Strictly and EastEnders star left devastated as cousin with cerebral palsy dies

Molly Rainford on why she can’t back Bobby Brazier to win Strictly

Strictly Come Dancing star Molly Rainford has paid tribute to her late cousin, Ben Azevedo, who has sadly died aged 38.

Molly took to her Instagram to share the heartbreaking news alongside a family photograph of her and Ben from when they were younger.

For the caption, she simply wrote: “Rest peacefully cousin Ben.” She also added an emoji of a white heart and an angel.

While the EastEnders actor did not share his cause of death, Ben had lived with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and scoliosis and was wheelchair bound.

He was previously a resident at St. Elizabeth’s, a specialist school and residential centre in Hertfordshire which served people with complex needs, for which Molly was also an ambassador.

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Unfortunately, the centre was closed in November of last year after it was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ben was uprooted after spending many years at the facility.

At the time, Ben’s mother, Denise, opened up to the BBC about the struggle of finding somewhere else to place him following the closure.

She revealed: “I’ve got to the point where I don’t know where else to go, who else to phone. I sit on the computer until three in the morning still looking for places but it’s not coming up with anything at all.”

Denise found it to be “absolutely devastating” and completely unexpected. St. Elizabeth’s explained that a shortage of trained care staff because of issues with recruitment and retention had resulted in them no longer being “able to guarantee the safety” of residents.

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Molly and Ben were close growing up and it was reported that he even cheered her on back in 2012 when she competed on Britain’s Got Talent.

Many viewers may remember Molly’s impressive audition where she sang One Night Only from Dreamgirls. She ultimately made it all the way to the finals before finishing in sixth place.

Molly later signed a music contract and received a scholarship to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.

Others may be more familiar with Molly due to her time on the 2022 series of Strictly Come Dancing, where she was paired with professional dancer Carlos Gu.

Much like with Britain’s Got Talent, she made it all the way to the final. However, she was pipped to the Glitterball trophy by wildlife presenter and cameraman Hamza Yassin and his professional partner Jowita Przystał.

Following her success on Strictly, Molly joined beloved BBC soap EastEnders earlier this year when she was cast as Anna Knight.

Her character has already been part of many dramatic storylines during her time on Albert Square, and her latest one includes this year’s Strictly Come Dancing contestant Bobby Brazier.

Fans will need to tune in to see exactly how that plays out in the coming weeks and months.

EastEnders airs Monday – Thursday on BBC One from 7:30pm. While Strictly Come Dancing has returned on Saturday and Sunday evenings on BBC One.

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