Darlington's own pantomime prince, Gareth Gates, has been crowned the winner of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.

The dramatic finale tonight (Saturday, November 5) saw the pop star triumph over his fellow celebrity recruits on the gruelling reality show aired on Channel 4.

The programme's punishing seven-week course was designed to test the physical strength, mental resilience and character of the participants, including politician Matt Hancock and model Danielle Lloyd.

The Northern Echo: Gareth Gates as the Prince.

Gates, however, surpassed his competitors, much to his own surprise.

"Selection is the hardest thing these celebrities could choose to do in their lives," said Jason Fox, one of the show's directing staff.

Chief instructor Billy Billingham MBE QCB, praised Gates, saying: "Congratulations, Number 7 (Gareth). You passed…this course."

The Northern Echo: Gareth Gates with other remaining contestants Matt Hancock and Danielle Lloyd.

This win holds a special significance Gates, who said being the course's sole victor adds weight to the achievement.

The former Pop Idol contestant acknowleged the gap between creating a television programme and the real-life requirements of Special Air Service (SAS) operatives, expressing immense respect for the sacrifices made by those who protect our country.

Gates said he strongly believes his experiences as a child dealing with a speech problem and bullies formed the basis of his mental strength.

The Northern Echo: Gareth Gates

"I just had to somehow dig deep and I managed to tap into that. I think that's what got me through it," he said.

Talking of his childhood struggles, Gates added: "I think all that comes from having had that drive to get myself out of the traumatic situations I faced with bullies when I was a kid."

"The fact that I passed so effectively and won the whole thing proved to myself that I am strong and that I'm not the same, cowering young boy who used to hide in the corner."

The Northern Echo: Gareth Gates with other remaining contestants Matt Hancock and Danielle Lloyd.

Back in Darlington, the newly crowned SAS winner will switch from battle gear to pantomime attire.

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This Christmas, Gates will take centre stage at the Darlington Hippodrome, starring as the Prince in the beloved family favourite 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'.

Tickets are already available for the festive season, with the production running from December 8 right through to New Year’s Eve.

Tickets are available online at www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk or via telephone on 01325 405405.