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Robin was a fragile, gentle soul who never got over BBC dumping him from Strictly


A little over two weeks ago, while in South Africa Robin Windsor made a tearful call to a friend.

‘I don’t want to come home,’ the former Strictly Come Dancing star confessed. ‘I want to stay for a few more days.’

Robin’s friend, who has spoken exclusively to the Mail, sensed that the dancer, then 8,000 miles from his home in London, was deeply distressed.

However, the true extent of the star’s torment became clear only yesterday morning, when it emerged he had died aged 44.

Robin travelled to Africa in January to perform on a Fred Olsen cruise. The trip was a particular relief to him, the Mail can reveal, given that he suffered a troubling incident over the New Year.

Susanna Reid and Robin Windsor performing on Strictly for Children in Need in 2011

Susanna Reid and Robin Windsor performing on Strictly for Children in Need in 2011

‘He kept saying that something had happened over New Year but he wouldn’t say what it was,’ the friend said.

‘He sounded absolutely traumatised – whatever had happened must have been truly awful.’

In the coming days, Robin did, however, return to London, the Mail understands, where he was found dead in a hotel.

Instagram photos posted just weeks earlier show Robin enjoying a safari as well as the sunny beaches of Cape Town. But the dancer’s smiles belied his emotional anguish.

On January 14, Robin wrote online: ‘Remember, when something goes wrong in the circus, they send in the clowns to distract the audience. Well, something has gone very wrong with this circus and the clowns are everywhere.’

More recently on Facebook, he thanked those who had ‘reached out’ to him, admitting that it had been a ‘trying time’ but insisting: ‘Things are looking up.’

While the cause of Robin’s death has yet to be confirmed, his close friend and former Strictly co-star Kristina Rihanoff hinted that he may have taken his own life.

She wrote online: ‘There are no words to express the pain.

‘Robin wasn’t just my dance partner, he was a friend and together we shared endless experiences from our career highlights to hitting rock bottom of rejection. Many of you, who went to see his farewell tour, know perfectly well that he spoke very openly about his mental health struggles and thoughts of suicide.

‘I’m sure it was devastating for anyone who loves Robin to hear that, but those thoughts were in his head for many years… Too much pain, too much disappointment, too much neglect.’

Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden with Robin

Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden with Robin

Yesterday, the Strictly team and viewers were left similarly devastated at Robin’s death.

Burn the Floor, a dance company with which he performed, said Robin ‘Bobby’ Windsor’s dancing ‘started from a young age and never stopped. He lit up any room he walked into, he was a nurturing soul, full of fun.

‘He brought so much happiness to anyone who saw him dance… Robin was a strong advocate for mental health. The dance world has lost some of its sparkle today.’ However, friends say Robin’s sparkle diminished some time ago.

For a decade, he was said to have been plagued by mental health issues, which began when he was forced out of Strictly after slipping a disc in 2013.

He sustained the spinal injury at an after-show party in Blackpool, falling heavily on a marble floor while ‘trying some lifts’, friends said. He underwent an operation and for months had injections to numb the pain, but he suffered an agonising trapped nerve and sciatica. BBC bosses decided they couldn’t have him back, leaving him ‘absolutely distraught’.

‘He never got over it,’ says one long-standing pal. ‘He was a really nice guy who absolutely loved Strictly and was heartbroken.

‘Robin always lived in hope that he might get invited back to be a professional on the programme, but sadly that wasn’t to be.’ He kept in touch with the dancers and fed stories about the show to the Press. ‘He never wanted money and the stories were always positive,’ the friend claimed.

The star struggled to get out of bed, a friend said, and rarely left his home

The star struggled to get out of bed, a friend said, and rarely left his home

‘When Strictly was taken from him, he never really recovered. His entire purpose for being was blown apart. It was all so very tragic.’

The friend added that Robin ‘was a gentle, fragile man in quite an aggressive world and was never really cut out for the gossipy and hard-nosed mentality of TV.’

Robin, who first appeared on the show in 2010, revealed his torment on the My Time Capsule podcast in January 2022, saying: ‘It was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me… I loved being on Strictly Come Dancing. It was the best job in the world. I think I loved being on that show more than any other person that was there.’

Describing his brutal sacking, he said: ‘I got a phone call saying: “Thank you for all your hard work on the show. We won’t be needing you anymore.” And that was all that I got.’

‘It hurt more than anything in the world. After all of the work that I’d put in, how much I loved it, what I’d been through with the injury… to be just pushed to the side, with no real thanks or anything, was heartbreaking. But, at the same time, that’s showbusiness, right? Then I went on a downward spiral.’

It is thought Robin’s mental state worsened when his relationship with his fiance Davide Cini ended in 2014. He had proposed to Davide, a former communications director, on a romantic helicopter ride over New York. Robin had also been hit with a £100,000 tax bill, following his Strictly exit.

The star struggled to get out of bed, a friend said, and rarely left his home. In 2018, Robin admitted ‘as far as everyone was concerned, I was “happy Robin” – except to the people I lived with.’

His torment came to a head not long after, when he checked himself into a hotel with the intent to take his own life.

He wrote farewell letters to friends, and one source said that he ‘had enough drugs with him to kill a herd of elephants’. But his phone rang before he could carry out his plan. A source said the caller was someone with whom he had a ‘love-hate’ relationship, and their conversation was enough to save Robin from killing himself.

He began to seek help from the mental health charity Sane, but his recovery was far from smooth, and one friend said Robin hit one dark patch after another, finding spells of happiness in between.

Robin was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, in 1979 and moved to London aged 15 to pursue a career in dance, studying the ballroom and Latin styles. Such was his talent that he represented England in international competitions.

Wider recognition came in 2010 when he was invited on to Strictly. The first celebrity he was paired with was actress Patsy Kensit (formerly married to Oasis’s Liam Gallagher), with whom he finished in seventh place.

He went on to dance with Emmerdale actress Lisa Riley, as well as Dragon’s Den judge Deborah Meaden and ex-EastEnder Anita Dobson. Away from the show, he dated X Factor runner-up Marcus Collins until 2015. Yesterday, it fell to Susanna Reid, who danced with Robin for the Strictly Children In Need special in 2011, to break the news of his death on ITV’s breakfast programme Good Morning Britain.

She choked back tears, admitting she was unable to continue presenting, and handed over to her co-host, Ed Balls.

Later, Susanna described Robin as ‘larger than life’. She added: ‘I fell in love with him and I fell in love with dancing when I danced with him.

‘He was a remarkable dancer, incredible, strong, so creative… I just adored him.’

Lisa Riley, his partner on the 2012 series of Strictly, also told of her heartbreak.

Sharing photographs of the pair together on Instagram, she wrote: ‘My Bestie, My Robin, My Angel… now our forever Angel, who is loved, will always be loved, forever in my heart… my very broken heart, I love you, shine your beautiful, electric energy from heaven. Shine in peace.’

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