The DJ Tim Westwood is facing allegations from a woman who says he first had sex with her when she was 14 and he was in his 30s.
The woman claims Westwood had sex with her on several occasions in the early 1990s, when the age of consent in England and Wales was, as it is now, 16. “I sit here today and face what I’ve been running from for a long time,” she said.
Her testimony forms part of a joint Guardian/BBC investigation that will raise fresh questions over the behaviour of the former Radio 1 DJ.
The woman, and several others, spoke to the Guardian and BBC after the news organisations published a story in April in which Westwood was accused of opportunistic and predatory sexual behaviour.
They make new allegations relating to separate incidents of alleged abuse, misconduct and inappropriate behaviour that date from 1990 to 2020.
The Guardian put all of the allegations to Westwood, who is now 64. He did not respond.
He strenuously denied the allegations of the seven women who featured in the original investigation in April.
Lawyers acting for Westwood said at the time that he was a well-respected and highly successful DJ. They said he denied in their entirety the serious allegations being made against him, saying they were false and defamatory, and he wanted to make clear that he did not behave in the manner described.
In 2020, Westwood said claims of inappropriate behaviour made against him at the time on social media were fabricated, false and without foundation.
In a statement, he said: “I can categorically say that I have never had an inappropriate relationship with anyone under the age of 18.”
Four women who have decided to tell their stories after the first investigation say they were under 18 when the incidents they allege happened. A further six women say they were young adults at the time.
The woman who alleges she was 14 when the DJ first had sex with her describes herself as having been a vulnerable teenager, and says she had wanted to put the experience “in a box and throw away the key”. After hearing the testimony of others, she says, she felt compelled to tell her own story.
Now in her 40s, she says she wants women with similar stories to feel less alone. “It wasn’t their fault, they’re not to blame that they got taken advantage of and there’s no shame in any of that. None whatever,” she said.
A second woman says she was 16 in 1997 when when Westwood started a sexual relationship with her that she alleges was unhealthy and controlling.
Two other women accuse Westwood of sexually assaulting them when they were in their mid-teens. One says she was 15 and working for Westwood’s promotional “street team” in 1999 when he kissed her, while another alleges she was in year 9 at school when the DJ grabbed her breasts at an under-18s club night he was performing at in 2006.
A further woman alleges she was 20 when the DJ forced his penis into her mouth as she resisted in 2012. This appears to constitute a serious sexual offence.
Other women say they experienced predatory sexual encounters when they were young adults. One woman who worked for the DJ when she was 18 in 2003 alleges that he took advantage of his position as her boss and a much older man to have sex with her. Another described two sexual encounters with the DJ after they met in 2019 as “uncomfortable”, because she was 19 and the DJ was in his 60s and older than her parents.
Four further women allege other inappropriate encounters.
Aside from two friends, the 10 women are not known to each other and have never met. None of the women – who are all black – reported their interactions to the police. All but one have asked to remain anonymous and have been given pseudonyms.
One of the women said she thought racial discrimination meant that black girls and young women were too often treated like sexualised adults instead of children and young people.
Westwood has been one of the best-known names in hip-hop and rap in the UK for the past 40 years. He began hosting BBC Radio 1’s first rap show in 1994, welcoming the biggest rappers in the world – from Public Enemy to Jay-Z – on to his show.
He has courted a degree of controversy. In 1999, he was injured in a drive-by shooting, with one bullet going through his arm and another through a seat of the car he was in.
After almost 20 years Westwood left the BBC in 2013. He moved to Capital Xtra, but after allegations against him surfaced in April his employer Global said he was stepping down from the show “until further notice”.
Last week, the BBC/Guardian investigation revealed that the corporation was reviewing six complaints against Westwood, having previously said it had no records of any complaints. On Tuesday, it said it would publish an internal investigation into the allegations within the next two weeks.
A spokesperson for Westwood said in April that there had been no official or unofficial complaints against him in his career.
Esther* says she met Westwood in 1990, when as a hip-hop-loving 14-year-old she would go to the Arch nightclub in Vauxhall, south London. She says she and her friends became regulars and the DJ would let them in for free. She recalls him asking her age. “I said ‘I’m 14’ and he didn’t look shocked or anything,” she says. He said it wouldn’t be a problem if she continued coming to the nights, she says.
She says he asked for her number, saying he would leave her name on the door. He called and asked her to meet him, she says, and she recalls being picked up from Hammersmith station and being taken to a flat. She says he got her a drink of juice, they talked and then he kissed her.
“I was like, OK, I don’t have a problem with that. And then it progressed from there,” she says. “We had sex.” In England and Wales the age of sexual consent is 16.
Looking back, Esther says she didn’t feel she had the power to say no. At the time she thought it was “normal”. “I was a bit of a troubled teen … I just went through with it, basically,” she says.
