Stacey Dooley’s boyfriend reveals she’s left him for Strictly partner

‘He’s a slippery snake, a proper rat’: Stacey Dooley’s heartbroken boyfriend reveals she has DUMPED him after five years and waltzed off with her dance partner Kevin Clifton after pair exchanged flirty text messages during rehearsals

  • Sam Tucknott, 32, Stacey’s boyfriend of five years, revealed Stacey has left him  
  • Called her dance partner, three-times married Kevin Clifton, 36, a slippery snake
  • Sam confronted Kevin in furious video chat where he branded him a ‘proper rat’ 
  • Told MoS in exclusive interview he feels betrayed by the new couple’s romance 
  • Sam was suspicious last November when he saw flirty text from Kevin to Stacey 
  • It said: ‘I love dancing with you and spending every minute I can with you’  
  • News has cast shadow over latest series of show, resurrecting the so-called ‘Strictly curse’ that has seen 14 couples split 

As the ticker tape rained down, Stacey Dooley, the newly crowned queen of Strictly Come Dancing, buried her head in her hands in disbelief and her stunned dance partner Kevin Clifton fell to his knees in delight.

A passionate Paso Doble had mesmerised a record 12.7 million viewers and sealed their victory. And as the breathless dancers embraced, the TV cameras captured the equally joyous celebrations of Sam Tucknott, Stacey’s boyfriend of five years.

He leapt on to his chair by the dancefloor, punched the air in delight and rushed on to the stage to congratulate them – almost knocking over diminutive TV cook Mary Berry, who was also in the audience.

Strictly winner Stacey Dooley has split with her boyfriend to be with her dance partner Kevin Clifton, 36, who has been married three times before

Sam Tucknott, 32, Stacey’s boyfriend of five years, said he feels betrayed by the new couple’s romance

First he bounded over to Kevin, the 36-year-old three-times married professional dancer who had expertly choreographed their winning routines, and attempted to embrace him.

But Kevin failed to reciprocate, instead standing limply in the centre of the stage, and they parted awkwardly. Sam shrugged it off, putting it down to the overwhelming shock of victory.

But four months later, Sam and Stacey are no longer together and Sam has another possible explanation: Was Kevin feeling guilty?

Heartbroken Sam was suspicious last November when he saw flirty text from Kevin to Stacey. The message read: ‘I love dancing with you and spending every minute I can with you’

The semi-professional footballer and personal trainer branded Kevin a ‘slippery snake’ for stealing the woman he had hoped to marry

In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Sam, 30, last night described his feelings of devastation and betrayal at discovering that Stacey, 32, and Kevin have now embarked on a romantic relationship.

In a string of searing revelations, Sam tells of his:

– Suspicion after Kevin texted Stacey last November, saying: ‘I love dancing with you and spending every minute I can with you’;

– Gnawing doubts about the nature of Stacey and Kevin’s ever-deepening relationship in the run-up to the Strictly final on BBC1 in December;

– Fury at Kevin – who he brands a ‘slippery snake’ – for stealing the woman that he hoped to marry;

The news has cast a shadow over the latest series of the show, resurrecting the so-called ‘Strictly curse’ that has seen 14 couples split amid the sexual tension that comes from training so closely together.

During the contest, Stacey, a beautiful but little-known TV documentary-maker, had won a large following.

Stacey and Kevin hug as their victory was announced last year after mesmerising a record 12.7 million viewers

But the winners’ embrace lingered long after the announcement was made, while Sam cheered and celebrated his girlfriend’s win in the crowd

In Strictly’s world of glittering artifice, Stacey, who had left school at 16 and once sold perfume at Luton Airport, had appeared genuine and authentic, and was loved for it.

After their victory was announced, and with their arms around each other, Stacey and Kevin paid each other an emotional tribute.

Wearing a stunning black gown, Stacey, who won an MBE last year for services to broadcasting, congratulated ‘King Kev’ on winning after four unsuccessful appearances in the final.

‘You know how highly I think of you,’ she gushed.

‘I think you are the biggest gem. You’re patient, you’re talented, your choreography is second to none. You so deserve this.’

Fighting back tears, Kevin replied: ‘You are so lovely and I just think the absolute world of you.’

