Who was Bill Turnbull? How did ex BBC Breakfast and Classic FM presenter die, cancer diagnosis, wife, tributes

The television presenter had been battling prostate cancer since 2017

Bill Turnbull, former BBC Breakfast host has died at the age of 66 after battling prostate cancer.

His family confirmed the news, which was announced on BBC Breakfast this morning by his former colleagues Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt.

Turnbull hosted the show for 15 years, becoming a firm favourite with viewers due to his presenting style.

The broadcaster announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018.

Tributes have poured in from former colleagues and across the UK broadcasting world.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bill Turnbull.

Bill Turnbull, pictured during his time working on Classic FM, has died at the age of 66, his family announced on Thursday, September 1. Picture: PA.

Who was Bill Turnbull?

The 66-year-old broadcaster was born in Guilford, Surrey in 1956 and went on to study at Eton College, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cardiff.

Turnbull began his career at Scotland’s Radio Clyde in 1978 before joining the BBC in 1986.

In 1988 he married Sarah McCombie, with the pair having three children: Henry, 34, Will, 33 and Flora, 30.

He was a lifelong fan of Wycombe Wanderers Football Club and regularly gave commentary for online games.

The broadcaster was a passionate beekeeper and published his first book,The Bad Beekeepers Club in 2010.

How did Bill Turnbull die?

Turnbull died from prostate cancer on 1 September, 2022.

The presenter was diagnosed with the disease in 2017 and had since left his role with Classic FM due to health reasons.

In a statement announcing his death, his family said: “Following a challenging and committed fight against prostate cancer, Bill passed away peacefully at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family on Wednesday 31 August.

“Bill was diagnosed in 2017 and has had outstanding medical care from the Royal Marsden and Ipswich hospitals, St Elizabeth hospice and his GP. He was resolutely positive and was hugely buoyed by the support he received from friends, colleagues, and messages from people wishing him luck. It was a great comfort to Bill that so many more men are now testing earlier for this disease.

“Bill will be remembered by many as a remarkable broadcaster who brought warmth and humour into people’s homes on BBC Breakfast and Classic FM. He was also a devoted Wycombe Wanderers fan and an ever-aspiring beekeeper.

“Bill was a wonderful husband and father to his three children; his family and friends will miss how he always made them laugh, and the generosity and love he shared with those around him.”

What were some of his career highlights?

Turnbull began his career at Scotland’s Radio Clyde in 1978 before joining the BBC in 1986 as a reporter for the Today Programme.

In 1990, he reported as a BBC News correspondent covering stories including the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the OJ Simpson trial.

The broadcaster joined the BBC Breakfast team in 2001, presenting alongside Sian Williams.

He spent 15 years in this role, co-presenting with colleagues including Susanna Reid and Louise Minchin.

Turnbull left the BBC in 2016 and became a presenter on Classic FM before stepping down due to his health.

As well as working as a broadcaster he also presented Songs of Praise, Think Tank and The One Show.

In 2005 he competed as a contestant in the third season of Strictly Come Dancing, finishing sixth.

Bill Turnbull with BBC Breakfast presenters Sally Nugent and Louise Minchin in 2015 (Pic: Getty Images)

Who has paid tribute to him?

Tributes have poured in from Turnbull’s former colleagues and television presenters.

On BBC Breakfast, Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt gave an emotional tribute.

Munchetty said: “His energy was amazing. He came into this programme and threw everything at it. He was funny; he was a brilliant journalist. He loved this programme and he loved serving you, the audience.”

Whilst Stayt added that he “didn’t take himself too seriously”.

Dan Walker shared his tribute on Twitter, calling it an “honour to sit on his sofa”.

He said: “ Bill Turnbull was so kind and generous when I took over from him on BBC Breakfast. He was full of brilliant advice and it was clear just how loved he was by his colleagues and the audience. It was an honour to sit on his sofa. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Former colleague Susannah Reid also shared a touching tribute on Twitter.

Reid said: “Bill was the kindest, funniest, most generous man in the business. I feel lucky to have worked with him and he taught me everything. But above all, he was devoted to his family and I am heartbroken for them. RIP Bill. We will miss you so much.”

BBC journalist John Simpson gave tribute to Turnbull on Twitter.

Simpson said: “Very sorry to hear of the death of my former colleague Bill Turnbull. He was charming and relaxed, and managed to combine being a clever, sharp reporter with sympathetic understanding as an interviewer. And he faced a vicious disease with great courage.”

Whilst Louise Minchin reflected on how he has “made her laugh” in her tribute on Twitter.

Minchin said: “Sending my love and thoughts to the family of my wonderful friend Bill Turnbull. He was a brilliant journalist, a stickler for accuracy, passionate about @BBCBreakfast and a fabulously supportive and kind team-player. Most of all he was great fun, I love how he made me laugh.”