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devastated Louis Walsh says 'beautiful' Sarah Harding was taken far too early by cancer

'I didn’t realise she would go so soon – You never expect it to happen to somebody so young and so beautiful'

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Sarah Harding learned she had disease when the Covid pandemic hit.

Sarah Harding learned she had disease when the Covid pandemic hit.

Sarah Harding learned she had disease when the Covid pandemic hit.

Like her family, friends and fans, pop mogul Louis Walsh was devastated this week by the shock death of Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding.

Sarah lost her fight with cancer last Sunday, having undergone a mastectomy and chemotherapy in a bid to prolong her life after initially leaving it too late to get checked out due to Covid-19.

Louis says he loved Sarah from the moment he first met her when she auditioned for Popstars: The Rivals – where he was a judge with Spice Girl Geri Horner and pop producer Pete Waterman in 2002.

The 39-year-old English woman, whose mother, Marie, is of Irish descent, would go on to become a pop idol as a member of Girls Aloud, and was beloved by the fans and the general public she encountered.

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Sarah with Louis Walsh.

Sarah with Louis Walsh.

Sarah with Louis Walsh.

 

Looking back, Westlife manager Walsh today remembers the Sarah Harding he knew, and tells the Sunday World: “Behind the public image, Sarah was so insecure. She had low self-esteem and I could never understand that.

“She never realised or accepted that she was so good looking, so beautiful. It was her dream to be in a band like Girls Aloud, but it’s like she never believed in herself when she got there, even though she had everything going for her.”

Girls Aloud, which also featured Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh, Cheryl Tweedy and Derry girl Nadine Coyle, had several hits including Sound of the Underground, Love Machine and The Promise before splitting up in 2013.

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Louis Walsh with Sarah (left of Louis) and the rest of Girls Aloud.

Louis Walsh with Sarah (left of Louis) and the rest of Girls Aloud.

Louis Walsh with Sarah (left of Louis) and the rest of Girls Aloud.

 

Walsh, who is getting set to hold auditions to find a new Irish all-girl group, managed Girls Aloud at the start of their career, and he remembers nights on the town in Dublin with them in the early Noughties.

“Sarah was so bubbly and so much fun to be with,” Louis says. “She liked life and loved living. She loved a drink and she liked music. She was always the life and soul of the party.

“I remember when she came to Dublin, we brought her to the POD and to Lillies, and she just loved it. She’d be the last girl to leave those clubs with me. She was just a pleasure to be with. There was nothing I didn’t like about her.”

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Recalling the first time he met her, Louis tells me: “When she walked in for the first audition on Popstars: The Rivals, Geri Halliwell (now Horner), Pete Waterman and myself just knew the public were going to take to her, and they did. It was the public that picked these girls, it wasn’t us. The public picked Sarah because they liked her.

“She had a great career with Girls Aloud. They were a great group, when I look back on it. At the time they were the best-looking girl group in the UK for me. They styled themselves so well and the music was great. Every song was so original. But, unfortunately, their music never made an impact outside of the UK, which I could never understand. But Sarah loved it and she lived it.

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Sarah and the rest of Girls Aloud had big hits in the UK.

Sarah and the rest of Girls Aloud had big hits in the UK.

Sarah and the rest of Girls Aloud had big hits in the UK.

“I knew she was fighting cancer, but I didn’t realise she would go so soon, and I was very upset when I heard the news. You never expect it to happen to somebody so young and so beautiful.”

Louis also got to know Sarah’s heartbroken mum, Marie, during the early days of Girls Aloud and tells how she doted on her daughter – and how Sarah leaned on her for support. “It’s such a tragic loss for Marie because they had a fantastic bond,” he says.

It was Marie who announced the death of her daughter last Sunday, describing her as a “bright, shining star.”

Marie said: “I know she won’t want to be remembered for her fight against this terrible disease – she was a bright, shining star, and I hope that’s how she can be remembered instead.”

After Girls Aloud, Sarah appeared in several movies and television shows as well as a stage adaptation of Ghost the movie. She won the reality show, Celebrity Big Brother in 2017.

Last year, Sarah went for an ultrasound after she found enlarged and tender lymph nodes under her arm, and her breast size changed. The results weren’t good and she was advised to schedule an MRI.

That was in March when Covid-19 suddenly hit. “I was aware I needed to get this heath issue sorted, but with everything that was going on, it was tough,” Sarah said in her memoir, Hear Me Out, written as she was dying.

By the time she got the diagnosis in August last year it was too late – the cancer had spread.

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