Nikki Grahame’s former Big Brother housemate and boyfriend Pete Bennett has spoken out for the first time since her death.

The reality TV star, who rose to fame as a Big Brother contestant in 2006, passed away at the age of 38.

Grahame, originally from Northwood in London, had recently received treatment for an eating disorder at a specialist clinic following a fundraising campaign organised by friends and fans.

The campaign had raised more than £69,000 since its launch on March 10, with organisers saying they had “exhausted every avenue possible”.

A statement from her representative said: “It is with immeasurable sadness that Nikki Grahame passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April 2021.

“It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age. Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely.”

Grahame appeared on the seventh series of the reality TV show in 2006, and despite finishing fifth became one of its most recognisable contestants.

She subsequently secured her own show, Princess Nikki, won a National Television Award for most popular TV contender and published two books, the autobiographies Dying To Be Thin and Fragile.

In her books, Grahame detailed how she developed anorexia while still a teenager and struggled with the condition throughout her life, spending time in hospital on a number of occasions.

On Monday, Pete Bennett struggle to fight back tears as he spoke about Nikki’s desperate plea for help just weeks ago.

Speaking on Sky News, Pete described a phone call from Nikki who was struggling in the recent lockdown.

Speaking on camera about her death for the first time, Pete, also 38, paid tribute to her friends who had tried to save her life by setting up a fundraiser to send her for private treating for anorexia.

"My heart goes out to everyone who was trying to help her, especially her best friend," he said.

"Carly, her best friend, I know is really struggling and my heart goes out to her, because I know what it's like to lose a best friend, and you know, especially when you're trying to save them."

He explained: "I knew Nikki was ill in the last lockdown, she told me not to say and she was getting care. But she rang me up like, 'Pete I'm ill, come and get me from the clinic' and I was busy at the time.

"But then this second lockdown happens and I remember seeing that fundraiser that Carly and Leon had made, and I was like 'my god she's really really ill man', so I was in London at the time and I just got in the cab and went over there with my girlfriend who's a mental health nurse, and we just tried to give her as much love and support.

"And because it's me, and me and Nikki had a great connection, so I thought the love that I had could boost her up and out of the darkness. This lockdown has been really hard for people with mental health issues, this has really highlighted it."

He added: "Look at what it's done. Know what I mean? Taken one of the best characters the world's ever seen. It's just rubbish, man.

“So, my heart goes out to all her fans, getting so many nice messages and thank you so much for all the lovely support from all her fans and the Big Brother 7 fans.

“And to the rest of the Big Brother cast, we're getting so much love and we really appreciate it.

"I can say that we're all really cut up and I can't really put into words yet, it's still quite a sore subject.”

It comes after Pete paid a heartbreaking tribute to Nikki following the news of her death over the weekend.

On social media, he said: “I thought to myself ‘yeah we could save her’, but we couldn’t. But it’s okay she’s in a good place and she’s not suffering anymore.

“So I’d just like to raise a f*****g glass, or bottle of wine more like, for Nikki Grahame.”

“All the love from us at Big Brother Seven, we really love you Nikki and you were a true winner man, you were really great, you f*****g rocked it babes. Just want to say we’ll miss you babe.

See you later Nikki.”