Stacey Dooley's tragic childhood: 'My dad left when I was two and died before we reconciled'

The Luton-born journalist has overcome a lot after starting out as a shop assistant in Luton Airport and dating a drug dealer boyfriend who supplied her mates with 'gear'.

After a stint shoplifting, hanging out with the wrong crowds and even living in a mouse-infested flat, the TV presenter is now one of the most respected documentary makers in the country.

"My mum went above and beyond to make up for the fact I didn’t have two parents. I was very lucky," she says in her book.

Here, Sun Online looks back at how the bookies' favourite went from being a small-town shoplifter to the star of Strictly.

'My dad left when I was two'

Stacey was born into poverty in Luton – and her parents were struggling financially when her dad left just before her third birthday.

Stacey's mum, Diane Niblock, told the Mirror: “There was never a bond between Stacey and her dad. The circumstances prevented it.

“When he tried to come back in her life in a more meaningful way when she was aged 13 it was too late for them to reconcile.”

Stacey’s father passed away when she was in her early twenties. The two never properly reconciled and sorted their differences, something that Diane calls a “lost opportunity”.

In her book, Stacey said: “My father had his demons; our relationship was difficult and fractured.

"But I don’t ever think: 'poor me', I just feel blessed that I had my mother. She was such a great mum”.

In fact, Stacey and her mum are so close she designated her book – On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back  – to her.

“For my mother, the first impressive woman in my life," she wrote.

Drug-dealer boyfriend and mates dying from 'smack'

Single mum Diane worked harder than ever to put food on the table for her and her daughter.

Stacey said: “She used to work in pubs, clean houses, or do whatever she could. She even used to work on Christmas Day – and I’d go with her to the pub to help clean the ashtrays”.

In her book, Stacey says that it was only after her mum took a photo of her in a nappy holding a mouse and sent it to the council that they were moved into council housing from their filthy bedsit.

With her dad gone and her mum constantly working, Stacey soon fell in with the wrong crowd and found herself surrounded by "pals [who] did loads of gear".

She admitted to The Mirror that even at school, she could not escape the drug use that was common among her school friends.

Drugs were always available when I was growing up in Luton, my pals did loads of gear. Everyone was taking pills and sniffing coke.” 

Drug use was so heavily rampant with her mates that she confessed that her peers even took them during school time.

“Boys would take pills at school in their lunch break, girlfriends did them after school," she said. 

And it wasn't long before Stacey found herself dating the local drug dealer.

“A boy I went about with was heavily involved with dealing coke," she said. "I remember going into his room one day and there were scales out and he was bagging it up.”

Aware of her daughter’s proximity to drug abuse, Stacey’s mother Diane put a picture of schoolgirl Leah Betts, who died in 1995 from taking Ecstasy, on the her fridge to serve as a warning to her daughter in case she ever considered taking drugs.

“I thought it was a bit over the top, but maybe it worked because I’ve never ever taken anything," Stacey admits.

"I could drink loads when I was younger – and smoke loads of fags, but I’ve never, ever done gear.”

Stacey saw a mate die from an overdose when she was still a child herself, confessing that she “lost one of our pals to smack before his eighteenth birthday.”

But far from being a golden girl in her childhood years, Stacey has admitted to shoplifting with her friends when money was short.

In an interview with the Radio Times, she revealed that because she had no father figure to look up to, or understanding of what a stable relationship looked like, she had been in an “unhealthy” relationship at the age of 14 for three years.

“One particular lad … he wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. I had no understanding of what a healthy relationship looks and feels like," she said.

Now, however, not only has Stacey flourished and become a hard-hitting reporter – she finally has the family unit she never had in her childhood.

Stacey’s mum’s Instagram page is littered with posts praising her eldest daughter.

She's also been with partner Sam Tucknott for three years, and the couple share a flat together in London with their bulldog Bernie – a lifestyle miles away from her childhood upbringing.

It's clear her family have nothing but admiration for the girl who came through the other end of her traumatic past to achieve her childhood dreams.



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