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Who Do You Think You Are? star Joe Lycett open-mouthed to discover how criminally insane ancestor stabbed sailor

COMEDIAN Joe Lycett was left shellshocked after he discovered the turbulent life his great-great-grandfather led during the 1800s.

The Who Do You Think You Are? star found out that Robert Wilkins, his 19th century ancestor, was involved in the persecution of the Chinese.

Uncovering that his relative stabbed a fellow sailor with a bayonet, an open-mouthed Joe went on to find out that Robert was spared the death penalty after being declared criminally insane. 

“Mental illness is woefully catered for in 2021 - it was much worst in Robert’s time,” explained The Great British Sewing Bee host. 

“He had been through some awful times and struggled with alcohol abuse, fortunately, the legal system spared him the ultimate sentencing.” 

According to the damning records, Robert was born in Cambridgeshire in 1841 and was sent to live with his grandparents.

As the tale unfolded, the funnyman also unearthed that Robert’s life in crime came after a tough upbringing after he was forced to climb and clean chimneys at the age of 10. 

Seeing the funny side, Joe quipped: “I’m not sure being a chimney sweeper at 10, even though it sounds Dick Van Dykey and fun, would have been.

“I love Marry Poppins, but I don’t think it was like that.”

However, the reality, as an expert informs Joe, is that the grim practice often led to workers bleeding and the knees and arms. 

The historian later told Joe that Robert enlisted with the Royal Marines - patrolling the Chinese seas during the second Opium War when China resisted British trade of the drug from 1856 to 1860.

“It was a massacre,” said a bewildered Joe, taken back his ancestors revealing past.

“Robert will have killed a lot of Chinese people. He will have seen horrible things done to people. 

“Life has taken its toll, started to reveal its uglier side, and I don’t know where that leads him next.”

On the journey back from China, it was also revealed that Robert callously stabbed a colleague through the side of his stomach with a bayonet. 

The comedian concluded: “It’s obviously an incredibly sad moment in his life and really scary. He seems vulnerable, damaged.

“Robert’s life was a lost cause, but he turned it around and was completely different in his later years. A life can take so many shapes.”

Joe Lycett’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? airs on Tuesday, November 2, at 9pm on BBC One.

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