Diana quits Great British Bake Off

Diana Beard looks on as 'bearded baker' Iain Watters discovers his baked alaska is more lake alaska
Diana Beard looks on as 'bearded baker' Iain Watters discovers his baked alaska is more lake alaska
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Great British Bake Off contestant Diana Beard quit the show just days after a controversial epi­sode where a rival stormed off after the ice cream for his baked alaska melted, it has emerged.

The BBC said the 69-year-old, the oldest contestant since the show first aired in 2010, never returned to film later episodes because of ill-health.

The announcement came just hours after Mrs Beard claimed she had been “stitched up” and complained footage had been edited to make it look as though she deliberately sabotaged her rival’s chances by taking his ice cream out of the freezer so it would melt.

Episode four of the show – watched by more than eight million people on Wednesday night – descended into chaos when Northern Irishman Iain Watters, 31, binned his pudding, after the ice cream centre melted in the 25C heat, and stormed out of the tent.

He was later chosen as that week’s loser and sent home – with the judges favouring Norman Calder, 66, from Portknockie, Moray, who had been told his baking was too simple.

Mrs Beard yesterday said she was the victim of a BBC “stitch-up” and sobbed after watching the episode – but would not reveal she had left so as not to spoil it for Bake Off fans.

But just hours later, the BBC announced she left the show after a freak fall severed her olfactory nerve, robbing her of her senses of smell and taste. She left the popular cookery show before episode five was even filmed.

Exact details of her injury were only revealed by BBC bosses after they issued an earlier statement saying Mrs Beard would not be appearing in the next episode as she had “fallen ill” but that her exit was unconnected to the baked alaska controversy.

The Shropshire grandmother had faced a barrage of criticism on social media since the show aired, with some viewers branding her “evil”.

Last night, Mrs Beard clarified the situation by saying she had “fainted” and banged her head during supper with the other contestants just before production of episode five was due to start.

She said: “I fainted – which I have never done – and bashed my head, severing my olfactory nerve. So I have now lost my sense of smell and most of my taste.”

She said she has some sensation of foods which are very salty or vinegary, but has been told by a specialist that nothing medically can be done to repair the damage and she may never fully recover her senses of taste and smell.

She said the announcement she would not be returning for episode five had been brought forward by the BBC, following the furore over the most recent broadcast.

“At least people will know I haven’t wimped out. It’s a relief, as people now know the truth,” she added.

Viewers who tuned in witnessed “bearded baker” Mr Watters storming off when his baked alaska melted on the work surface in front of him.

When judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood asked Mr ­Watters to present his baked alaska, he held up the bin in which he had just chucked his masterpiece.

Berry, 79, said his behaviour was “unacceptable” and refused to put him through to the next round.

BBC footage appeared to show Mrs Beard removing Mr Watters’ baked alaska from the freezer into the heat of the tented studio despite being warned by another contestant it belonged to Mr Watters.

Mrs Beard maintains she only took the ice cream for the baked alaska out of the freezer for some 40 seconds.

She added: “Iain does not hold me responsible at all for his failed ice cream. In fact, he rang me three days ago to warn me that the knives were out.”

Yesterday, Mr Watters went online to defend Mrs Beard, saying: “Guys, no hard feelings, now. I have seen all the controversy and I don’t hold Diana responsible in any way. There are no grudges, we are still friends and keep in contact regularly.”

Brian Hannan, chief executive of the Cookery School in Glasgow, said it would be difficult to get to the truth of the matter. There are a lot of imponderables in baked alaska. I would say if it wasn’t ready or set, it could melt if taken out the freezer but if it was ready, it would take longer than 40 seconds or a minute for it to be damaged.”