EastEnders icon Leslie Grantham has died at the age of 71, it has been confirmed.
The actor was best known for portraying ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in EastEnders from 1985 to 1989, before making a shock return to the BBC soap in 2003.
In a statement, Leslie’s family said: “We formally announce the loss of Leslie Grantham, who passed away at 10.20am on the morning of Friday 15th June 2018.
“His ex-wife and sons have asked for their privacy to be respected at this difficult time. There will be a private funeral which will be attended by close family and friends only.”
Actor Leslie Grantham, famous for playing Den Watts in EastEnders has died aged 71.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. pic.twitter.com/VvWVM0HyY2
— This Morning (@thismorning) June 15, 2018
His cause of death is yet to be revealed, but unverified reports claim that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
The confirmation of Grantham’s passing comes after reports earlier this week suggested that he had returned to the UK to receive medical attention.
Although Grantham attracted widespread fame on EastEnders, his earlier life was marred by a 1966 conviction for murdering a German taxi driver while serving as a soldier.
We are heart broken to hear the news about Leslie Grantham. A wonderful man who always managed to make us laugh every time we met. He will be dearly missed.
Our thoughts are with his family.
— BLUE (@officialblue) June 15, 2018
— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) June 15, 2018
He reportedly acted in several productions during his time behind bars, and pursued an acting career upon release.
He appeared in the first ever episode of EastEnders in 1985 and helped the soap attract record ratings on Christmas Day 1986, when 30 million viewers tuned in to watch Den hand divorce papers to his on-screen wife Angie.
Despite eventually being ‘killed off’ in 1989, Grantham made a sensational return to the show in 2003.
His second stint on the show was also marred by controversy, after Grantham was revealed to have conducted webcam sex sessions from his EastEnders dressing room.
Grantham’s small screen fame also came as the host of Fort Boyard, an adventure game show set on a French fortification in the sea.
In recent years, he made frequent appearances in pantomimes during the festive period.