Holly Willoughby: Daytime darling who quit This Morning when kidnap plot emerged

Holly Willoughby was the darling of daytime television before allegations of a plot to kidnap, rape and murder her emerged.

Security guard Gavin Plumb, 37, has been found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court of masterminding the plans after he developed an “obsession” with the star over a number of years and assembled an “abduction kit” – complete with handcuffs and metal cable ties – to help carry out his attack.

A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court unanimously convicted him of soliciting murder and inciting rape and kidnap.

The bubbly blonde presenter, 42, first entered the limelight when she was scouted by a modelling agency as a teenager.

She rose from her roots in children’s television to become the queen of ITV before announcing she would leave This Morning.

She broke into television in the noughties when she starred in CITV show S Club TV, a spin-off drama based on the lives of pop group S Club 7.

Later, Willoughby began hosting children’s game show Xchange and the children’s version of talent show Fame Academy for the BBC.

A selfie taken by Gavin Plumb, showing him balding with a beard
A selfie of Gavin Plumb, which was shown to the jury during his trial (CPS/PA)

She jumped ship in 2004 to ITV so she could present Saturday morning children’s show Ministry Of Mayhem alongside Stephen Mulhern, before taking over from Cat Deeley on children’s music chart show CD:UK.

ITV bosses handed her a presenting slot on newly launched Dancing On Ice in 2006, which saw her matched with Phillip Schofield for the first time, with the pair’s on-screen warm chemistry providing a glimpse into what was to come on This Morning.

She first shared the sofa with Schofield in 2009, after the departure of Fern Britton.

The pair’s blossoming friendship and banter earned them legions of fans and gongs at the Baftas and National Television Awards.

In 2016, they famously appeared on air in the outfits they had worn the previous night at the NTAs and shared stories with viewers from a raucous after-party hosted by Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly.

Holly Willoughby dressed in a sparkly silver dress, arm-in-arm with Phillip Schofield in a grey suit jacket
Holly Willoughby with Phillip Schofield on the set of Dancing On Ice in January 2023 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The presenters’ close bond appeared to be cemented even further in 2020 after Schofield came out as gay in an emotional on-air chat with Willoughby.

He later thanked Willoughby and said he “couldn’t have done that with anyone else… sitting by the side of me”.

In 2022, the co-hosts faced criticism over claims they skipped the queue for the late Queen’s lying-in-state while attending as members of the media to film a segment for This Morning.

The chief executive of ITV, Dame Carolyn McCall, defended the pair, saying they had been “misrepresented” over claims they jumped the queue.

Willoughby was later at the centre of the This Morning furore following co-host Schofield’s bombshell exit last May when he admitted to an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague.

His departure came after weeks of speculation of a feud with Willoughby, who said at the time she would remain on the show but was taking early half-term holiday leave.

She took to Instagram at the time saying Schofield’s admission about his relationship with a younger ITV colleague was “very hurtful”.

Holly Willoughby in a black dress arm-in-arm on a red carpet with Stephen Mulhern in a dress suit
Holly Willoughby with Stephen Mulhern in 2005 (Steve Parsons/PA)

Following the departure of Schofield, Willoughby shared the couch alongside Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle as Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond continued to provide holiday and Friday cover on the show.

Willoughby’s return to the show last June was highly anticipated and marked her first on-screen appearance since Schofield left ITV.

However, it was short-lived and in October 2023 she announced she was stepping down from presenting This Morning after 14 years “for me and my family”.

It came a week after Plumb was remanded in custody.

Willoughby has three children, Belle, Harry and Chester, with husband Daniel Baldwin, whom she married in 2007.

She made her TV return in January when she presented Dancing On Ice, reuniting with Mulhern.

It has since been announced she will host a new Netflix show in which adventurer Bear Grylls hunts down celebrities in the jungle.

In the show, which is to be released next year, British celebrities will be dropped into the Central American jungle and become prey to survival expert Grylls.