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Fans in tears at Deirdre's death

Coronation Street fans were left in tears as the soap said goodbye to one of its longest-serving characters, Deirdre Barlow.

Actress Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre for 42 years, died in January aged 60.

She had been off screen for four months after taking a break following her diagnosis with cancer. The character's absence was explained with a visit to a friend.

But as the street prepared to welcome Deirdre back with a party to celebrate her 60th birthday, her friend Bev Unwin brought news of her peaceful death that afternoon from a suspected aneurysm as she sat in a deck chair in the garden.

Many fans tweeted that they were left in tears after watching Kirkbride's fellow cast members, including William Roache (Ken Barlow) and Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Bishop) break down on screen.

Craig Charles, who plays cabbie Lloyd Mullaney in the soap, tweeted " Goodnight Chuck" and added t hat the scenes were "h eartbreaking".

Catherine Tyldesley, who plays Eva Price, wrote: " Well done to all Corrie cast and crew. Not easy scenes to film tonight. You did Anne proud."

Jonathan Harvey, who wrote the episode, said: "Hopefully I've done our Annie proud."

He thanked viewers for their praise, adding: " Hard to write, but did it for this hilarious, bonkers, generous friend."

Kirkbride was one of the soap's best-know performers and was loved by millions for her portrayal of husky-voiced Deirdre, famed for many years for her oversized spectacles.

She appeared in many colourful storylines over the years, including one of her most memorable soap moments when Deirdre was jailed after being duped into a mortgage fraud by fiance Jon Lindsay.

The storyline even led then-prime minister Tony Blair to give his support to the Free The Weatherfield One movement to get her released.

The actress previously took a break from the soap after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993.

A funeral service for the character will be shown during Monday night's episode.

Beverley Callard, who plays Deirdre's best friend Liz McDonald, was a close friend of Kirkbride in real life and was with her during her final hours.

It fell to Callard, in her role as Rovers Return landlady, to announce the news of Deirdre's on-screen death to the street's fictional residents who had gathered in the pub for her birthday celebrations.

Callard thanked fans for their " wonderful messages" in response to the episode, tweeting that it "means a great deal".

She added: "Annie didn't like 'showbiz' but did love the viewers, and real people!!! Thank you!!! Xxxx"

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