UK Hip-hop DJ Tim Westwood faces sexual misconduct allegations
DJ Tim Westwood is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by women who say he abused his position in the music industry to exploit them.
The 64-year-old is accused of predatory and unwanted sexual behaviour and touching, in incidents between 1992 and 2017.
The BBC and the Guardian have heard detailed accounts from seven women in a joint investigation into the former BBC Radio 1 DJ.
He strenuously denies the allegations.
The DJ was an early champion of hip-hop in the UK and hosted the first nationally-broadcast rap show on UK radio from 1994.
The seven women who spoke to the BBC are all black, and say they met Westwood through his work. Some of them accuse the DJ of abusing his power within the music industry.
The women tell their stories in a BBC Three documentary, Tim Westwood: Abuse of Power, which airs on BBC Three at 21:00 on Tuesday.
Two of them, who were aspiring to work in the industry, say they agreed to come to London to meet him to discuss music. They accuse the DJ of driving them to a flat and initiating unwanted and unexpected sex. One was 19 at the time, while Westwood was 53.
Another woman told the BBC she met Westwood, then in his mid-30s, when she was 17 and a member of a R&B group. She says she was subjected to unwanted oral sex after agreeing to meet him.
Four further young women accuse the DJ of either touching their bottoms or breasts as they posed for photographs with him at different events where he was performing.
The women, whose names have been changed to protect their identities, do not know each other. Some work in the music industry and fear repercussions – with the DJ continuing to have a prominent role in an industry long-criticised for its treatment of darker-skinned black women.
Allegations about Westwood’s behaviour toward young black women have circulated on social media for some time. In 2020, Westwood issued a statement to the Mail Online hitting out at the “fabricated allegations” and said they were false and without foundation.
Now, for the first time, following our investigation, women detail their experiences.
Warning: Some of the content in their stories may be distressing.
When Isabel discovered Tim Westwood was DJing at her local nightclub, she spotted a chance to have her music heard by someone influential. She was 19, and had already been getting studio time – featuring on rappers’ tracks as a vocalist.
Isabel was young when she realised she could sing. During her strict religious upbringing in the Midlands in the early 2000s, contemporary music was banned at home, but she spent Sundays singing gospel in church. Secretly, however, she would write her own music and dream of a future as a recording artist.
By 2010, when she was a university student, she was continuing to pursue a career in music. She knew a national platform like BBC Radio 1 could take her to the next level. “[Tim Westwood] was the main gatekeeper to get to the level of exposure I needed,” she says.
Isabel put together a mixtape of unreleased work and included her contact details inside the CD case. Her best friend together with her stepmum went to the club night with her.
They managed to hand the CD to Westwood, and Isabel says the DJ – then aged 53 – called her the next day. The two arranged to meet in London.
Her family and friends shared her excitement. “We were thinking that this is a really good lead at this point,” she says. “He wants to act on this quickly.”
Within days, she was on a train to London for an afternoon meeting. Isabel says the plan was to meet at Nike Town on Oxford Street, near BBC Radio 1’s studios.
She says Westwood was there waiting in a huge American-style car. Isabel assumed they were going to talk about her music over coffee or a drink – a point she wishes she had clarified.
“I don’t ask where we’re going. And then at this point, we start driving,” she recalls.
But she says her discomfort grew as she realised they were heading out of central London. “This is where I’m now like ‘Oh God, where are we going, what’s happening?'”
She says the conversation dried up – to the point where it was almost “menacingly silent”.
She alleges at one point on the journey, the DJ tapped her arm to get her to turn and see that he had undone his trousers and had exposed his genitals. “I’ve looked and I’ve seen and I’m like, ‘Oh, no, oh no, like, oh my God. Just don’t say anything. Don’t look. Don’t say anything.’ And I’m hoping that’s enough for him to just… not.”
Isabel says she felt “completely powerless” and “very, very scared”.
She says they eventually arrived at what she believes was Westwood’s flat. She remembers it being filled with lots of records. She says she was led to a room, where she refused an offer of a drink.
“He leaves the room and then he comes back completely naked,” she alleges. “That’s when I noticed that he has got a condom and he has removed it [from the wrapper] and started putting it on.”
