years’.

“There are the irregular cycles, you feel you’re going slightly mad, you get this terrible anxiety, which in any job is a nightmare, but especially in live radio.”

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 jo@samaritans.org

Read the full interview with Zoe in the March issue of Red, on sale this Thursday.

 





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