Anton Du Beke says he was stabbed by his own dad who hated him being a dancer

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Anton Du Beke says he was stabbed by his own dad who hated him being a dancer
Anton Du Beke says he was stabbed by his own dad who hated him being a dancer

Strictly Come Dancing favourite Anton Du Beke has made the astonishing revelation that his father stabbed him as a young man.

Speaking to Kate Garraway for the new series of ITV’s Life Stories, Anton said his Hungarian dad, Antal, an alcoholic, hated him being a dancer and one night attacked him so viciously that he spent three days in hospital. Growing emotional as he recalled what happened, he explained: “I got stabbed in the leg and in the stomach because of a fight on Boxing Day. It was idiotic. An idiotic situation. I remember walking out of the house to walk up to the hospital, holding my leg, and a police car drove past and I waved him down.

And I said ‘he’s in there with a knife’ - anyway they carted him off and I ended up in hospital for three or four days." Anton, 57, told Kate that his father’s violence was only towards him, rather than his mother Conchita or sister Veronica, because he was “a young man”.

He said: “You’ve got an alcoholic father and a situation where, if you’re in the house and he’s drinking, you end up with the fights and stuff. You’d move room to get away from it and he’d follow you in and then the violence starts.”

Sitting in the audience and watching him give his TV interview, his sister Veronica Richards wipes away tears as he speaks. He said he has never spoken about what happened before, and admits he felt a sense of shame about the incident at the time. “My only concern was getting back into the studio and dancing - and the embarrassment of it really. I’d say I’d pulled a hamstring.

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Anton Du Beke says he was stabbed by his own dad who hated him being a dancerAnton chats with Kate Garraway (ITV)

“I’m sure my friends and family don’t even know. It’s the first time I’ve mentioned it out loud. What’s to be gained from talking about it all? I can’t really believe I’m talking to you about this, I should have glossed over it and said ‘it was all marvellous dear’.” Interviewed on film for the programme, which airs on ITV tonight, Veronica remembers that her father had hated Anton’s love of dancing, which was sparked when he used to walk her home from classes she’d gone to with friends. He and childhood pal Jeff Turner signed up after realising there were four boys and 120 girls.

“My Dad was not so impressed with Anton dancing, he used to call him gay,” she says sadly. “He took a turn against Anton. My dad’s drinking affected his mood, he wasn’t a nice person when he was drunk. He was mean.”

The family lived in a council house on an estate in Sevenoaks, Kent. With money tight, Anton’s Spanish mother, Conchita, took a second job working nights in a nursing home. Anton then left school with no qualifications to work, so he could fund his dance classes and avoid his father.

“Dad put him down - but it made him want to be the best,” Veronica says with pride. “He’s not Tony Beke who grew up on a council estate, he’s Anton Du Beke, the showman.” The ballroom champ and Strictly judge, who is now happily married to Hannah, with whom he has six-year-old twins George and Henrietta, says he doesn’t dwell on the past or on his father, who has since died.

He tells Kate: “I hate the thought that anything like that defines you. I hate ‘woe is me’. I never sought any sense of encouragement from him, my motivation wasn’t because of him, it was because I wanted to do it.” His parents later divorced and Anton never saw his dad again. When he died, he didn’t go to the funeral.

“No, no. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me because everything was about moving forwards. And I felt sorry for my Mum, that was the thing. It was her husband and she’s working two jobs, she worked every day of her life, and he chose to drink and be violent. It’s just life, you just carry on.”

Anton Du Beke says he was stabbed by his own dad who hated him being a dancerAnton with his wife Hannah Summers (Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ann)

What is clear is that his love for his mother knows no bounds. He fights back tears as he tells Kate that she isn’t in the studio because she’s been unwell - and that he owes everything he’s become to her. “She’s amazing and it makes me sad,” he says. “She funded everything. I had nothing. I left school - I didn’t take a single exam. No academic qualifications whatsoever. The mantra in our house was get a job and work. Mum would prop me up financially, I’d turn up with a cheque for my lesson.”

He said his Dad’s violence towards him was the reason he changed his name from Tony Beke. “I wanted a new start and a new beginning and I wanted to leave what went before behind and then move on. I just wanted to be me. I started with Anton du Beke and I went from there really.”

When Kate asks if his own experience of family life has affected how he behaves as parent, he says he never dwells on how his father treated him. “Not a moment’s thought,” he says. “If I need a role model of how to be a great father I look to my father-in-law. What a guy. What a man. That’s all you need.”

The programme has lighter moments, including when Anton describes his hair transplant as “crop rotation” on his head, and when he says the only award he ever won - for best judge at the NTAs - came when he decided to stop dancing. There are more laughs when he tells how the producer described him as a “borderline national treasure” - his feigns horror at the word borderline - and when he says his epitaph will be: “God, I’m knackered.”

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But the programme also shows just how driven he was to be the top ballroom dancer with partner Erin Boag, practising every day and reaching the finals of the World Championships three times. When it comes to Strictly, he says it’s the joy of his life and declares: "I’m never going to leave - ever.”

Hannah, the love of his life, describes her husband as the “kindest, gentlest, most fun individual you are ever likely to meet”. He admits he only considered having kids of his own once he’d met her and realised she was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. His twins send a poignant message saying: “Hi Daddy, we really love you and we like your dancing a lot.”

As she reflects on the huge success he’s made of his life, Kate asks Anton if he ever worries someone will come and try to take it all away? “I’d like to see them try,” he retorts.

* Kate Garraway’s Life Stories, on Wednesday, 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX

Nicola Methven

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