Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended after he allegedly punched a producer.
BBC News also reported that it “understood” the final three episodes of the series would not be broadcast in the wake of what the corporation has officially described as a “fracas” between the pair.
This is despite an online petition calling for the 54-year-old’s reinstatement soaring past 200,000 signatures.
The producer involved in the alleged bust-up, said to have taken place after filming in Newcastle over a lack of catering, has been named by the Daily Mirror as Oisin Tymon, 36.
The presenter has lurched from controversy to controversy in recent months, offending foreign diplomats, viewers, MPs and his own bosses at the BBC.
Clarkson’s first public response to his suspension was a tweet issuing a mock apology to Ed Miliband, whose wife Justine gave an interview to the BBC which was broadcast yesterday.
He said: “Sorry Ed. It seems I knocked your ‘I’m a human’ piece down the news agenda.”
Sorry Ed. It seems I knocked your "I'm a human" piece down the news agenda.— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) March 10, 2015
Clarkson retweeted a message from a Top Gear viewer which read: “How can BBC not show the remaining episodes of Top Gear, can’t this be resolved without making the fans suffer?”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation.
“No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”
The Mirror reported the “fracas” was over a lack of catering, with the paper quoting a source saying: “They came to the end of filming after a long day and Jeremy discovered that no food had been laid on.”
The presenter then “snapped”, the source added.
But according to The Sun, Clarkson, who is a columnist for the paper, said: “I’m having a nice cold pint and waiting for this to blow over.”
A source told the paper: “He didn’t punch anyone.”
Spirits did not seem to be too down in the Clarkson camp, as the presenter’s daughter Em Clarkson tweeted: “Oh God, BBC please take him back... He’s started cooking...”
Sunday’s episode was set to feature Clarkson with co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May getting to grips with classic cars such as a Fiat 124 Spider, an MGB GT and a Peugeot 304 cabriolet.
They were set to take to the road and end up at a classic track day, while Gary Lineker was due to be the “star in a reasonably priced car”.
Clarkson was put on what was called his final warning last year following a racism row after claims he used the N-word while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe during filming of the BBC2 programme.
North Yorkshire Police were inundated with inquiries about whether the latest alleged incident had taken place in the Hawes area of North Yorkshire.
The force said in a statement: “There has been suggestions that the alleged ’fracas’ occurred in the Hawes area. We can confirm that no complaints have been reported to North Yorkshire Police.”
Clarkson’s initially failed to acknowledge news of his suspension, instead joking with Hammond and May on Twitter about what should be done with the now-empty slot on the BBC’s schedule on Sunday.
May tweeted to his co-stars: “No Top Gear this weekend, apparently. How about 633 Squadron instead?”
Hammond replied: “No, surely, Last of the Summer Wine; no-one will notice the difference. Job done.”
Clarkson added: “I did some pretty good war documentaries. They could screen one of those.”
Fans started a campaign on the social media site using the hashtag BringBackClarkson, with a Change.org petition started by political website Guido Fawkes that exceeded 200,000 signatures.
In response, May tweeted: “Save Clarkson? Save empty cardboard boxes and off-cuts of string. They’re far more useful.”
In recent years Clarkson has been cleared of breaching the broadcasting code by watchdog Ofcom after comparing a Japanese car to people with growths on their faces, and he faced a storm of protest from mental health charities after branding people who throw themselves under trains as ”selfish”.
He was also forced to apologise for telling BBC1’s The One Show that striking workers should be shot, but it is the claims of racism that have really damaged his standing with the corporation.
According to Mr Tymon’s LinkedIn profile, he began working on Top Gear as an associate producer in March 2008 before being promoted to producer in March 2012.
Before joining the show he spent just over a year as a researcher and associate producer on daily magazine programme The One Show.
He has a recommendation from an employer on his LinkedIn page which describes him as “personable, professional and efficient”.
Mr Tymon studied an English language and literature degree course at Brunel University from 1999 to 2002.
Top Gear is one of the BBC’s biggest money spinners, pulling in millions of pounds from a devoted international audience.
Its latest series was given a global launch with a simultaneous broadcast in more than 50 countries.
Its success – and Clarkson’s vital part in it – saw BBC TV boss Danny Cohen compare him to a top-flight footballer, telling reporters last year that “no one is bigger than the club”.
Last year, the show was censured by communications regulator Ofcom for breaching broadcasting rules after Clarkson used a “racial” term during the programme’s Burma special, which aired in March 2014.
The year ended with the motoring show’s crew forced to flee Argentina after trouble erupted when it emerged they were using a Porsche with the registration number H982 FKL, which some people suggested could refer to the Falklands conflict of 1982.
But each episode of the two-part Christmas special attracted more than seven million viewers, with a further three million for each episode on iPlayer.
Top Gear’s executive producer Andy Wilman described last year as “an annus horribilis” for the show after the claims of racism and the near-riot in Argentina.
It is difficult to find exact figures, but it is safe to say the show has made Clarkson and Wilman multimillionaires.
The 2012 annual report and accounts of BBC Worldwide – the corporation’s commercial arm – show it got a dividend of £4.5 million in 2012 from a company called Bedder 6.
The company, registered at the west London base of BBC Worldwide, was set up by Clarkson and Wilman.
The BBC owns 50%, with Clarkson reported to own around 30%, which means his dividend would have been around £2.7 million that year, on top of his BBC salary.