Big Brother Australia star in dark on dad's death

CANBERRA Thu May 24, 2007 3:00am EDT

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - A contestant in Australia's Big Brother program will not be told of her father's death because he did not want to disrupt her tilt at TV stardom, her boyfriend said on Thursday.

Raymond Cornell, 53, was buried on Monday following his death from cancer. But Cornell asked that his daughter Emma, 24, not be told of his death until she left the sealed Big Brother house in Queensland state either by eviction or eventual victory.

"Her dad didn't want her to be upset or to feel like she had to leave the house to come to his funeral. He didn't want to ruin the experience for her," Emma's partner Tim Stanton told Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Cornell and his Sydney-based daughter had reportedly been estranged for several years, but recently re-established contact through mobile phone text messages.

Psychologist Chris Hall, from the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, criticized the hit reality show's producers and said Emma should have been told of her father's death to make her own choice about how to deal with it.

"I've worked with lots of bereaved people, and I've never had somebody complain that they've been told too much," Hall told The Age newspaper.

"Will they break the news to her on air, for ratings?" the head of the World Vision charity Tim Costello said. "She's only got one father and she'll suffer guilt and possibly resentment for the rest of her life."

Big Brother's producers said they would not reconsider their decision because "it was the wish of the family" that Cornell's death be kept from Emma.