Home and Away stars have shared a stream of heartbreaking messages and memories following the news their former co-star and friend Ben Unwin has suddenly died.
The actor, who played popular character Jesse McGregor on the show from 1996 to 2000, passed away at the age of 41 – in what has been described by his co-stars as a “terrible tragedy”. While his cause of death is yet to be confirmed, NSW Police said they found a 41-year-old man’s body while “responding to a concern for welfare”.
Now actress Kimberley Cooper, who starred alongside Ben as Gypsy in the show, has led the tributes by sharing her first ever TV Week magazine cover with him on Instagram – before affectionately referring to him as “onion”, a nod to her nickname for the star.
“My first tv week cover was with you. We had years of laughter, be it giggles on set trying to get through scenes as lovers or doubled over belly laughs at the pubs after work,” she wrote.
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My first tv week cover was with you. We had years of laughter, be it giggles on set trying to get through scenes as lovers or doubled over belly laughs at the pubs after work. I will be sad for now, but I promise to tell stories of great joy about our times together. You forever hold a special place in my heart. Love you Onion ❤️
“I will be sad for now, but I promise to tell stories of great joy about our times together. You forever hold a special place in my heart. Love you Onion.”
Meanwhile Lynne McGranger, who plays long-running character Irene Roberts, described his death as a “terrible tragedy”, saying in a statement: “Deepest condolences to his friends and family.”
Ben’s character Jesse was known for his close bond and romance with Leah, played by Ada Nicodemou, on the show and she also shared her heartbreak, telling Yahoo Lifestyle: “I just woke up to the tragic news of Ben’s passing, my heart goes out to his family.”
Meanwhile, the whole cast and crew at Home and Away shared their condolences in a group message from Seven, saying: “Cast and crew from Home and Away are saddened to learn of the passing of former castmate, Ben Unwin… Ben’s work in the role of Jesse McGregor is remembered with much affection. Ben’s family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Ben was nominated for the Logie Award for Most Popular New Talent in 1997, as well as a British National Television Award in 1997 for Most Popular Newcomer. According to reports, he sadly passed away just a week ago – a day before he turned 42.
Ben’s character Jesse was well known for his wild antics on the show, while also having a close bond with Ray Meagher’s long-running character Alf Stewart – with the pair opening the famous Bait Shop, which was then called A&J’s Baits and Bits. Sadly, he was also involved in a tense storyline which saw his character spend time behind bars when he was falsely accused of burning down the shop.
According to multiple reports, Ben gave up acting following his final stint on the show and studied law, before working as a senior solicitor in Sydney.
If you are concerned about a crisis in your family, friends or workplace, contact Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978, Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for confidential support, advice and referral that will help you explore your options.