TV quizzer Mark “The Beast” Labbett is leaving his wife so she can move on with her lover after their open marriage failed.
The star and Katie have confirmed their separation after spending seven years wed — blaming their 27-year age gap and life in the Covid-19 lockdown for their troubles.
Mark, 55, said: “There was never any deceit on Katie’s part but it’s got to the point now where I realise it is better for us to go our separate ways and remain friendly.”
Nurse Katie, 28, who has been dating senior design engineer Scott Bate, 30, for 18 months, added: “I just want everyone to know what’s what and that we are all happy.”
In a exclusive interview, Mark and Katie, who have a three-year-old son, speak for the first time about their unusual arrangement.
Mark said: “When Katie first came clean to me about her boyfriend, I’d had an inkling.
“But right from the start, my attitude was quite pragmatic — this was spilt milk, what could we do about the situation to make it OK?
“We had a family. We couldn’t just throw that away lightly. There were other considerations.
“But Covid provided the perfect storm. My mental health suffered and the differences in our ages became magnified.
“With Katie seeing Scott after lockdown, it’s got to the point where I realise it’s better for us to go our separate ways and remain friendly, without the stress factor of living together.”
Mark, one of the six brainbox “Chasers” on ITV’s The Chase, hosted by Bradley Walsh, is moving out of the couple’s Herefordshire home next month.
He plans to spend time living in hotels while he finds himself a new pad closer to London.
He and Katie cite his workload and worldwide travel as triggers behind their split.
However, Mark admits his wife’s ongoing relationship with Scott has taken its toll despite the couple’s initial attempts to have an open marriage.
Mark added: “There was never any deceit on Katie’s part, but obviously our son has mentioned Scott’s name quite a few times.
“Each time he does it, Katie looks a bit sheepish.
“My only concern is that Scott’s good with him, which he appears to be. We’ve started speaking and are beginning to chat more and more.
“We’ve spoken about some of the bigger things, and Katie knows what my red lines are, and I know hers. So this way, nobody is shocked or surprised.”
He added: “Jealousy is so negative. Nearly every other emotion has some benefit but jealousy just sort of makes you stop functioning.
“I don’t want to get to the stage when someone mentions Scott’s name and my shoulders tense.
“All that matters is what is best for our son.
“I will never ever slag off Katie in public. One day, when our son is grown up, he will be reading this and I don’t ever want him to read anything bad about his mother.”
'I FELT SO ALONE'
The Sun on Sunday told last March how Katie had been cheating on Mark after meeting Scott on a night out in Hereford.
The pair have since been on holiday, with Scott posting loved-up pictures of them on his social media.
They were caught out after mutual friends saw Mark and Katie on Loose Women — and quizzed Scott about his new girlfriend.
Explaining her actions, Katie said: “I completely hold my hands up. It was one of those things.
I’m perfectly happy on my own. I am, as they used to say, a confirmed bachelor
"Basically, I had absolutely no friends around here except my parents. I knew no one.
“I was so unhappy. Mark and I hadn’t been great and he was away working all the time while I looked after our son. I felt so alone.
“My friend came over one night and took me out, introducing me to all these new people who became my social group.
“Because of our ages, they’re not the sort of people Mark could or would want to hang around with.
“I didn’t go out with the purpose of meeting someone. It just ended up that I met someone I clicked with. It went from there.”
After coming clean to her husband, they have spent the past 18 months trying to make their unconventional marriage work, with Mark turning a blind eye to Katie’s affair.
The star first met Katie, his second cousin, via Facebook in 2010.
She said: “I had never heard of Mark, or watched The Chase, but my gran mentioned him so I was intrigued.”
They got together in 2012, going for drinks on their first date after Mark, who boasts an IQ of 151 — “genius is 150”, he adds modestly — invited her to watch a celebrity Chase special.
They got engaged in October the next year.
Mark said: “I got down on one knee” — to which Katie quips back: “Only because I told you to!”
They married 12 months later at Arundel Cathedral in West Sussex, but their relationship first showed signs of strain after their son’s birth.
After discovering the affair, former teacher Mark went along with things because he wanted the “mother of my child to be happy”.
He added: “Knowing she had new friends meant I could be away working without worrying.”
Mark believes he was able to accept his unusual domestic situation because he is “on the spectrum” when it comes to autism, although he has never been diagnosed.
He smiles: “I’m not the worst people reader in the world but I am probably pretty close to it.
“I am like most semi-autistic people when it comes to feelings. I did this emotional test thing and I scored six per cent.
“Before Katie, I was basically single for 20 years and my longest previous relationship was eight months.
"I’m perfectly happy on my own. I am, as they used to say, a confirmed bachelor.”
Katie added: “Mark’s never been the romantic or emotional sort, which is something I really need.”
I want everyone to know what’s what and that we are all happy. I just want Mark to be happy
Seeing the pair’s easy camaraderie during our interview, in which their Golden Retriever Baloo merrily roams around and rescue rabbit Almond pees on my T-shirt, it is clear they are on good terms.
They are determined to remain a strong family unit.
Katie said: “Scott and I are together now, and Mark knows everything.
"They’ve spoken on the phone and I’m planning on introducing them properly soon.
“They only met briefly about two years ago.”
Mark interjects: “I couldn’t pick him out from a line-up.” Katie continued: “Now I just want to have a normal relationship, no lies.
“I want everyone to know what’s what and that we are all happy. I just want Mark to be happy.”
While he may still be dubbed The Beast, Mark has lost around five stone since lockdown began and is noticeably slimmer.
At 6ft 6ins tall, he now weighs around 20st after giving up biscuits and taking up indoor rowing.
He hopes to shed more weight and is looking for a stringent new diet plan.
Perhaps something of an unlikely heart-throb — he gets hundreds of saucy fan mail letters every year — he is in no hurry to join dating site Tinder.
He added: “Katie and I haven’t discussed divorce yet. That will only happen if one of us decides we want to re-marry.
“At the moment, I’m more than happy to be on my own. I find it easy.
"You can’t speak for the future, but I am conscious I don’t put a target on my back!
“I get some funny and suggestive mail from viewers although ITV edit some of the more explicit ones out. Who knew mothers and grans were my fanbase?”
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