Steve Wright: Iconic BBC Radio DJ's cause of death finally revealed

Steve Wright was on the BBC’s longest-serving presenters, and an absolute favourite on the airwaves.

Steve Wright Radio host dies
© Radio Times / GETTYIMAGES
Steve Wright Radio host dies

Steve Wright passed away at the age of 69, leaving long-term listeners, colleagues and friends devastated. He was found dead by emergency services at his home in central London on 12 February 2024. Wright’s family released a statement announcing the death of their ‘beloved Steve’, and mentioned ‘the millions of devoted radio listeners who had the good fortune and great pleasure of allowing Steve into their daily lives as one of the UK’s most enduring and popular radio personalities’.

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Wright joined Radio 1 in 1980 and hosted his iconic Steve Wright in the Afternoon show from 1981-93 before moving to Radio 2 in 1996. He continued in the afternoon slot for 24 years and when he was replaced in 2022, he still presented the Sunday Love Songs and Pick of the Pops segments. Winning the hearts of the nation over years on the airwaves, he was even awarded an MBE in the 2024 New Year Honours list for services to radio. The news of his death came just one month after the death of Annie Nightingale, the first woman to host Radio 1. Let’s take a look at his heartbreaking final appearance on the radio, and the touching tributes from friends.

Wright’s final appearance on air

Wright was last heard on the radio on Sunday, when he hosted a Valentine’s Day special. During the show, he promised listeners that he would be back next week. Wright had always remained a loyal and consistent presenter over the years, and in 2022 when the radio decided to take a different approach in order to attract a younger crowd, he reacted with professionalism and humour:

I’ve been doing this programme for 24 years, so how can I possibly complain? I can’t hog the slot forever.

Helen Thomas, head head of Radio 2 who delivered the news to Wright, explained that he ‘understood the connection and companionship that radio engenders better than anyone, and we all loved him for it’.

Tributes from friends and colleagues

Wright’s former co-host Janey Lee Grace, who worked with the veteran presenter for 24 years, said she was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the news:

He was just so funny and we really didn’t stop laughing for the 24 years we worked together.
He was incredibly relatable... he always fought so hard to make sure everything we ever did was completely relatable to everyone

Lora Clarke, director of BBC Music, explained that Steve’s priority had always been his listeners:

Steve was an extraordinary broadcaster – someone audiences loved, and many of us looked up to. He loved radio, and he loved the BBC, but most of all… he loved his audience.

The shock of his death has added to the heartbreak felt by those who knew him; Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley said at the start of her show that she had seen him just ‘days ago’. She explained it was extremely hard to know what to say’:

It’s very hard to find the words to say and to talk about someone in the past tense when it’s someone that you wish was very much still here. So it’s tough. The Radio 2 family are devastated.

Heart surgery update

Since, it has come to light that Wright had had surgery months before his death, but had kept it under wraps. After Wright's brother stated that his lifestyle and diet probably had a part to play in his death, his close friend Mark Wells revealed:

Steve told me he had a heart operation about 14 or 15 months ago. He had a bypass operation that had gone well… but I think he had been more ill than he was letting on. The recovery had gone pretty well but the events of the last couple of days was probably what in the end came for him.

Wright’s cause of death remained a mystery for a long time after he died, but it was finally confirmed in July 2024.

Steve Wright's cause of death

According to BBC, his death had been registered at the Westminster Register Office on 3 July and his death certificate has revealed that his death was caused by acute peritonitis and a perforated gastic peptic ulcer.

The NHS states that peritonitis, which is an 'infection in the inner lining of your stomach', can be life-threatening if it is not treated properly. In the case of Writer, he had an infection in the lining of his stomach and it was split open, which is a rare complication of having a stomach ulcer.

As Sky News puts simply, 'he died from a ruptured ulcer in his stomach.'

Before the contents of the death certificate was revealed, his death was ruled out as suspicious and no inquest was held. However, the Metropolitan Police did state that it was 'unexpected'.

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Sources used:

Independent: Steve Wright death – latest: Sara Cox leads tributes to legendary BBC Radio 1 and 2 DJ

The Telegraph: Steve Wright, ‘truly wonderful’ BBC Radio DJ, dies aged 69

Entertainment Daily: Steve Wright ‘underwent heart surgery’ months before his death: ‘He had been more ill than he was letting on’

NHS: Stomach ulcer complications

NHS: Peritonitis

Sky News: Radio 2 DJ Steve Wright died from ruptured stomach ulcer

BBC: Steve Wright: BBC DJ died from stomach ulcer rupture

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