HOLLY Willoughby's sudden exit from This Morning was marked by her heartbroken colleagues at the start of today's show.
The presenter announced she had quit her role after 14 years "for me and my family" – days after a shock 'kidnap plot' against her was revealed.
Rochelle Humes, who is presenting alongside Craig Doyle, kicked off the show by saying: "Hello and welcome to your Wednesday's This Morning and of course we want to start by sending our love, best wishes and respect to Holly."
Craig continued: "Last night Holly made what we know will have been a heartbreaking decision to leave This Morning after 14 years."
"Holly loved her job here," Rochelle added.
"And was really looking forward to the future of the show, but recent events, especially in the past few weeks, have been hard to deal with.
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"She is quite rightly putting her family first."
Craig said: "On behalf of everyone here, front and behind the camera, we just loved working with Holly and she made coming to work so much fun.
"We're all really really sad and we're really going to miss her."
Rochelle agreed: "Holly has said she's incredibly proud of what she's achieved on this show and so are we."
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"She will forever be one of us."
Craig ended the statement by saying: "As Holly knows only too well, the show must go on."
This Morning's opening titles were changed in honour of Holly's exit.
Messages including "end of an era", "family comes first", "we'll miss you" and "goodbye Holly" flashed up on the screen as the introduction played out on-screen.
Although there was no video footage or pictures of Holly played out on the show, Rochelle and Craig were joined by regular guest Vanessa Feltz who looked emotional as she described her sadness about the news.
"People love Holly because she's lovable, but I know people wonder what she's really like. Can someone really be that pretty, that lovely, like a Disney princess to look at – can anyone be that sweet?
"I've worked with her, and proud to call her a friend, for 14 years – she is through and through a golden-hearted, sweet, smart and funny."
An emotional statement was released by 42-year-old Holly last night as she described leaving This Morning as "a very difficult goodbye".
The star thanked her viewers as she confirmed she has left the ITV show and will not be returning for a final episode.
She has been on indefinite leave from This Morning since last week as she was put under 24-hour surveillance when details of the alleged plot emerged.
Gavin Plumb, 36, of Essex, has been accused of contacting a “hitman” in the US and allegedly making a restraint kit as part of a plan to snatch the mum of three.
It appeared to be the final straw for distraught Holly, who has already suffered a turbulent year.
She and Phillip Schofield were blasted over jumping the queue to see Her Majesty lying-in-state at Westminster Hall in September last year.
Then, in May came the shock revelation that Holly's co-star Schofield had had an affair with a young employee, which later saw him resign from the show.
In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Holly wrote: "I have let ITV know today that after 14 years, I will not be returning to This Morning. To everyone who has ever worked on the show over the years, thank you so so much.
"This is such a difficult goodbye, you are incredible and I forever will be proud of what we've done together.I will not be returning to This Morning.
"Thank you to everyone at ITV for being supportive. To every guest who has sat on our sofa, thank you.
"Most of all, thank you to the wonderful viewers. You've been so loyal so supportive and the very best company every day.
"Richard and Judy said 'we only look after this show, it will always belong to the viewers'.
"It's been an honour to just be part of its story and I know this story has many chapters left to go.
"Sadly, however, I now feel I have to make this decision for me and my family. I will miss you all so much. Holly."
Following Holly's shocking resignation, Kevin Lygo, Managing Director, Media and Entertainment, ITV said: "We are sad that Holly is leaving This Morning, but respect her decision which we know will have been extremely difficult for her to make.
"Holly is one of the best loved, respected and most accomplished broadcasters in the UK.
"She has been at the heart of This Morning for the past 14 years, and she is adored by our viewers. Holly has brought her unique brand of warmth, energy, humour and fun to one of the country’s most popular daytime shows, and everyone on the programme will miss her enormously.
"She remains a much loved member of the ITV family and we look forward to continuing to work with her in the future."
Plumb was arrested by Essex Police officers on October 4.
It is understood that officers found chloroform, cable ties, a blindfold and ropes at Plumb’s home when they raided it last week.
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He appeared in court on October 6, accused of soliciting to commit murder and incitement to commit kidnap.
The defendant was denied bail by district judge Caroline Jackson and will appear at Chelmsford Crown Court on November 3.
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