One rejection... the departure of Zayn Malik
Jennifer O'Brien takes a look at how it all fell apart for One Direction's Zayn Malik and why he decided to leave the most successful pop act in the world at the height of their fame
The news that singer Zayn Malik had left One Direction sent millions of fans into a frenzy yesterday afternoon - but music industry insiders weren't so surprised.
After five years in the biggest-grossing boyband in history, a hand-holding incident in Thailand with a woman who wasn't girlfriend Perrie Edwards was seemingly enough to send Zayn over the edge and hand in his boyband notice.
But in reality, the young star's departure was a long time coming.
With an estimated £20 million in the bank and fame beyond his wildest dreams, the 22-year-old singer announced his decision to bow out, leaving Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to continue as a four-piece.
Zayn had flown back from Thailand to England at the weekend citing "stress" as his reason for leaving the band's world tour.
Then, following days of what the tabloids dubbed "crisis talks" with fiancée, Little Mix star Perrie, the popular band member informed boss Simon Cowell and his management that he was looking for his P45.
Yesterday, a statement on the band's Facebook page confirmed the end for Zayn, and a new direction for pop's richest boyband.
It read: "My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined.
"But after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I'd like to apologise to the fans if I've let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart.
"I am leaving because I now want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.
"I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world."
Although apparently sudden, one senior industry source close to the popular band member noticed visible cracks starting to show with Zayn as far back as 2013 following a kiss-and-tell story that appeared in a British tabloid.
Blonde Australian dancer Courtney Webb sold a story and pictures of a sleeping Zayn beside her that went on to spread like wildfire around the world.
Zayn, who was already in a long-term relationship with pop starlet Perrie, was left shaken, and no doubt grovelling following the incident.
The source revealed: "It was around then that Zayn and the boys began to see the other side of fame and what can happen. Up until that point, One Direction had been treated like kings by the press and no one had a bad word to say about them. Suddenly Zayn in particular realised that a lot of people couldn't be trusted and that they weren't invincible.
"In terms of good press, they had years of it since the band was launched in 2010, but there was only so much Simon Cowell and Syco could control.
"Their phenomenal fame meant they could do nothing that wasn't going to be kept under wraps - the tabloids were going to do stories they didn't like and Zayn really struggled with that."
The young star's trust was shaken once again last summer when a video of him and band member Louis Tomlinson smoking a suspicious-looking roll-up was released to the media.
The video footage, which came from a phone in their convoy during a string of gigs in South America, soon spread worldwide.
In the clip, Zayn and Louis were shown passing a rolled-up joint to one another in the back of a smoke-filled van, with Louis commenting: "So here we are, leaving Peru. Joint lit. Happy days."
Later that week, bandmate Liam Payne apologised on their behalf, stating: "I love my boys and maybe things have gone a little sideways, I apologise for that.
"We are only in our 20s and we all do stupid things at this stage."
But it was last week at a seedy club on a strip in Phuket in Thailand that things finally came to a head for Zayn.
During a couple of days off in the band's schedule, he decided to hit the town.
When images of him holding hands with 19-year-old Lauren Richardson spread across the internet, Zayn unexpectedly quit the band's On The Road Again tour.
A spokesperson for the band said: "Zayn has 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."
He had been holidaying with Louis when he was pictured leaving a local club called Seduction with Lauren and within a day, Zayn was headed back to the UK to save his relationship.
He told fans on Twitter: "I'm 22 years old... I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there's a lot of jealous f**ks in this world. I'm sorry for what it looks like x."
The singer and his fiancée then spent five hours talking at the house that they share, with Perrie leaving without her engagement ring and with her bags packed.
Afterwards Zayn informed management he wanted to leave One Direction for good.
As teenage fans throughout the world got to grips with the news yesterday, the remaining One Direction members moved to give them words of reassurance with a statement.
It read: "We're really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future.
"The past five years have been beyond amazing - we've gone through so much together, so we will always be friends.
"The four of us will now continue. We're looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour."
Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Louis Walsh - who was a judge on the show that put the chart-toppers together - admitted: "It happens. "Someone leaves and bands go on. One Direction will go on."
And he added: "Now it's time for my band Hometown."
One Direction will continue with the remaining dates of their world tour.
Ones who got away..
Zayn Malik is not the first band member to cause a stir for walking away…
ROBBIE WILLIAMS/Take That
When Robbie Williams left Take That in 1995, a special helpline was set up to help grieving fans cope. He since claimed: "I think I made a million or something in Take That and it cost me a million and a half to get out of the deal."
Eleven years ago, Brian McFadden announced he was quitting Westlife, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. Last year he said he "wouldn't rule out" re-joining the band were they to reform.
GERI HALLIWELL/ Spice Girls
In 1998, Geri Halliwell deserted Girl Power. Halliwell cited depression and differences within the group as the reason for her departure and fled to George Michael's villa.
PAUL McCartney/ The Beatles
Paul McCartney revealed in an interview in 2012 that Yoko Ono was not the reason behind The Beatles' break-up - more than 40 years since he, John, George and Ringo parted company. Yoko publicly expressed her gratitude.
In 1975 the frontman of the prog-rock band quit over creative differences. The rest of the band - who had felt increasingly side-lined by Gabriel's control - turned to their drummer Phil Collins to be the singer.