Belfast Telegraph

Jackie Collins was so sparky a few days ago, her death is a huge shock: Gloria Hunniford

By Claire McNeilly

Gloria Hunniford has revealed her shock at the sudden death of novelist Jackie Collins.

The 77-year-old author died on Saturday after losing her six-year battle with breast cancer.

She made her final appearance on television with Ms Hunniford on Loose Women just days before she passed away.

In the interview she appeared to be in high spirits - showing no sign whatsoever that she was terminally ill.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the 75-year-old Northern Ireland TV and radio star, who has interviewed Ms Collins many times over the years, said her friend had been in great form.

"She's a very bright, sparky, wonderful interviewee and there was no indication whatsoever that she was ill," Ms Hunniford added.

"We all thought that she looked thinner in the face, but LA people are on diets all the time so we never paid any attention to it.

"She was as bright and sparky as I would expect her to be so I was totally shocked when I heard the news."

The Portadown native added: "What amazes me is that somebody so close to death in this sense was able to go on a book tour interview and do all of that... and then a week later she's gone. It's just hard to understand."

Just nine days before her death, Ms Collins flew from Los Angeles to London to appear on Loose Women and discuss her new book, Santangelos.

During her interview on the ITV show on September 10, she joked about researching for her erotic novels and she revealed her hopes of getting Oscar-winning actor Angelina Jolie to star in a movie adaptation of one of her books.

She also talked fondly of enjoying a "proper English cup of tea" and scones while flying back to London, before heading to Marks & Spencer, having missed home comforts while living in Beverly Hills.

Ms Hunniford - who lost her daughter Caron Keating (41) after a seven-year battle with breast cancer in 2004 - said she understood why the famous author did not tell anyone, apart from her three daughters.

"Caron fought her battle in silence as well because, in her words, she didn't want to be seen as a cancer victim," she added.

"She didn't want people coming up and asking how she was.

"Admittedly, there were more people who knew about Caron's condition than in Jackie's case, but I believe that whatever anybody is dealing with - whether it is cancer or motor neurone disease - they should be allowed to deal with that whatever way they want to, and obviously that's what Jackie did."

Miss Keating, a popular Blue Peter presenter, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997.

She was initially told she would be lucky to survive more than 18 months, but she went on to live for seven years before she died in her mother's arms in 2004.

Her sons Charlie (21) and 18-year-old Gabriel were just 10 and seven when they lost their mother to the illness.

Following her daughter's death, the Loose Women panellist, backed by the rest of the family, set up the Caron Keating Foundation, which has raised millions of pounds given away in small grants to hundreds of deserving causes for all types of cancer.

The boys' father Russ Lindsay went on to marry breakfast presenter Sally Meen (49) in 2006, and they have two half-sisters, Tilly and Flora.

Belfast Telegraph


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