EastEnders star Leslie Grantham dies, age 71

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He appeared in the first ever episode of Eastenders. Pictured right alongside on-screen wife Anita Dobson. Source: Getty.

Actor Leslie Grantham, who played ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in EastEnders, has died aged 71. The actor, who was one of the long-running soaps most iconic characters, passed away on Friday morning.

“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.”

The iconic soap star had been fighting for his life in hospital over the last week.

Anita Dobson, who played Grantham’s onscreen wife, paid tribute to the EastEnders actor. “I loved working with Leslie and I will never forget our time together on EastEnders. I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news.”

Letitia Dean, who played Grantham’s on-screen daughter, released a statement saying “thank you for everything”.

She said: “I have very special memories of working with Leslie and will cherish them always. He and Anita looked after me in my early days and showed me the ropes, always with care and kindness.”

The father-of-three is best known for his role as villainous landlord of the Queen Vic Den Watts, whose adulterous and violent ways had fans of the show hooked from the moment he appeared on screen in the first ever episode.

With his infamous catchphrase “Hello princess”, Den’s storylines landed EastEnders some of their biggest viewing figures, most notably when more than 30 million people tuned in to see him hand over divorce papers to lying wife Angie on Christmas Day 1986.

Grantham’s character was later shot and killed by criminal gang ‘The Firm’, departing the show in 1989, however soap bosses resurrected the character in 2003 for one of the show’s most shocking storylines. However Den was killed off again two years later, this time for good, when wife Chrissie Watts bludgeoned him over the head with an iron doorstop.

Are you an Eastenders fan? Do you remember some of Dirty Den’s most dastardly moments?

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