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By Paul Glynn
This Morning stand-in host Rochelle Humes has paid tribute to Holly Willoughby following her exit, saying she was right to put family first.
Willoughy announced on Tuesday she was quitting the ITV daytime programme after 14 years “for me and my family”.
The presenter had been absent from the show since last week, when a man was charged in relation to an alleged plot to kidnap and murder her.
Humes began Wednesday’s show by sending her “love, best wishes and respect”.
She told viewers: “Holly loved her job here and was really looking forward to the future of the show. But recent events, especially in the past week, have been hard to deal with. And she’s quite rightly put her family first.”
Co-host Craig Doyle added that her decision to leave would have been “heartbreaking” one.
“On behalf of everyone here in front and behind the camera, we just loved working with Holly and she made coming to work so much fun,” he said. “We’re all really, really sad and we’re really going to miss her.”
The opening credits of the show – which Doyle noted Willoughby said “must go on” – carried slogans such as “end of an era”, “family comes first” and “we will miss you”.
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Other current and former hosts have also paid tribute to Willoughby.
Alison Hammond replied to her news on Instagram, saying: “This is a very sad day! Love you.” Dermot O’Leary added: “Nothing but love and respect for you and yours.”
Richard Madeley has said Willoughby had done “a very brave, wise and courageous thing” by stepping down from the flagship daytime show. He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she had done “exactly the right thing”, adding: “She will be back, no question about that.”
Willoughby, 42, posted on Tuesday: “I have let ITV know today that after 14 years, I will not be returning to This Morning.”
Her statement didn’t refer directly to last week’s alleged plot.
‘I have to make this decision’
Willoughby also thanked everybody who had worked on the programme, writing: “This is such a difficult goodbye, you are incredible and I forever will be proud of what we’ve done together.
“Thank you to everyone at ITV for being supportive. To every guest who has sat on our sofa, thank you.
“Most of all, thank you to the wonderful viewers. You’ve been so loyal, so supportive and the very best company every day.”
She added: “It’s been an honour to just be part of its story and I know this story has many chapters left to go. Sadly, however, I now feel I have to make this decision for me and my family.
“I will miss you all so much.”
IMAGE SOURCE,JOE MAHER/ GETTY
Willoughy was reported to be under police protection at her home last week
ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment Kevin Lygo said: “We are sad that Holly is leaving This Morning, but respect her decision which we know will have been extremely difficult for her to make.”
She is “one of the best loved, respected and most accomplished broadcasters in the UK” and “is adored by our viewers”, he said.
The news also arrived five months after the show was engulfed in scandal when her former co-host Phillip Schofield left after admitting lying about an affair with a younger colleague.
The previous year, the pair faced criticism after they were accused of jumping a queue to view the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth.
Willoughby, who has three children with husband Daniel Baldwin, presented her final episode of the show last Wednesday.
On Thursday, she was reported to be under police protection at her home.
Gavin Plumb, of Potters Field, in Harlow, Essex, appeared in court on Friday accused of “soliciting, encouraging, persuading, endeavouring to persuade or proposing to a third party” to murder Willoughby last week.
He was remanded in custody to appear for a plea hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court on 3 November.