Leslie Grantham, of 'EastEnders' fame, dead at 71

Leslie Grantham dead

"We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends at this extremely hard time".

Kathy Beale actress Gillian Taylforth said: "I'm deeply saddened to hear the very sad news. RIP big man... loved working with ya in panto... you made me laugh and I learnt a lot from you too. absolutely gutted". "The chemistry was just extraordinary and a very memorable time and I won't forget him".

In 1986, a Christmas Day episode in which his character handed divorce papers to wife Angie, was watched by 30 million people.

Best known for his role in the BBC soap, he played Albert Square's notorious villain "Dirty" Den from 1985 to 1989.

Shane Richie, known for playing Alfie Moon on the soap since 2002, tweeted that he has "fond memories trying to make each other laugh in front of camera", referring to working with Grantham in 2004. "BUT there's no denying he was & will always be @bbceastenders greatest landlord #RIPLesleyGrantham".

Grantham's management company, Advocate Agency, said he died Friday but did not disclose the cause.

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It is understood before his death Mr Grantham had recently moved back to the United Kingdom, after living in Bulgaria.

Prior to moving back to south west London he had been living in Bulgaria after splitting from his wife Jane Laurie in 2013.

According to The Sun, close friends and pals in the showbiz industry had been visiting him in hospital this week.

Leslie was convicted of murder in 1966 and served ten years in prison after a taxi robbery in Berlin went wrong. In 2010, he spent time in Bulgaria filming TV series The English Neighbour.

His second stint on the show was also marked by controversy, after Grantham was revealed to have conducted webcam sex sessions from his EastEnders dressing room.

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