Sam rose to his feet and celebrated after watching Stacey win the show

But for Sam, a former semi- professional footballer and now a personal trainer, the moment that Stacey lifted the famous Glitterball Trophy marked the beginning of the end of a relationship with the woman he still loves deeply.

Sitting in the kitchen of his brother-in-law’s home in Brighton, Sam is torn between anger at Stacey and his remaining affection for her.

‘I am so respectful of her, but I am gutted and I am disappointed and I feel so let down that she did not have the respect for me to tell me and just come clean,’ he says.

‘I am never going to believe her or trust her but ultimately I respect her. I love her.’ Their lives changed for ever on August 16, 2018, when Stacey received an email confirming she had been chosen as a contestant for the 16th series of Strictly. The couple, who had shared a flat together in Brighton for two years, were overjoyed.

‘When we found out, we came back to the flat and we just danced around,’ Sam recalls. ‘I could not have been more proud of her. It was amazing.’ Strictly offered a golden opportunity to broaden Stacey’s career and appeal to a huge family audience.

‘I pushed Stacey to do it,’ Sam says. ‘I wanted the nation to see my Stacey and what my Stacey is about. I said to her, “You’ve got to do something like this.” ’

Symbolically, Sam cleared a space on their mantelpiece for the Strictly trophy. ‘Right from the start I said it’s going to go there. I always believed in her, I knew she was going to win.’

The couple never discussed the intense pressures the show might place on their relationship – or the notorious Strictly curse – although Sam’s friends teased him about the prospect of Stacey being paired with Graziano Di Prima, a smouldering new Sicilian professional dancer nicknamed ‘The Italian Stallion’. Sam says: ‘My pals were like, “If she gets partnered with him, you might as well pack your bags!” ’

Stacey, however, knew who she wanted as her partner.

Sam says: ‘At the start of Strictly, they go into rehearsals and she made it clear that she really wanted to be partnered with Kevin because he had got to the final four times.

Happier times: Sam and Stacey on the Pont Des Arts in Paris on new year’s 2014

‘They are similar heights. He seemed a genuinely nice guy.

‘At the time, I couldn’t care who she went with. I was like, “Just enjoy it and do well.” ’

Stacey, who grew up in a council flat with single mother Diane, had made a wise choice. Regarded as one of the best dancers on the show, Grimsby-born Kevin is the son of former world ballroom champions Keith and Judy Clifton. But he comes with baggage and appears to bring his own curse on to the relationships of his celebrity dance partners.

Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid split from her long-term partner Dominic Cotton a few weeks after her Strictly campaign partnering Kevin ended, and pop star Louise Redknapp’s marriage to ex-footballer husband, Jamie, also ended after her stint with him on the show.

Clifton, who confirmed in March 2018 that he had split from his third wife, Karen, recently denied any of his Strictly partnerships had become romantic, insisting: ‘No, never. You’re there to do a job and get on with the dancing. That’s what it’s about.’

Sam was determined to dispel any notions that he would be a jealous boyfriend.

When he met Kevin for the first time in the hospitality green room at Strictly’s Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, Sam told him to ‘do everything you need to do’.

‘At the start I said to him, “It’s a massive thing for Stacey. Don’t ever feel awkward. I’m not that kind of guy. I understand that a lot of guys would probably feel a little bit uptight and make you feel a bit uneasy.” ’

As the weeks went by, the men began to bond, exchanging banter about football. Sam is a passionate Manchester United fan, while Kevin supports rivals Chelsea.

Sam even gave Stacey and Kevin the nickname of ‘Yorke and Cole’ in reference to two strikers – Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole – who played together for Manchester United in the late 1990s. And Sam provided Kevin with suggestions via Instagram of comfort food that would give Stacey a boost during their long training sessions.

Cocktails in the sun: Sam and Stacey on holiday to New York in the summer of 2015

‘I said to him, “You need to learn the three Ps: green Peperami, green Pot Noodle and chocolate Pop Tarts. Just in case she’s flagging that will get you through to the end of the day and give her a little bit more energy. That’s your secret weapon for training.” ’

Kevin seemed similarly supportive of the couple, inviting Sam to their training sessions, telling him: ‘I don’t want you guys not seeing each other until Christmas.’

