Zoe Ball says suicide of lover Billy Yates was ‘hardest thing in my life’

Brave Zoe Ball has opened up about her ex-boyfriend’s suicide and admitted that losing him was the hardest thing she’s “ever had to deal with”.

The Radio 2 DJ, 49, and host of Strictly spin-off It Takes Two speaks about her beloved Billy Yates’ tragic death in a tender interview on tomorrow’s Desert Island Discs.

She vowed to remember the 40-year-old cameraman for the huge impact he had on her life and the love and laughs they shared.

And she encouraged anybody else struggling with dark thoughts to reach out for help.

Talking about Billy, who died in 2017, Zoe revealed: “He’d lived with depression for a huge chunk of his life.

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"It’s so hard to sit and watch someone you love and care for struggle with mental health.

“Losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life.”

Billy and Zoe had been friends for years and started dating months before his death.

She said: “I think something that’s really important to share… is that there is hope. There is help available, there are ways, we’re still learning.

“For some people, the drugs work.For some people that isn’t the case.

“But I think it’s so isolating to be trapped in your mind like that, when you doubt yourself, you doubt everything you’ve ever known. You doubt your family love you. You doubt your friends care for you.”

And she insisted Billy should be remembered for his life, not his death.

She said: “He was so full of love. He’d help anyone in need. He was always there for all his friends.”

Dedicating the Frank Wilson song Do I Love You to Billy, Zoe told Discs host Lauren Laverne: “He brought so much into my life… and I wanted to play a piece of music for him that reflected him as a human.

“He loved to dance and he loved to laugh. And this track will always remind me of him.”

Mum-of-two Zoe had son Woody, 19, and daughter Nelly, 10, with her DJ ex-hubby Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook, 56. They were married for 17 years before they split in 2016.

Zoe, sober for three years, also talked about her struggles with alcohol. She said: “Life was quite fast and I needed to step back a little bit.

“It took me a couple of attempts to sort that out. I was lucky enough to go to rehab and meet other people who had addictions.”

Listener figures have fallen since she replaced Chris Evans on Radio 2’s Breakfast Show and Zoe admitted it’s a pressure. She said: “You pretend it’s not but the listening figures come in and your face is on the tin.

“I do take it to heart. We’ve been there a year and we’re still learning.”

Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 on Suday at 11.15am

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