Once a jewel in the BBC crown, Huw Edwards’ image may forever be tarnished in wake of sex photo scandal

BBC news anchor Huw Edwards broadcasts outside 10 Downing street in London on July 24, 2019. Picture: AFP

BBC news anchor Huw Edwards broadcasts outside 10 Downing street in London on July 24, 2019. Picture: AFP

Published Jul 13, 2023


By Karla Adam and William Booth

The person at the heart of a British media storm has been identified as Huw Edwards, a news anchor whose distinctive Welsh lilt has been the voice of some of Britain's most historic moments and who was suspended this week over allegations that he paid for sexually explicit images from a teenager.

According to a statement released on Wednesday by his wife, Vicky Flind, Edwards is "suffering from serious mental health issues" and "receiving in-patient hospital care where he'll stay for the foreseeable future."

The brief statement did not address in any detail the allegations made against Edwards over the previous five days. "Once well enough to do so, he intends to respond to the stories that have been published," his wife said.

She asked for the media to respect the family's privacy - and added that Edwards "was first told that there were allegations being made against him last Thursday."

Edwards is a celebrity news reader and more recognisable on the street than a star footballer.

He is famous for his measured delivery - old-school, even a bit dull, a critic might say, but with a voice as comforting as a cup of tea.

Like documentarian David Attenborough, Edwards has been seen as a kind of national treasure, a jewel in the BBC crown.

When the royal family was gathering at the bedside of Queen Elizabeth II, the BBC was committed to ensuring that it would be Edwards who would narrate the announcement of her death.

He wasn't on duty that day, but was tracked down at a barbershop and told to get ready to go on air in his black suit and tie.

Edwards, 61, is now on the other side of a major news story.

Scotland Yard's Specialist Crime Command said on Wednesday that it had concluded an assessment and found no evidence of a crime committed by Edwards.

In Britain, it is illegal to make or possess sexualized images of anyone under 18.

Following the police statement, the BBC said it would continue its in-house investigation.

The public broadcaster has so far defended its handling of the case, but Director General Tim Davie acknowledged that the accusations "are clearly damaging to the BBC - it's not a good situation."

The case has dominated the UK media sphere for days with a feverish drip, drip, drip of reporting on its various twists and turns. BBC News has been live-blogging its own scandal.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak weighed in over the weekend - at a point when his spokesperson said the British leader did not know the name of the accused - describing the allegations as "shocking" and "concerning."

Edwards is one of the public network's highest-paid stars. He has been a fixture on British television for decades, a throwback to an earlier age when a trusted voice - a British version of Walter Cronkite - was the calm in the middle of the news storms.

It was Edwards who snagged President Barack Obama's only UK interview in the spring before the Brexit vote.

It was Edwards who anchored the royal weddings, the coverage of the queen's funeral in September and the coronation of King Charles III in May.

And most evenings at 10pm - from 2003 until he quietly disappeared this month - he was the silver-haired presence with gravitas in the chair for the BBC's flagship nightly news program.

The scandal first broke on Friday, when the Sun tabloid reported a mother's accusations that a male BBC presenter - who was initially not identified, but described variously as a "star" and "household name" - sent her child a total of 35 000 pounds for sexual images since 2020, when the young person was 17. The mother blamed the man and the BBC for funding her child's use of crack cocaine.

The BBC said in a statement on Sunday that it "first became aware of a complaint in May," but that "new allegations were put to us on Thursday of a different nature."

On Monday, a lawyer representing the young person issued a denial statement, saying "nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place between our client and the BBC personality and the allegations reported in the Sun newspaper are rubbish."

The mother and stepfather stood by their earlier accounts.

On Tuesday, two other young people came forward with complaints about the presenter.

One, in their early 20s, told BBC News that the broadcaster had sent them "abusive, expletive-filled messages."

The Sun also reported that a third person, age 23, claimed the presenter broke lockdown rules to meet them during the Covid pandemic.

Gone are the days when British newspapers would gleefully name those accused of allegations, without fretting too much about privacy and defamation laws.

The Sun withheld Edwards's identity in its initial spate of stories. The BBC did too, citing privacy protections.

But the fresh claims led to other presenters urging Edwards to come forward - to end all the wild speculation about which BBC figure was behind the scandal.

"These new allegations will result in yet more vitriol being thrown at perfectly innocent colleagues of his. And the BBC, which I'm sure he loves, is on its knees with this," BBC radio host Jeremy Vine tweeted.

After the statement from Edwards's wife, public messages from colleagues were generally supportive.

Another BBC personality, John Simpson, tweeted, "I feel so sorry for everyone involved in this: for the Edwards family, for the complainants, and for Huw himself. No criminal offences were committed, so it's a purely personal tragedy for everyone involved. Let's hope the press leave them all alone now."

Edwards is married to a television producer and they have five children. He got his PhD on the history of 18th-century Welsh chapels. He is reported to be a weekly churchgoer.

Edwards has previously spoken about his bouts with depression and said that exercise, in particular boxing, helped with his physical and mental wellbeing.

He documented his fitness and weight loss journey on Instagram - on an account that has since been deleted.

The Washington Post's Herb Scribner in Washington contributed to this report.