Carol Vorderman paid loving tribute today to her Countdown co-star Richard Whiteley, who died yesterday aged 61.
Vorderman said of the man she partnered on screen for 23 years: “I adored him and I always will.”
She said Whiteley was a “favourite uncle” for the millions of viewers who tuned in to the Channel 4 show every day.
In a statement released today, she said: “We have had thousands of messages from our Countdown family. We have even had a message saying Mass is being said for him in Ireland today.
“He was loved by millions as every day he filled the screen and made us laugh. Every time we were in studio he made us roll around with laughter.
“The Countdown crew loved him, the contestants loved him, the viewers loved him and I loved him.
“Countdown is a very special programme and we are a family. Both of our producers were contestants originally and most of us have worked on it since the beginning.
“We have been on-screen for nearly 23 years and 4,000 shows and in that time a quarter of a million people sat in the Countdown studio audience (I’ve worked it out because he would find that funny) and fell in love with him.
“He was the star. Many times the audience was full of students – all younger than Countdown itself – and they came to pay homage to their favourite uncle.
“They had T-shirts made with his face on. They raided their dads’ wardrobes for the worst jacket and tie they could find and they had their hair cut like Richard’s.
“They loved him. He was the best company you could ever have. He got us all into trouble.
“He charmed our older viewers. They travelled at their own expense from Cornwall, Kent, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to see him and he never let them down.
“He never let us down. He never disappointed. He loved Countdown. He was Countdown and Countdown was him.
“I’m privileged to have known him, to have been so close to him and to have been supported and loved by him.
“I adored him and I always will.”