Isabel says she recognised the condom packet. It had the DJ’s face on one side – part of a campaign Westwood did with Durex. “I remember that very vividly because I remember that was kind of when my brain also started to shut down.”
Isabel describes sitting on a chair “frozen with fear”. She says Westwood held her shoulders and turned her around.
“I knew what was going to happen at this point. So, I’m just like ‘Oh my God,’ And I remember being like, hunched up and like holding on to the back of the chair, like, scared.
“He almost, like, tapped me on the back of my leg as if he wanted me to move my leg, which I didn’t do. And then he sort of did.”
Westwood then penetrated her.
She says after he finished, she quickly got dressed and sat waiting to leave. She says the DJ seemed annoyed when she asked for a lift to the station.
Isabel recalls going over and over the experience on what felt like a really long journey back north. “I just remember feeling so deflated. So sad. Feeling really ashamed of myself and bad.”
She says the encounter led her to drop out from her studies and music career.
Isabel’s stepmum told the BBC the whole family had been excited about Isabel’s chance at a breakthrough. But she knew instinctively that something had happened when Isabel got home and wouldn’t talk about the meeting.
But she says that after she heard Isabel’s account, she felt guilty for not chaperoning her – and says she cried when Isabel disclosed that her silence was, in part, over worries her family would be disappointed with her.
Like others the BBC spoke to, Isabel became aware in 2020 of allegations being made by women on social media alleging misconduct by Westwood.
Pamela’s story echoes Isabel’s. She was just 20 when she met Westwood through friends. It was 2000 and she was working with young people who wanted to break into the music industry. She says the DJ invited her to do work experience with him at BBC Radio 1.
He had joined the BBC in 1994, after making a name for himself on pirate and then commercial radio. But his show mostly focused on US artists, and Pamela says the DJ told her he wanted to understand more about the UK scene and “get a younger audience”.
She says the DJ, in his 40s at the time, reassured her “stern Jamaican” mother on the phone that her daughter would be OK heading to London. Pamela travelled by train from the Midlands and says Westwood picked her up in a huge American-style car.
She says, as they drove, he kept stroking her leg and touching her face. She kept batting his hand away. She says he wasn’t concentrating on the road and was swerving so much that a police officer on a motorbike pulled up beside them and knocked on the passenger window. Pamela says Westwood apologised – and was told to keep his eyes on the road.
Pamela assumed she would be staying in a hotel as part of the work experience, but says the DJ instead drove her to an apartment where she remembers “records and trainers and oversized clothes everywhere”.
She says that at one point, he began trying to kiss her neck and remove her clothing. “I didn’t give him any kind of come on. There was no flirtation,” she says.
“If you are trying to actively touch me and I am pushing your hand away, that means I don’t want to do anything with you. If you are trying to remove [an] item of my clothing, and I put it back on, that means I don’t want it to be gone. If I’m showing you I’m uncomfortable, why would you just not stop doing it?”
She says she remembers thinking she couldn’t get out of the situation. “I’m in London alone with this man. Now, if I try and get out of this, who’s to say how he’s going to react. So I just submit to it.”
Pamela says she went home as soon as she could. She describes the encounter as “traumatic” and “disgusting”.
The work experience Westwood offered didn’t take place. We asked the BBC whether any monitoring of any work experience scheme took place but they did not provide an answer to this question.
Pamela later spoke to a friend who works in the music industry about her experience.
Pamela is critical of the BBC and other organisations for the “celebrity status” Westwood’s position afforded him over the years – a position she believes he abused.
“I would describe it as an abuse of power because… who they’re going to believe? This little girl from the Midlands, or this big, shiny star from London? He’s on national radio, international.”
Westwood fronted the UK version of the hit MTV show Pimp my Ride in 2005, and was also given a drive-time show on BBC Radio 1’s sister station 1Xtra, which focused on contemporary black music.
He is known for giving a platform to new artists, as well as getting some of the biggest rappers in the world onto his programmes – from Eminem to Cardi B.
