JOHN Leslie kept his relationship with a hairdresser half his age a secret using coded Instagram posts as her family were "furious".
The former Blue Peter star, 55, has been dating pretty Kate Moore, 27, for a year now.
They decided to go public with their romance at the weekend when they were spotted holding hands as they strolled through London.
But Kate was originally keen on keeping her famous man a secret after eyebrows were raised among her family.
The former TV presenter is older than her step-father with Kate posting Instagram photos from far-flung destinations – including a romantic trip to the Maldives – without revealing the partner at her side.
She also uploaded a snap of her breakfast where Leslie's distinctive watch can be seen in the background.
But the couple have now told pals they are now house-hunting and hope to find a love-nest near Wimbledon, south-west London.
They were seen looking like honeymooners, hugging and holding hands in black winter coats during romantic strolls earlier this week.
A friend of the coupe told The Sun: “Kate has had some grief from her family about her new relationship. Some of her loved ones are absolutely furious.
"She is not a party girl and very close to her poorly mum, so it was hard to hear dissent about her new man.
“Kate decided to keep her social media posts cryptic – being wined and dined around the world without revealing who she was with.
“John was also particularly worried about the age gap, and how people might interpret his new girl.
“But now the pair has decided to make a go of it publicly. They are really into each other, and have decided not to worry about what other people think.”
Kate – who turns 28 in January – was a rock to her celeb partner during his sexual assault trial torment.
The star was cleared by a jury in October in just 23 minutes of grabbing a woman’s breasts.
Leslie broke down and wept while his dad punched the air after he was found not guilty of groping the woman at a 2008 Christmas party.
But The Sun can reveal it was Kate who helped him through his ordeal.
The couple met in a bar in Wimbledon late last year – near his London pad and the hairdressing salon where Kate works.
They spent the first Covid-19 lockdown together and as their relationship grew Kate introduced him to her mother and nan.
But a pal conceded: “Not all of Kate’s family have taken to her older man.
“One party earlier in the year had to be rearranged because some relatives threatened to stay away when they learned John was coming.
“It has been tough on Kate. But she is convinced that John is ‘the one’, and now wants to tell the world.”
Kate, who has a property in Cheam, South London and has shared online snaps with reality TV star Mark Wright and ex Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, attended Carshalton High School for Girls.
A friend revealed: “She’s smitten. She was wary at first, but any worries about John are long gone.
“She has explained her feelings to worried family and friends, but now anyone who doubts her can do one frankly.
“There has been consternation and concern because he is twice her age. But she thinks they are a perfect fit.
“She is living full-time with John and they are planning their future – including buying a house together.
“For months, Kate did not post pictures of them as a couple, despite luxury holidays including a trip to the Maldives that he paid for.
“Amazing five-star staycations have all been funded by him.”
After last month’s court drama, Leslie thanked his supporters and said he'll be spending time "putting his family back together".
The TV star had insisted on his innocence, previously telling Southwark Crown Court: "I never sexually assaulted anyone. It's not in my nature."
He branded the accusations "ludicrous and crazy" as he was supported by a string of female co-stars – including Anthea Turner and Fern Britton.
Leslie later shared a picture of himself looking into the sunset with the caption: "Thank you to everybody who has supported me through this ordeal.
"I will be spending some time putting my family back together again."
Scot Leslie was one of the most popular personalities on daytime television, presenting Blue Peter from 1989 to 1994.
The star, who also appeared on This Morning, is well-known for his high-profile past relationships.
He dated nurse Abi Titmuss between 1999 and 2004. She was catapulted to fame when a sex tape was leaked at the end of their relationship.
Leslie also dated actress Catherine Zeta Jones for two years in 1991 after they met at a Chesney Hawkes after-party.
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