Pitched against more experienced dancers such as pop star Ashley Roberts, Stacey threw herself into training, often doing extra sessions with Kevin on Sunday afternoons. Amid her frenetic schedule, Stacey and Sam would also try to carve out a few precious hours together on Sundays, enjoying a roast lunch at their favourite Brighton pub which boasts panoramic sea views.

‘She was tired but I’d say, “You’re tired, stick in there, you haven’t got long to go. If you get to the final I reckon you are going to do it.” ’

The hard work began to pay off and Stacey and Kevin’s performances steadily improved, although the public’s attention was diverted when comedian Seann Walsh was caught on camera kissing his married professional dancer partner, Katya Jones.

All seemed well until mid-November when Stacey and Sam were in bed together early one Sunday morning and her phone buzzed.

Together, they read a message from Kevin, saying: ‘I love dancing with you and spending every minute I can with you.’

For the first time, Sam felt a twinge of concern at what he considered a rather inappropriate message. ‘I noted it but at the same time I didn’t want to bring it up with Stacey.

At an after-show party in Blackpool on November 17, Sam noticed that Kevin was ‘quite sulky’ and left early. When once the pair had regularly communicated on Instagram, Sam’s messages of good luck ahead of the semi-final in December went unanswered

‘I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want her feeling awkward. She had my full trust and support.’

But his concerns deepened as Kevin’s behaviour towards him began to change.

At an after-show party in Blackpool on November 17, Sam noticed that Kevin was ‘quite sulky’ and left early. When once the pair had regularly communicated on Instagram, Sam’s messages of good luck ahead of the semi-final in December went unanswered – as did congratulations for Kevin’s victory with Stacey in the final.

Sam says: ‘The day after the final I put, “My man, thank you for being so supportive in looking after my Stace. Enjoy your win, you deserve it.” He read it and he didn’t reply.

‘He has gone from my best mate wanting to know the ins and outs of what I am up to and then he can’t even go out of his way to reply. That’s come from guilt.’

For Sam, the end of Strictly heralded a fresh start. After months of long absences, he was excited at the prospect of spending Christmas together with Stacey and his family in Brighton.

‘The next day I just thought, we can move on now. I thought I was getting my Stace back.’

Instead their relationship began to fall apart. When Sam invited Stacey to a party on December 23 at The Joker pub in Brighton with friends, she turned him down and instead accompanied Kevin to Brighton’s Theatre Royal to watch his sister Joanne – who is also a professional dancer – star in The Rocky Horror Show.

A ‘hollow’ Christmas Day at the home of Sam’s parents, Diane, 55, and Wayne, 60, was followed by a tense Boxing Day marred by tension and petty squabbles.

Sam says: ‘I love Christmas and I just felt she was not at the table.

‘Someone said, “What’s the matter with you two?”, and it sparked me to say, “I don’t know what’s up with her.” I know we’re not falling into each other’s arms but I don’t know why. Why are we not having a nice Christmas?

‘I could just sense that something was up and I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe she was tired, but she had just won Strictly – she should have been buzzing.’

In the end, Stacey asked to be driven back to their flat.

The relationship spluttered on, but in mid-January Sam discovered a receipt for cupcakes that Stacey had arranged to be delivered to Glasgow.

Racked by insecurity, he found himself tapping the words ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Kevin Clifton’ into Google. To his dismay, he saw that the dancer had been appearing in the musical Rock Of Ages in the city at the time.

Bewildered, Sam finally confronted Stacey.

‘I said, “Look, I’m sure that he fancies you. I think I can tell that by the way he acts and the way he is. There’s a receipt here for cupcakes that has been sent to Glasgow. Is there anything going on? Is there anything I need to know?”

‘She dismissed it. She said, “No, the launch night is this weekend. We’re friends, we will always remain close friends. I just wanted to say good luck.” ’

The relentless demands on Stacey – which included a trip to Uganda for Comic Relief and filming in America – limited opportunities for the couple to rebuild their relationship. Hunched in a chair, his hands clasped, Sam recalls: ‘I poured my heart out to her. I told her that relationships sometimes need a lot of work but equally they need both people to dig deep.

‘I told her I wanted to be with her, that she was my best mate. She got emotional and we had a cuddle.