He eventually left the BBC in 2013 as part of scheduled changes. In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, BBC News asked the BBC whether it had received any complaints against Westwood during his time in its employment. The corporation said it could “neither confirm nor deny whether the BBC holds the requested information”.
In a statement regarding our investigation, the BBC said “it does not comment on individuals”, but added that presenters would be expected to comply with strict codes of conduct.
In a statement released after publication of this story, the BBC said it was “shocked to hear of these allegations”. In relation to the FOI request, it clarified it did not “hold information that is helpful for this investigation”.
One woman’s story we heard goes back three decades. It was the early 1990s and Tamara had been talent-spotted by producers trying to put together a British R&B group. At that time, songs from American R&B girl groups like TLC and SWV were getting radio play and finding chart success.
Tamara spent her time in and out of studios recording music – as well as enjoying London’s nightlife meeting other artists. One time when she’d seen him around, Westwood, who was then in his mid-30s, suggested they should meet up. She was 17 at the time and believed the meeting was to talk about her career.
She says that, at the time, the DJ had “absolute power”.
He picked her up, and after stopping briefly at a radio station, he took her to a flat.
According to her, he started to take down her trousers and underwear. “Then he began instantaneously to give me oral sex. There was no talking. There was no kind of communication about that. It was just before I knew it – that’s what was happening.”
Tamara says that at first she tried to push his head or his shoulders away but he just continued.
“And then I just realised that I’m in a position where it’s already gone too far. I’m in a place, I’m already far from home. I wouldn’t know how to get home from here. I was manipulated into that situation – I was led to believe one thing, when he had something else in mind.”
Working in the same industry, she says their paths continued to cross. She says Westwood had sex with her several times over the next few years before she cut off the encounters.
“I think it was almost implied by him that OK, because we’d had the first encounter, I would be up for the next encounter and being young and not having the strength and courage to just say ‘Look, no, I don’t feel right about this because I don’t feel right about it.’ It just happened.”
In 2021, Tamara watched the BBC’s Music’s Dirty Secrets documentary in 2021 and contacted the producers asking them to investigate the DJ.
Now 64, Westwood continues to perform at nightclubs around the UK and internationally, hosts freestyle sessions and interviews on his popular YouTube channel and has a Saturday night show on Global’s Capital Xtra.
Four further women have told the BBC about their experiences with the DJ as they posed for photos at events with him.
Farah says she was introduced to Westwood in 2000 at an afterparty at Bristol Carnival. She says he put his hand down her top and “grabbed” her breast while they were gathered for a group photograph.
“I felt cold and I felt dirty. I felt humiliated – embarrassed that I’d done something wrong,” she says.
The BBC spoke to her friend who recalled Farah telling her years ago about the incident.
Another woman, Claire, described meeting Westwood at a club in Ayia Napa, Cyprus in 2009. She recalls that he said “lemme grab some ass” as she and a friend posed for a photograph with him, before the DJ put his hand down the back of her denim shorts. She says she “froze” and felt “very intimidated” by the experience.
A third told the BBC she was a huge fan of Westwood’s BBC Radio 1Xtra show when she went to an event he was DJing at in Essex – also in 2009. Then aged 19, Loretta also describes feeling his hand snake down her back before he grabbed her bottom while they posed for a picture.
“I felt his hand go back up. And stopped at my neck. And do you know, in that moment I was kind of frozen.”
Nyla was in university when she met Westwood at a New Year’s Day event in 2017, she told the BBC. She says he described her as the “pengest girl in the rave” during his DJ set and then later, while she and her friend recorded a Snapchat video with him, she says he put his hand up inside the back of her skirt. She says she was “shocked” and felt “objectified”.
She says the DJ managed to find her Snapchat contact and called her the next day to ask her to “hang out”. She didn’t meet up with him.
The BBC has seen the Snapchat footage and the images the women say were taken during their encounters.
None of the women the BBC spoke to have reported their interactions to the police. Some say they are speaking about their experiences in the hope it encourages others to come forward and leads to the DJ being “held accountable” for his behaviour.
“It makes it feel like that wasn’t completely for nothing,” Isabel says about coming forward.
“Like, I don’t just have this trauma scar for no reason. There’s a purpose for other people to not have to experience it.”