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Annabel Croft says Kate Garraway was grieving her husband Derek Draper for ‘a long time’ before his death after he battled Covid for four years – as she opens up about her ‘horrendous’ grief


Annabel Croft has revealed that Kate Garraway would have been grieving her husband Derek Draper for ‘a long time’ before his death after he battled Covid for four years.

The former tennis star, 57,  also told Women & Home Magazine that she her own grief following the loss of her husband Mel has led her to feel like ‘nothing matters anymore.’

Annabel married yachtsman Mel, 60, in 1992, but he tragically passed away in May 2023 – eight weeks after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer.

She shared three children with the sportsman, two daughters, Amber, 27, and Lily, 24, and a son, Charlie, 26.

The former Strictly star said the grief she felt for her husband was ‘horrendous’ and she can relate to Kate Garraway.

Annabel Croft has revealed that Kate Garraway would have been grieving her husband Derek Draper for 'a long time' as she graced the cover of Women & Home Magazine

Annabel Croft has revealed that Kate Garraway would have been grieving her husband Derek Draper for ‘a long time’ as she graced the cover of Women & Home Magazine

Kate lost her husband, Derek Draper in January 2024 after he suffered a heart attack before Christmas following a long battle with covid (pictured in 2019)

Kate lost her husband, Derek Draper in January 2024 after he suffered a heart attack before Christmas following a long battle with covid (pictured in 2019)

Kate lost her husband, Derek Draper, 56, in January 2024 after he suffered a heart attack before Christmas following a long battle with covid.

She said: Kate Garraway’s been going through [grief] for a long time and it’s a very different [scenario to mine], but I can imagine how she’s feeling.

‘Grief is horrendous and I take every day as it comes. I try to fill the day with nice things, but when I’m on my own at home, if I start looking at pictures, I start sobbing.’

Annabel admitted that competing in Strictly Come Dancing distracted her from the ‘terrible’ time at home following Mel’s death.

She told the publication: ‘I’ve done lots of extraordinary things in my career, but Strictly is different… A distraction at this terrible time in our family’s lives was quite positive.

‘I didn’t do everything perfectly, but after everything we’ve been through, I thought, ‘Does it really matter?’ Awful things go on in life, so getting a few steps wrong was never going to be major.

‘Nothing matters any more. Nothing means anything, actually. We’re all still trying to process it all.’

She said: Kate Garraway¿s been going through [grief] for a long time and it¿s a very different [scenario to mine], but I can imagine how she¿s feeling'

She said: Kate Garraway’s been going through [grief] for a long time and it’s a very different [scenario to mine], but I can imagine how she’s feeling’

Annabel married yachtsman Mel, 60, in 1992, but he tragically passed away in May 2023 - eight weeks after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer (pictured 2021)

Annabel married yachtsman Mel, 60, in 1992, but he tragically passed away in May 2023 – eight weeks after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer (pictured 2021)

Speaking to Women & Home, Annabel admitted that competing in Strictly Come Dancing distracted her from the 'terrible' time at home (pictured with Graziano di Prima)

Speaking to Women & Home, Annabel admitted that competing in Strictly Come Dancing distracted her from the ‘terrible’ time at home (pictured with Graziano di Prima)

The former Strictly star said the grief she felt for her husband was 'horrendous' and she can relate to Kate

The former Strictly star said the grief she felt for her husband was ‘horrendous’ and she can relate to Kate 

The former British number one opened up on how the Christmas holidays were very hard for her family as they still save Mel a seat around the table. 

The mother-of-three explained their home still has a huge presence of him as his toothbrush and clothes are still out.

She said: ‘I have three piles of unopened letters [from well-wishers] and feel awful because people have been so kind to take the time to write, but every time I start to read them, I can’t stop crying. I’m too emotional and too raw at the moment. Christmas and New Year were really hard.

‘There were a lot of tears because they’re such big markers, and because we had such a normal Christmas and New Year the previous year. We were a tight little unit anyway, but losing Mel has brought me closer to my children.

‘We have our set places at the dinner table. It’s like The Three Bears – Mum sits there, Dad always sat there and the kids in the middle – and when we sit around that table for meals, we talk about Mel and his amazing humour, and that keeps him there.

‘It’s weird because the house that was full of Mel is suddenly empty. All his stuff is still there. His side table in our bedroom is full, [there’s] all his clothes, [his] toothbrush is still there.

‘It feels very final if you pick up that toothbrush and put it in the bin. If I sell the house, maybe that will be the time to clear everything out, but right now, I don’t know.’

Mel was a successful investment banker who took part in the America’s Cup and, more recently, ran a tennis school with his wife.

He was noted for his perfect health and, like Annabel, enjoyed an active outdoors lifestyle.

After Covid lockdowns, the two converted an old delivery van into a mobile home and took it around the country and into Europe on walking holidays.

The mother-of-three also explained their home still has a huge presence of Mel as his toothbrush and clothes are still out (pictured on their wedding day in 1992)

The mother-of-three also explained their home still has a huge presence of Mel as his toothbrush and clothes are still out (pictured on their wedding day in 1992)

Announcing his death in May 2023, she said: ‘My beloved husband Mel passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning after a short battle with cancer. My family and I are completely heartbroken and ask for privacy at this very sad time.’

Annabel previously revealed that her path crossed with Mel’s quite by chance when she was at a crisis point.

Aged 21, she was at the US Open having a pep talk from fellow player John Newcombe, who suggested that she should think about what she wanted to do with her life as she seemed unhappy.

She had been on the tennis tour for nearly six years and was lonely, stressed and lost by the demands of incessantly competing.

‘As we were having this chat, I got a text from my mother saying the BBC production office in Belfast were asking whether I’d be interested in filming a programme about yacht racing.

‘I’d never been on a yacht before, but it ended up with me, Eamonn Holmes and Peter Skellern going off to Guernsey to shoot a programme where we learnt how to race a yacht.

‘Mel, who had just got back from Australia after the America’s Cup, was one of the yachtsmen and that is how we met.

‘After a day’s filming we’d all go to the pub, have dinner – it sounds weird, but I’d never really done that – and I remember thinking, gosh this is really fun and normal, and I want a bit more of this rather than getting up and putting on a tracksuit and stressing about whether my backhand is working today.’

They married six years later.

Read the full interview in Women & Home Magazine, on sale now. 



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