She says this happened several times, and the DJ would call her on her home landline after her mum left for a nightshift and arrange to meet her for sex, which she says felt like a “dirty little secret”.
“I kind of thought it was normal but that’s because I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. It wasn’t a relationship and it wasn’t about love, it was just a thing, and a thing you couldn’t discuss with anybody.”
When she was 16, she says, she started a relationship and subsequently cut contact with the DJ. Her ex-boyfriend has told the BBC that Esther told him about her alleged sexual encounters with Westwood when they started going out.
“I think when I got to the age where I knew it was wrong and I stopped, even though I’d stopped … there’s still a label that hung over you,” Esther says. “If you thought about even addressing it, you know, you’re scared – who’s gonna believe you, who’s gonna be on your side?”
She says it feels like the DJ groomed her, and describes Westwood as a “predator” and herself as his “prey”.
She says keeping this secret had a huge impact on her – she tried to kill herself three times. She decided to contact the BBC after seeing the documentary Tim Westwood: Abuse of Power on BBC Three.
Asked how she feels now about her experience, she says: “Disgusted. Angry. Upset. Dirty. Yeah, dirty. I wish I could pretend it never happened but it did.”
Lydia* says she was 16 and at sixth-form college in London in 1997 when she met Westwood at a club in Streatham. She says Westwood, then in his early 40s, asked for her number and called her the next day. “I suppose when you’re 16 and a half it all seemed really exciting,” she says. “We had sex and things pretty much moved on from there.”
She alleges she was in a sexual relationship with him for about 18 months. She says she was vulnerable and living on her own at the time and he knew she was under the age of 18 because she was at sixth-form college and he encouraged her to go to university.
She says she felt Westwood became controlling and claims he would ask for the code for her landline voicemails to listen to her messages, would comment on what she was wearing and would turn up unannounced.
She says he would take her with him when he travelled to other cities to DJ. “There was quite a lot of disruptions to my education,” she says. “And at the time I didn’t feel like I could say no.”
She says she would often go to the BBC, where Westwood started his rap show in 1994. A BBC spokesperson said that in 1997 it was standard procedure for people working in BBC buildings to sign in guests, and that the broadcaster introduced a regularly updated child protection and safeguarding policy in 2004 and a visitor policy in 2010.
A spokesperson said: “Today, the BBC’s safeguarding arrangements have never been stronger and are regularly updated in line with best practice. Where under-18s are permitted access to BBC premises, under our safeguarding policy they will always be accompanied by a chaperone and are never left alone.”
Lydia says that by the end of the relationship her mental health had deteriorated to the extent that she tried to take her own life. “I was quite depressed, I wasn’t spending any time really with my friends by then. Most of the time I’d spend with him.”
She adds: “I feel really sad for that 16-year-old girl. I feel I was very naive. I was just swept up by the whole thing … I wish the adults who were around him … had stepped in to do something because by the time the relationship had ended I was 18 years old, but I wasn’t 18 when I met him and I was very vulnerable.”
Her brother has told the BBC that he confronted Westwood because he was angry about the relationship, while another friend has said she remembers the mental impact it had on Lydia.
Lydia says she wanted to tell her story after Westwood “categorically denied” having any inappropriate relationships with anyone under the age of 18 in 2020. “At that point I thought: actually, that’s a lie,” she says. “I was certainly under the age of 18 when he met me.”
Lydia says she had believed Westwood was in his 20s, until she saw his passport. “I opened it and … he was born in 1957 and I thought: oh, that’s almost as old as my mother. And that was shocking. I felt really sick.”
She adds: “He didn’t force me to have sex with him, it was by choice, but it didn’t feel like a healthy sexual relationship because he was a grown man and I was a teenager.”
Paige was in year 9 at school, aged 13 or 14, when she says she met the DJ in 2006. She had gone to an under-18s night at a nightclub in Cardiff where Westwood was playing.
She remembers the night being a “school disco” night with everyone dressing up in uniforms. Paige says she won a dance competition and was told to go to the DJ booth. She says that when she asked Westwood to sign her shirt, he grabbed her breasts.
“He, like, grabbed my boobs from underneath and went: ‘Whoa, look at these!’ and just continued to sign my shirt,” she says.
She feels this sort of experience is common among black girls who are treated as adults despite their age. “Young black women are hyper-sexualised from a very young age. We’re so used to it,” she says.
Paige’s mum said she recalled picking up her daughter up from the club that night, and told the BBC that Paige told her about the alleged grope a few years later.
Emma* says she met Westwood when she joined his promotional “street team” in 1999, when she was 15. She was a huge hip-hop fan and would hand out flyers on nights that the DJ was playing, and work backstage.
