NIKKI Grahame's Big Brother ex Pete Bennett rushed to see her before she died at the age of 38.
The 39-year-old reality star, who struck up a romance with Nikki on the 2006 series and stayed close to her in the years that followed, opened up today.
Speaking on Sky News today he said he jumped in a cab to be by her side the moment he saw a fundraiser to help her battle anorexia.
He said sadly: "I was like: 'Oh my God, she's really really ill.'
"I just got in the cab and went over there with my girlfriend, who is a mental health nurse. We just tried to give her love and support.
"Me and Nikki had a great connection. I thought the love I had for her would boost her up and get her out of the darkness."
Pete, who has Tourette's that caused him to swear on Sky News, said: "My heart goes out to everyone who was trying to help her.
"Carly, her best friend, I know is really struggling, my heart goes out to her. I know what it's like to lose a best friend, especially when you're trying to save them.
"I knew she was ill in the last lockdown – she told me not to say. She rang me up and said 'Pete I'm ill, come and get me' – I was busy at the time."
Explaining how gruelling the UK's coronavirus lockdowns have been for people with mental illness he said: "This has really highlighted it. Look what it's done.
You’re Not Alone
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
- Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm
"It has taken one of the best characters that the world has ever seen. This is rubbish, man."
Former Big Brother star Nikki died on Friday at the age of 38 after a long battle with anorexia.
She has been fighting the illness since she was a child, and was first admitted to a psychiatric hospital at the age of 12 following a suicide bid.
At one point, Nikki had to be force fed through a nasal tube after she starved herself.
Helplines on eating disorders and body image
For help and support on eating disorders and body image, you can call Beat Eating Disorders.
Their adult helpline is 0808 201 1677. The youth helpline is on 0808 801 0711
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