Jeremy Clarkson 'sees red and punches Irish producer because no one had laid on dinner'
Jeremy Clarkson's suspension from Top Gear followed claims he punched a producer in a row over catering while filming on location in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Clarkson, 54, is reported to have hit Oisin Tymon, 36, after being told no dinner had been laid on for the presenters after they finished filming for the BBC2 show one evening last week.
The incident was only reported to the Corporation on Monday, resulting in Clarkson's suspension on Tuesday morning, a decision that was taken with the blessing of Lord Hall, the BBC director-general.
The remaining three episodes of the current series have been pulled from the schedules and the BBC refuses to discuss whether it will ever return.
Although the BBC owns the rights to Top Gear, Sky has made repeated attempts to lure Clarkson and his co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond to the channel to make a new motoring show, and there is speculation Clarkson may now decide the time is right to move on.
A source told The Sun: "Jeremy had a massive bust-up with one of the male show producers and he ended up smacking him in the face. Everyone was absolutely stunned.
"It was all over a catering issue. Jeremy just saw red and hit the assistant producer, who he blamed for not having organised the food."
The Daily Mirror quoted a source saying: "They came to the end of filming after a long day and Jeremy discovered that no food had been laid on. He just saw red and hit the assistant producer, who he blamed for not having organised the food. He snapped."
A source close to Clarkson insisted he was innocent and that "he didn't punch anyone".
Filming for this Sunday’s episode, which should have taken place on Wednesday, was cancelled and no more episodes will be broadcast while an investigation is being carried out.
If the complaint against Clarkson is upheld, the BBC will have little choice but to sack him, as it was made clear to him last year that he was on a final warning after a racism row after claims that he used the n-word during filming.
It was just one among many racist and xenophobic comments over the years, and critics had complained that Clarkson was being given special treatment by the BBC because of the immense profitability of Top Gear, which is sold to 214 territories and is the most popular factual television programme in the world.
A BBC spokeswoman said: "Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation.
"No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time."
Clarkson refused to comment on the incident as he arrived at his London home on Tuesday night, but later made light of the incident in a Twitter exchange with his co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond.
The BBC is understood to have banned all staff from talking about the incident which, unlike Clarkson’s previous gaffes, involves another member of staff and could result in a grievance procedure.
Although the BBC owns the format of Top Gear after buying the rights in 2012 from Clarkson and his executive producer Andy Wilman, Clarkson is the undoubted star and it is unclear whether Hammond and May would carry on without him if he were to be sacked.
Within minutes of news of his suspension breaking, fans of Clarkson had started an online petition to have him reinstated. More than 130,000 people have so far signed the petition.
This Sunday’s episode of Top Gear should have featured Gary Linkeker as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, but Lineker and the studio audience with tickets for filming at Top Gear’s base at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey were told yesterday they would not be needed.
Clarkson has been a fixture on Top Gear since 1988, but it was following the BBC’s decision to relaunch the show in 2002, in a brash new format with Clarkson as the only presenter to survive the reboot, that he transformed himself into a worldwide star.
But controversy has never been far away. Last year alone, he was forced to apologise after mumbling the n-word as he recited a nursery rhyme during filming; he was found to have breached Ofcom guidelines after referring to an Asian man as a “slope”, and caused a riot in Argentina by driving a Porsche with a number-plate that appeared to refer to the Falklands War.
He said last year: "I've been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked. And even the angel Gabriel would struggle to survive with that hanging over his head."
Lord Hall, the BBC director-general, was said to have intervened to save Clarkson after the n-word row, but Danny Cohen, the BBC’s head of television, has previously insisted Clarkson was not too valuable to sack, claiming: "It's like football clubs: no one is bigger than the club. There's no one show or person that's bigger than the BBC, and that's made clear to anyone who works there."
As recently as last month Clarkson had a verbal spat with Michael Dugher, the UK shadow transport minister, who had said he did not like Top Gear. Clarkson replied: “Good. We don't make it for people who wear pink ties.”