‘I said, “I don’t want to be without you, but at the same time I’m willing to do what you need me to do.”

Sam described how he subsequently confronted Kevin in a video call. ‘He went white. I just stuck it on him, “You’re an absolute rat”

‘And then she went away again. We had that conversation and she packed her bags and she went away.’

With hindsight, he accepts he was blinded by love to Stacey’s ever-deepening friendship with Kevin and it had a corrosive effect on the couple’s relationship.

‘Maybe I was too naive. Looking back now all the signs were there that I had lost Stacey, but I kept thinking we had done the hardest bit,’ he says. ‘I had proved to her for five years that I could cope with her going away for long periods of time because the love I have for her is unconditional.’

By the end of last month, the couple had begun to make arrangements to separate. Stacey was looking for a flat and they met for a final time on April 1 at their Brighton home to discuss moving her belongings. In a desperate bid to salvage their relationship, Sam asked if the couple were ‘100 per cent over’.

He was stunned when Stacey suggested that had been the case since Boxing Day.

Then, while Stacey was in the lavatory, her phone lit up. Sam looked down and read a message from Kevin that, to his mind, confirmed that they were in a romantic relationship. His initial reaction was one of relief: ‘It was like a film. I needed a sign, I needed something. It was a blessing because I wasn’t going to be told [by Stacey] that evening. I had seen everything I needed to see to move on.

The three P’s: Stacey’s energy boosters 

Sam worried that Stacey might flag during her intense training sessions, so he helped Kevin look after her by telling him what her favourite snacks were: Peperami, Pot Noodle and Pop Tarts.

‘There was nothing that I needed to now know. All the questions, all the months of thinking what was going on had been put to bed.’

But it did not take long for Sam’s resentment towards Kevin to boil over.

‘Adults make their own choices. I just know that he is a slippery snake – a proper rat,’ he spits. ‘To have that relationship where you are best buddies, but then you start going cold because you start fancying their girlfriend – I hold no respect for him whatsoever.’

Sam described how he subsequently confronted Kevin in a video call. ‘He went white. I just stuck it on him, “You’re an absolute rat. How you conducted yourself. Just a slippery, slimy snake.”

‘He didn’t say a word. He looked petrified. He looked so shocked.’

It was a devastating end to what, until Strictly, had been a happy relationship that began with a chance meeting at a ‘dingy’ Brighton boxing gym in 2014.

Sam spotted Stacey across the room, perched on an exercise bike and wearing an expensive leather jacket over her gym kit to keep out the cold.

After chatting, she took him on as her personal trainer. Sam was quickly smitten with Stacey – who told him just that she ‘worked on TV’ – and he only discovered her role as a presenter of hard-hitting documentaries when he was at home channel-hopping one night and saw her face on screen.

Their mundane lives – enjoying picnics, trips to boating lakes and takeaway meals of her favourite chicken korma and vinegar – became an antidote to the stresses of her assignments in war zones.

‘She liked the fact that I didn’t care who Stacey Dooley was,’ says Sam. ‘I respected and supported her career but at the same time that wasn’t why I loved her.’

They celebrated Stacey’s 30th birthday by getting matching ‘J’adore’ tattoos on their feet and enjoyed foreign trips including a visit to the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris where couple leave padlocks to signify their love.

On a visit to New York, they went window-shopping to look for the type of gold wedding rings that they might one day want, and at weddings Sam would joke about giving her goalkeeping gloves to catch the bouquet thrown by the bride.

Sam contrasts those memories with a final, devastating message from Stacey, received a few hours after his confrontation with Kevin on April 1.

Admitting that she had fallen for her Strictly dance partner, but saying that they only began a relationship after she and Sam had split, she wrote: ‘I know you hate me at the moment but you saw I didn’t start entertaining and texting him until I split up with you… I was not with you when we started it all. I did fall for him but when we were done.’

A fortnight on, the wounds are still raw yet remarkably Sam, who is about to open his own gym in Brighton, remains loyal to Stacey.

‘Me and Stace are cut from the same cloth,’ he says. ‘We were meant to be for ever but that wasn’t the case. I said to her, “You’ve broken my heart,” but I’ve just got to accept that she’s chosen to go down another road.

‘I will always show her respect because I loved her so much and she was a massive part of my life.’

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