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Natasha and Mark: a love story that ended in tragedy

PUBLISHED: 10:46 18 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:57 07 September 2010

FRIENDS and family are mourning the tragic death of popular children's TV presenter Mark Speight

FRIENDS and family are mourning the tragic death of popular children's TV presenter Mark Speight.

He was found hanged in Paddington station just days after the inquest into the death of his fiancee Natasha Collins, who died from a drugs overdose in January.

The couple, who lived in a penthouse flat in St John's Wood, met on the set of BBC children's show See It, Saw It, which first aired in 1999. He played the King of Much Jollity-On-The-Mirth, a hapless monarch who assisted in various madcap sketches by his court jesters - one of whom was Ms Collins.

The couple were engaged to be married when tragedy struck in January and Mr Speight found his fiancee dead in the bath of their flat on Allitsen Road.

He was originally arrested on suspicion of murder and supplying Class A drugs but no charges were brought.

According to friends and family the tragedy left the bubbly presenter devastated.

Unable to cope, he moved in with Ms Collins's mother Carmen in her house in Palmers Green.

But last week, five days after the inquest into the death of his beloved partner, Mark Speight disappeared.

Worried relatives pleaded with him to come home and went on television in a desperate bid to get a message to him after describing the star as "vulnerable" and police officers who spotted him in Kilburn just before his disappearance said he seemed "distracted and deep in thought".

Tragically six days later he was found hanged in a disused office building next to Paddington station.

"A DOUBLE tragedy" is how the coroner described the death of much-loved TV presenter Mark Speight at the opening of an inquest on Wednesday.

The star left two suicide notes before he hanged himself in an office building next to Paddington Station - one on his body and one at the St John's Wood flat he shared with his fiancee Natasha Collins, Westminster Coroner's Court heard.

The 42-year-old, who was raised in Wolverhampton, was best known for presenting the BBC children's art show SMart as well as hosting Saturday morning programme Scratchy and Co.

But he first appeared on Blind Date in the 1980s and was noticed for his memorable lizard impression.

By 1992, his talent for pulling comical faces landed him a role in a crisp commercial and, in 1995, his big break came with SMart - where he encouraged children to be imaginative.

His father Oliver Speight said he had lost a "wonderful" son who "will be very sadly missed".

And tributes have flooded in from fans on the CBBC website.

"Mark was the best. He was really good at art and made me want to get up and draw stuff too. SMart was my favourite show and I will miss Mark lots and lots!!!" said one seven-year-old fan.

In 1999, Speight met Natasha Collins and the pair fell in love.

But her death in January threw the popular TV personality into massive turmoil and he hanged himself just three months later.

Jan Kennedy, of Billy Marsh Associates, the presenter's agent, said: "We are absolutely devastated at the tragic news of the loss of Mark and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family as well as the family of his beloved fiancee, Natasha, whose equally tragic death had affected him so inconsolably.

"Caring and compassionate in everything he did, Mark was truly gifted in life and we are proud to have represented him as a friend and client for almost 20 years.

"He was blessed with a remarkable personality, great artistic talents and the wonderful warm ability to communicate those skills with people, especially children of all ages.

"With his sensitivity of spirit, coupled with his dynamic presence and natural enthusiasm, he was loved and respected by his adoring family, friends and colleagues everywhere in the media, who, like us, are all deeply shocked and distressed at this saddest of news."

Tragedy struck the couple in when Mr Speight found Ms Collins dead in the bath covered in burns.

At an inquest last month, the coroner recorded a death by misadventure.

The court heard she died after taking a "very significant" amount of cocaine as well as drinking alcohol and taking a sleeping pill.

Mr Speight went missing five days after that inquest.

His body was found six days later by Network Rail staff in a "remote area out of public view" in Macmillan House, a building next to Paddington's platform one.

Detective Inspector William Jordan, from the British Transport Police, confirmed the cause of death was hanging.

He said police were not treating the death as suspicious.

The court did not hear any details of exactly how long Mr Speight had been hanging - but the coroner asked Det Insp Jordan to direct further inquiries towards the likely date and time.

Adjourning the case until next month, Mr Knapman said: "The full circumstances will be explored at the resumption of the inquest in what appears to have been a double tragedy."

A friend described how Mr Speight had been planning a charity concert as a tribute to his late fiancee.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "This is very sad news and our thoughts and sympathies are with Mark's family and friends.

"Mark was a hugely talented and very popular presenter for many years."

The couple's death is another drugs scandal to rock the world of children's television after Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon was axed 10 years ago after admitting taking cocaine.

susanna.wilkey@hamhigh.co.uk

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