Zayn Malik quit One Direction
Zayn Malik has quit One Direction. Getty

One Direction star Zayn Malik has sensationally quit the British boyband.

In a statement to fans, the 22-year-old singer revealed that he was walking away because he felt it was "the right time".

"My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined" Malik said. "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 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."

Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson are expected to continue as a four-piece.

"We're really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally reespect his decision and send him all our love for the future," they said. "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."

The news comes just days after Malik bowed out of the On The Road Again tour due to "stress" following allegations that the What Makes You Beautiful singer cheated on his fiancée Perrie Edwards with holidaymaker Lauren Rich in Thailand.

"Zayn finds it tougher than the rest of his bandmates dealing with fame. Having his every movement scrutinised causes great anxiety and the pictures which surfaced with the fan yesterday was the final straw," a source told The Sun at the time. "He did nothing wrong but the amount of criticism he received was simply too much. He needs to get away."

Label boss Simon Cowell, who put the group together on the X Factor in 2010 and mastermined their rise to global fame, admitted that he was "truly sorry to see him leave."

"I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction. Since I first met Zayn in 2010, I have grown very, very fond - and immensely proud - of him," he said. " I have seen him grow in confidence and I am truly sorry to see him leave."