'Big Brother's Steve was "cherry-picked" by the show's producers.

The 40-year-old father of eight - who lost both his legs and an eye while serving with the British army in Northern Ireland - was allegedly specially chosen for the Channel 4 reality show by producers.

A friend of the transatlantic yacht rower told Reveal magazine: "Steve was courted by 'Big Brother' producers - he didn't go through the audition process like the rest of the housemates.

"The show's bosses had their hearts set on getting someone disabled in the house and, in November last year, they approached a wheelchair basketball team in Leicester."

According to the insider, Steve "ticked all the boxes" and was fast-tracked through the audition process, which saw thousands of hopefuls queue for up to eight hours in the hope of finding fame on the show.

The source continued: "As soon as 'Big Brother's producers got wind of Steve, they were on the phone to him. He's clearly a great character, and he's a wheelchair user, so he basically ticked all their boxes."

George Lamb - presenter of spin-off show 'Big Brother's Little Brother - recently tipped Steve for the top.

He said: "I think Steve's a really interesting character and the kind of war hero guy who, despite all the problems he has faced in his life, is still pushing on and has an incredible lust for life and a great attitude."