DROPPING to one knee and asking for lifelong commitment is undeniably a daunting task.

Add to that a few dozen unfamiliar stares and a public stage, and you might imagine the pressure Steve Heath felt at his favourite bingo hall.

The 48-year-old interrupted calls of legs eleven and two fat ladies to propose to his girlfriend Ellen Copnell at Coronet Bingo in Didcot.

He said: "It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I was biting my nails all night as it was getting nearer and nearer."

The window cleaner, whose love for Ms Copnell was the silver lining of shared tragedy, has been playing bingo for more than a decade.

He said: "All my friends take the mickey, but I love it. It's a brilliant night out.

"Me and Ellen have had such good times there and I wanted it to be somewhere special. Life is too short."

His proposal last month came after much preparation with the bingo hall, and marked almost one year exactly since the pair met.

Nurse Ms Copnell, from Faringdon, knew her boyfriend was due to propose as they had already picked out a ring.

But the 43-year-old had no idea it would be witnessed by whooping strangers waiting for a full house.

Mr Heath, who lived in Witney until recently, said: "I'd been winding Ellen up for weeks about the engagement, and kept giving her little clues. But it was a really big surprise.

"The reaction of the people there was absolutely fantastic; it was electric.

"I think they were quite gobsmacked when I got on stage, then they twigged what was going on. They were all clapping."

The pair have recently moved in together in Swindon, but still travel to Didcot once a week to play bingo with Ms Copnell's parents.

They met through Ms Copnell's late husband Brian – Mr Heath's best friend – who died of leukaemia last year aged just 51.

Mr Heath said: "We were both devastated when he died. None of us saw it coming.

"It brought us closer together – something special has come out of that sadness. We know he would be happy for us."

Coronet Didcot's manager Sean Tucker said it was the first time in his 30 years at the club that he had ever witnessed a proposal.

He said: "It shows how our nice little family run club is an important place in some people's lives."

The bingo hall shared a video on its Facebook page of the proposal, in which the audience cheers after a shocked Ms Copnell whispers 'yes'.

The couple are set to get married next September in Wilcote near Witney.