Best known for his role as iconic Cockney villain ‘Dirty’ Den Watts, Eastenders star Leslie Grantham is critically ill in hospital with friends and family said to be “fearing the worst”.
The Sun newspaper revealed on Tuesday that the 71-year-old actor, who made his name in the long-running BBC One soap opera, had been admitted to hospital after being flown back from Bulgaria for treatment.
A spokesperson for the London-born actor told the British tabloid that “Leslie is very poorly”, while a close friend told The Sun: “Leslie is being looked after. Those who are close to him are hugely worried and are praying for his well-being.”
Grantham spent the past few years in Bulgaria after splitting from his wife of 31-years, Jane, and had previously spent time there filming soap The English Neighbour there in 2010.
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.
It’s not just his on-screen actions that have made headlines though, as Grantham served 10 years in prison for the murder of a German taxi driver during his time in the army. In 1966 he attempted to rob cab driver Felix Reese, in Lower Saxony, which resulted in the fatal shooting of Reese.He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1967 and it was during his stint inside that he decided to pursue acting.
Grantham was also the subject of a 2004 tabloid newspaper sting, when he was exposed masturbating on live webcam and sucking his finger in his dressing room. He apologised to his family at the time for the embarrassment but later said he had been “set up”.