The odds of a One Direction split have been cut in half as Zayn Malik quit the boyband’s world tour after being “signed off with stress”.
The singer is set to return home to the UK but it is not known when he will arrive and his bandmates have not explicitly referred to the controversy on social media, with Liam Payne just tweeting: “What a day”
Malik’s break comes after he was forced to defend himself online and declare his love for fiancee Perrie Edwards after pictures emerged of him apparently close to another woman.
A spokesman for the band said: “Zayn has been signed off with stress and is flying back to the UK to recuperate. The band wish him well and will continue with their performances in Manila and Jakarta.”
Bookmaker Coral has slashed the odds on One Direction splitting up this year and said they have witnessed a flood of bets on the five-piece calling it a day, slashing the odds into 3-1 from 6-1.
A Coral spokeswoman said: “The latest scandal surrounding Zayn has sent the betting into meltdown and the odds on the group going in different directions have been cut in half.”
A day before the announcement, Malik, whose fiancee is a member of girl band Little Mix, told his 14.1 million Twitter followers: “I’m 22 years old ... I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there’s a lot of jealous f***s in this world I’m sorry for what it looks like x”.
A picture, which has been widely shared and published online, showed Malik with his arm around the bare stomach of a woman in a cropped top.
They look like they are posing for the picture and are both smiling, appearing to be cheek-to-cheek.
A second photo, taken from behind, shows Malik standing close to the woman and their hands and arms appear to be interlinked.
I’m 22 years old ... I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there’s a lot of jealous f***s in this world I’m sorry for what it looks like xZayne Malik tweet
The pair appear to share a love of tattoos, with both of their arms adorned in designs and the woman also has a tattoo down her side.
Last year, Malik revealed his mother has given him grief about his ever-growing tattoo collection.
He said he reassured her that the designs covering his arms and body will look acceptable when he reaches later life.
His extensive collection includes a large microphone, cartoonish lettering and a stylised picture of his fiancee.
The band are due to play gigs in Manila and Jakarta before moving on to play three gigs in South Africa next week.
It was reported that Malik and bandmate Louis Tomlinson could face fines of thousands of pounds if they are caught using or promoting illegal drugs during the concert in the Philippines.
The country’s Bureau of Immigration said the pair had been asked to post bonds of more than £3,000 each which will be forfeited if they fall foul of the regulations.
Both men featured in a video, widely reported on last year, in which they shown allegedly smoking cannabis and joking about drug use.