Bake Off woman loses sense of smell
Controversial Great British Bake Off contestant Diana Beard has said she left the show just before filming began after a freak fall severed her olfactory nerve, robbing her of her sense of smell.
The 69-year-old has been at the centre of a storm of critical coverage after some viewers blamed her for the departure of fellow contestant Iain Watters - dubbed "freezer-gate" - in episode four of the BBC programme.
Earlier this morning, Mrs Beard complained that the show had been edited to make it look as though she sabotaged her rival's chances by taking his Baked Alaska dish - ice cream baked inside meringue - out of the freezer on purpose so it would melt.
The BBC then announced that Mrs Beard would not be appearing in episode five, explaining that she "fell ill" ahead of filming.
But she has since clarified that she "fainted" and banged her head during supper with the other contestants just before production of the episode was due to start.
In a freak accident, the pensioner, who lives near Whitchurch in Shropshire, 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 added that 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.
"It could have been worse, and I am counting my blessings," said Mrs Beard, who used to run an upholstery business.
She said the announcement that she would not be returning for episode five had been brought forward by the BBC, following the furore of the most recent broadcasts in which some members of the public branded her "evil".
"At least people will know I haven't wimped out," she added.
"It's a relief, as people now know the truth."
A BBC statement, released earlier, said: "Diana will not appear in the rest of the series as she fell ill ahead of filming episode five earlier this year."
Mrs Beard, who is the show's oldest ever contestant, claimed to have been "stitched up" after she was blamed for the "bin-cident" which saw Mr Watters storm off the show when his pudding melted.
When judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood asked to see his masterpiece, he showed it off in the only way he could - by holding the bin up to them.
But Mr Watters has since defended Mrs Beard, saying: "Guys, no hard feelings now. Diana is a top lady and all us tent bakers are great pals. Can't wait to tune into the rest of the series."
He added: "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."
Mrs Beard said Mr Watters, a construction engineer from Northern Ireland, had even rung her to warn "the knives are out", after he had been given sight of the episode's edit ahead of broadcast.
The programme was filmed in spring.
"I knew it was coming, but I didn't expect it to be like this at all," she said.
Describing her fall, she was initially unaware of the extent of the damage, but praised the quick actions of BBC production staff at Newbury in Berkshire who got her to hospital in nearby Basingstoke.
She spent a night in A&E, but there was "no pain at all" and she was released the following day.
It was only later, after getting home, that an MRI showed the nerve - located in the head - had been "severed".
"I must have landed with a hefty whack," said Mrs Beard.
"I noticed something was up the next morning when I couldn't taste the toothpaste as I was cleaning my teeth."
"My sense of smell may never come back," added Mrs Beard, who learned her culinary skills growing up on a farm.
"My consultant said it would be nine months at best, and it has been known to take years.
"There's nothing that they can do, no surgery, no treatment at all, I will just have to wait.
"I try to forget about it, and of course while cooking, it means I am very much relying now on recipes."
However, Mrs Beard said she did miss the smell of coffee and her home-grown sweet peas.