She says that when Westwood asked her to hang out she didn’t think it was a romantic proposition. “He’s like an older guy, so just asexual to me in a way,” she says. She says she remembers being picked up from her London home and the DJ saying he wanted to stop by his flat. They went inside and listened to music but the atmosphere changed and she started to feel anxious, she says.
“I didn’t feel safe already and I was like I don’t want anything else to happen, like I need to get the hell out of here.”
She says she made excuses to go home, and claims that when they were in the car he leaned to kiss her. “He leans [in] very fast, like he’s talking to me. And then he sticks his tongue down my throat,” she says. “I remember … pursing my lips, trying to bring them together as tight as possible. [I] tried to be just non-sexual.”
She told him she was only interested in working with him and needed to get home, she says. “He was in a strop. He just got quiet. It was the injured ego of the man, and you learn it very early on not to bruise that ego.”
She says he dropped her off and she was not called on to work on the street team again.
Sophie* was 18 and at college when she started working on Westwood’s street team in 2003.
She says people would drink together after his show. One night she says he offered to take her home, but instead drove her to a flat and “things did happen”. She says: “[He] didn’t, like, force me down and hold me down to do things; however, things happened that I wasn’t comfortable with.”
Sophie says her memories are fragmented, but she alleges that sex happened and that she wasn’t comfortable with it. “I even question myself: why did I go there? Because I’m not the kind of person to go to a person’s house. But at the same time, maybe because I worked for him. Maybe because I was intoxicated as well … I was young.”
She says it seems obvious to her now that it was an abuse of power. Afterwards, she says, he dropped her off home “like nothing had happened”. She says she didn’t work for him again.
Talia* says she was 20 when she met Westwood at the Oceana nightclub in Nottingham in 2012. She says the DJ pointed her out to his bodyguard, who came over and asked her to wait behind.
She says she and her friend were planning to go back to their university halls, and the DJ offered to drop them off. The plan changed and his driver drove back to the hotel the DJ was staying at, she has told the BBC.
“Maybe this was just me being naive,” she says, “because [my friend] and I thought it was just gonna be a chat and that would be it and, you know, I’d go back to halls.”
Talia says she went to his hotel room alone and they talked briefly and then he kissed her. She says she was “OK with” this, but she says that very quickly he got naked and she started to feel uncomfortable, and she says she told him she didn’t want to “do anything like that”.
“I kept saying: ‘No, you know we’ve just met, let’s just talk,’” she says. “Then obviously the struggle started and I kept saying no.”
She says he was then straddling her on the bed and was trying to get her to give him oral sex. She alleges her legs were pinned between his and he was holding one of her hands.
“I was just thinking: ah God, this can’t be happening. Here is this tall man like just towering over me and I just felt, you know, caged, like I couldn’t get out. And I was saying no. So I felt really, like, really powerless, I’d say, in that moment.”
Talia remembers repeatedly saying no, and she alleges Westwood pushed his penis into her mouth. She says she said “no, just let me go” and shuffled from under him, grabbed her belongings and left.
“I was quite disturbed by the whole thing,” she says. “Looking back I just feel used and I feel disgusted in a way. I just feel like it’s quite demeaning.”
She says she thought of going to the police but she didn’t think her complaint would be taken seriously. “The police would think, well, it was a night out, you’re 20 years old, and they just wouldn’t have taken it any further.”
Talia’s friend Tatiana* has told the BBC she remembers the night in Nottingham in 2012 and going to the hotel. A month or two later, she says, she saw Westwood again in Nottingham. She says she mentioned Talia and was shocked when he said he didn’t remember her. “[He] said: ‘Oh, I don’t remember,’” she says. “I was like: huh? How? Why don’t you remember her?”
She claims he then touched her bottom. “I turned around to look and he acted like it wasn’t him. But it was me and him and my two girls there. He was acting like nothing happened. I was in shock,” she says.
Other women have alleged to the BBC that the DJ groped or behaved inappropriately with them. Isla* says she met Westwood in August 2017 at Boxpark in Croydon, and alleges he rubbed his genitals on her behind. Josie* says she met Westwood in the summer of 2018, when she was 22, and that after she gave him her number he “pestered her” to come to his house and attempted to flash her on a FaceTime call before she hung up. She says he messaged afterwards to say he was sorry and that he had been joking.
The most recent allegation dates to 2020. Elizabeth* says she met Westwood in a nightclub in East Sussex in 2019 and that over the course of 2020 they had two sexual encounters, which she says were “uncomfortable”. She says she felt under pressure to drink, and notes that the DJ was older than her parents. She alleges that when she told Westwood she was about to turn 20, he replied: “I wish I’d had more time to fuck you when you were a teenager.”
*Names have been changed.