X Factor finalists The Risk have been thrown into turmoil after Ashley J Baptiste quit the band just 48 hours before this weekend’s live shows.
The Sun reports that the 22-year-old dropped the bombshell on Thursday night after the quartet had been rehearsing for Saturday’s Halloween special – reportedly leaving fellow bandmates Derry Mensah, Andrew Merry and Charlie Healy “stunned”.
Show bosses have now called in Ashford Campbell from fellow finalists Nu Vibe – who were eliminated two weeks ago – to take his place, rather than have the group continue as a trio.
“It’s been a really tough decision but I have decided to leave The Risk,” Ashley said. “I don’t believe my future lies in a boyband and it’s not fair on Charlie, Derry and Andy to remain in the band when I am not truly committed to it for the long term.
“I believe The Risk can win The X Factor and I’m backing them all the way. I count them as my friends so I know we’ll stay in touch.’
The band’s mentor, Tulisa Contostavlos, said she was “devastated” by Ashley’s departure.
“Basically he couldn’t handle the pressure and this wasn’t what he wanted to do,” she told The Sun. “The boys think it has ruined their chances. They are very upset.”
The band said in a statement, “We’re gutted to be losing Ashley but we back him all the way in his decision.
“We’re going to miss him but The Risk are going to carry on in the competition and hope we can do our mate and all our supporters proud.”
They added that they had asked 16-year-old Ashford to replace Ashley in the band as they had had a “strong bond” with him since bootcamp.
The teenager will have less than a day to rehearse with the band ahead of Saturday night’s performance.
Ashley is the first X Factor contestant to quit the show voluntarily during the live finals, although others have left under difference circumstances.
Teenager Emily Nakanda withdrew from the competition in 2007 after it emerged she had been involved in a ‘happy slapping’ incident against another girl, while the same year saw Cece Jghalef, who was a member of girl band Hope, disqualified after a criminal conviction came to light.
And another of this year’s contestants, Sian Phillips, was dropped from the judges’ houses stage of the show after she was also revealed to have had a past criminal conviction.