Celebrity Big Brother and racing star John McCririck dies aged 79

John McCririck has died aged 79.

A rep for the broadcaster confirmed the news, telling Metro.co.uk that John passed away on 5 July in a London hospital.

A statement from Patsy Martin read: ‘Award winning journalist, broadcaster and for many years the face of British horse racing, John McCririck, passed away at a London hospital on Friday 5th July aged 79.

‘John’s interest in horse racing and betting began at Harrow where he was the school bookie. On leaving he worked for an illegal street bookmaker then legally on-course where he learned the art of tic-tac, clerking bets and making a book.

‘John cut his teeth in racing journalism on Formindex, a tipping sheet otherwise known as The Golden Guide. He went on to write for The Sporting Life where he won British Press Awards, Specialist Writer of the Year and Campaigning Journalist of the Year.

‘John jointed ITV in 1981 for Shergar’s Derby then became a household name as part of the Channel 4 Racing team when they took over coverage of the sport in 1984. His flamboyant broadcasting style from the heart of betting ring proved extremely popular with racing fans and beyond. John continued to work for Channel 4 Racing until 2013 as well as satellite channel At the Races. In this time he transcended the world of racing, appearing on numerous mainstream TV news and light entertainment programmes including Question Time, The Weakest Link, Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother in 2005 and 2010.

‘Despite suffering ill health in recent months, John continued to make several TV and radio appearances.

‘He is survived by Jenny, his wife of 48 years. His funeral will be private.’

Back in October 2018, the racing broadcasting legend said he didn’t expect to be alive by that time this year.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, John said: ‘What purpose is there in going on if you’re not working?

‘Racing was my life but now when I go I think: “What am I doing here?” I feel like a dinosaur. You’re a lost soul wandering around an environment you’re no longer part of.’

John continued: ‘Life is empty. I don’t expect to be alive this time next year. It’s a question of slipping away.

‘I’ve prepared the Booby [his wife Jenny] for it. When I’m gone she knows exactly what to do and she’ll be fine.’

John added that he would have no funeral, and wanted his ashes scattered over the furlong pole at Alexandra Park.

The Surrey-born star had concerned fans with his significant weight loss during an appearance on Bit On The Side.

The Celebrity Big Brother star blamed a bad flu that turned into a serious chest infection for his frail appearance, and believed that the illness, in combination with his unemployment, has limited what time he had left.

McCririck was sacked from Channel 4 racing in 2012, with the larger-than-life star suing the channel for ageism at an employment tribunal.

However, the tribunal ruled against him and pinned his sacking on him being ‘offensive’ and ‘disgusting’, saying: ‘All the evidence is that Mr McCririck’s pantomime persona, as demonstrated on the celebrity television appearances and his persona when appearing on Channel 4 Racing, together with his self-described bigoted and male chauvinist views, were clearly unpalatable to a wider potential audience.’

John, who has been married to wife Jenny since 1971, told fans he was ‘recovering’, but claimed he deliberately lost weight after losing his job.

He said: ‘Ever since I was sacked in 2012, by Channel 4 racing, you feel depressed. It was a purpose in life.

‘I wake up in the morning now and I’ve got Jeremy Kyle, I’ve This Morning to watch, I’m trying to keep away from Judge Rinder. Having no purpose in life is terrible.’

Aside from his time as a racing pundit, McCririck made a name for himself with his shocking reality TV appearances.

In 2005, he starred on Celebrity Big Brother’s third series, and was the third housemate to be evicted. He famously staged a protest in the house after they banned him from receiving Diet Coke.

John also returned to the CBB house in the 16th series in 2015 for the Timebomb twist, and was the first housemate to be evicted from Ultimate Big Brother.

He became a regular guest on Big Brother’s Bit On The Side.

John and Jenny will also be remembered for their infamous appearance on Wife Swap in 2006, when they traded places with Edwina Currie and her husband.

On the show, McCririck was accused of misogyny by Currie due to his treatment of his wife, who he nicknamed Booby.

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