Strictly star Willie Thorne’s will – wife and kids in bitter feud to £1m debt

Sadly, we’ve lost plenty of Strictly Come Dancing stars over the years – and snooker legend Willie Thorne certainly left a legacy when he died in 2020.

The sportsman took part in the fifth series of the BBC competition and finished in 12th place with his professional partner Erin Boag.

Unfortunately, Willie passed away in June 2020 at the age of 66 after being diagnosed with leukaemia in March that year. After a short hospitalisation, Thorne’s carer Julie O’Neill said he went into septic shock and was not responding to treatment.

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She confirmed: “It is with a very heavy and broken heart that I have to officially announce that at 1.55am this morning, Willie Thorne lost his battle and passed away.

“Willie went into septic shock and was not responding to any treatment so the decision was made by the hospital to turn off the machines. I was with him all the way to his end and reading out messages to him from people.”

Now 15 years on from his Strictly stint, Daily Star takes a peek into his will and lasting legacy.

Gambling addiction and £1million debt

Despite his incredible sporting prowess, Willie fell into debt and picked up a gambling addiction, which saw him spiral further.

He was eventually reported to have £1million worth of debts, admitting he “would get into a mess”.

The star confessed to MailOnline: “The worst time was when I expected to get to the quarter final of a tournament and win £15,000 to pay off all my bills. But I didn’t get through and had to borrow money from a friend to settle my debts and pay my mortgage.”

In 2017, Willie said he was trying to “knuckle down” and be more responsible financially.

Being a brand ambassador for Mercantile Credit, however, saw him being paid “silly money”, confessing: “I got paid an awful lot of money just to go to sporting events I would have gone to anyway – the likes of the Grand National and the Grand Prix – but with their clients.

“I got paid £50,000 on top of £40,000 of prize money.”

Willie estimated he borrowed £1million over the years to fund his gambling, as well as losing “over £200,000” on a property investment in the 80s.

Bankruptcy and fundraiser

After being declared bankrupt in 2016, Willie was forced to ask fans for help to pay for his healthcare when his diagnosis came around.

The star, who is thought to have lost around £3.5million throughout his career, had loyal fans donate £20,000 to help pay for care costs.

His carer Julie said Willie needed help with the cost of living, as well as with lifts to the hospital due to suffering from infected gout in one knee.

She explained at the time: “Willie is unable to stand on his legs and needs a carer present to assist him with his basic needs as he builds up strength to become more independent.

“Willie is left in a very vulnerable situation where money is nearly depleted. Where does he get help from?

"What happens when he can no longer pay the carer? Everyone is on coronavirus lockdown, so it is a lot harder for people to just go and offer help to get him through this."

Furious feud

In December 2020, reports emerged that Willie’s widow and children were locked in a bitter feud over his famous snooker cue and his ashes.

His second wife – and former Miss Great Britain – Jill Thorne wanted to auction the cue off for charity, while the children from Willie’s first marriage Tristan, Kieran and Tahli wanted it to “remain in the family”.

Jill told The Mirror: “I was next of kin. When he became very ill, he passed away very quickly.

“We would speak every day on the phone, he said he wanted me to have the cue.

“He wanted his son to deal with his financial affairs only after his death, as he didn’t want me to cope with his debts any more. He wanted me fully involved with everything else and I agreed.”

Jill wasn’t able to attend the funeral due to her own ill health, and his children brought their dad’s ashes home – with Jill claiming she had no idea what happened to them.

She added Willie would be “mortified” if he knew about the family feud.

Charity auction

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Eventually, Jill was able to auction off the Leicester snooker star’s “one and only” cue for a head and neck cancer charity.

Funds raised from the sale were donated to the 20-20 Voice Cancer charity, receiving an opening bid of £2,000.

The hammer eventually went down for an undisclosed sum.

Willie had played with the one cue all his life, from when he was 14 years old.


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