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X Factor in the dock as Gary rifles Ceri's bag

SCENES showing X Factor judge Gary Barlow mocking vulnerable contestant Ceri Rees (54) as he rifled through her handbag were cut from the show.

Take That star Gary (40) sifted through the fragile Welsh widow's handbag, while mocking her for carrying her passport.

"A passport? Well, I don't think you'll be needing this," he laughed at the singer -- who first auditioned in 2005.

However, Gary's joke did not go down well with the thousands of fans in the crowd, who are said to have booed and jeered the star.


Despite sporting a new hairdo to impress the celebrity panel this year, Ceri was again turned away -- for the fourth time in six years.

Hairdresser Ashlei Swain was in the stadium while Ceri took to the stage.

"It was so painful to watch, it went on for ages. She had her handbag so Gary was going on about why it was so special -- he started rifling through it and found her passport," recalled Ashlei. "He held it up and mocked her and tried to get the audience to laugh with him, but people were booing."

Ceri is now insisting that X Factor producers contacted her ahead of auditions and pleaded with her to come on the show again.

Her family are so disgusted with her ordeal, that they are now threatening legal action -- and Ceri's brother Michael Martin has already visited a solicitor.

A source close to the family has said that while it was Ceri's choice to return to X Factor, the show's chiefs have a moral responsibility to ensure that every contestant is "mentally and physically fit to take take part".

Ballyfermot woman Mary Byrne, who came fourth in the series last year, has joined in with unimpressed viewers, saying it was very hard for her to watch Ceri be criticised in front of 11 million viewers on Saturday's audition.

"I just think she loves Louis Walsh and she keeps going back to see him every year," said the Irish singer.

Earlier this week, singer Lily Allen took to her social networking page to say X Factor bosses should never have broadcast Ceri's audition as she was vulnerable.

While this year's X Factor has received a positive reception overall, the hassle continues for the show's creator Simon Cowell across the Atlantic. TV critics in The New York Times and the LA Times have slammed the show's producers for dropping Cheryl Cole from the US series, which hit screens last night.

Earlier scenes featuring Cheryl were kept in for the US broadcast despite claims she was dropped from the line-up amid fears US viewers would not be able to understand her accent.

But the LA Times described her Newcastle accent as "fabulous", adding: "She is much more interesting than [Nicole] Scherzinger.

The Chicago Tribune commented: "Nicole Scherzinger doesn't come off as an obvious improvement."