EastEnders' Dirty Den star Leslie Grantham dies, aged 71

15 June 2018, 12:54 | Updated: 15 June 2018, 14:13

Leslie Grantham

EastEnders icon Leslie Grantham has passed away at the age of 71.

The soap legend played one of EastEnders' most infamous villains, 'Dirty' Den Watts, from 1985 to 1989, before making a surprise return to Albert Square 14 years later.

The soap's 1986 Christmas Day episode - which saw Den hand over divorce papers to wife Angie - is still one of the most-watched TV episodes ever, with over 30 million viewers.

A statement from Grantham's representative 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." 

Den returned in the early 2000s after being supposedly killed off in 1989, before leaving for good in 2005.

Grantham was a former soldier, and learned to act while serving a 10-year prison sentence for the murder of a German taxi driver while on army service.

He was reported to have completed filming on an upcoming low-budget film The Krays: Dead Man Walking, just before falling ill.