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Deirdre Barlow star Kirkbride dies

Coronation Street star Anne Kirkbride - who played the part of the "legendary" Deirdre Barlow - has died.

Kirkbride, 60, who starred in the long-running soap for 44 years, died in a Manchester hospital after a short illness.

A statement on the ITV website said her husband David Beckett and the programme's cast and crew are "heartbroken and deeply saddened".

Executive producer Kieran Roberts said: "There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne's passing.

"We know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow.

"She will be greatly missed by the Coronation Street team who share happy memories of working with her.

"We feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Our thoughts are with David and their family."

ITV director of television Peter Fincham said Kirkbride had "created a unique and unforgettable character" and said she had been "a truly loyal servant to Coronation Street since joining the programme in the early 1970s".

Coronation Street's creator Tony Warren said: "Anne was very easy to love. Her talent over the years made a massive contribution to Coronation Street."

William Roache, who played her onscreen husband Ken Barlow, said: "I feel Anne's loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years.

"She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.

"She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her.

"Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed."

Kirkbride is survived by her husband David, her brother John, and his family.

Kate Ford, who plays Deirdre's daughter Tracy Barlow in Coronation Street, said she is "heartbroken".

The actress tweeted: "Heartbroken at the loss of my friend and beautiful on screen mummy. The most crazy funny 100 per cent human. My life was enriched by her"

Other Coronation Street stars who have paid tribute to Kirkbride, whose character was known for her large spectacles, include fellow Corrie veteran Beverley Callard.

Known for playing Rovers Return barmaid Liz McDonald, Callard tweeted: "My beautiful darling friend, Anne Kirkbride, passed away in a room filled with love. God Bless, my Darling Girl! Peace and rest!"

Michelle Keegan, whose character Tina McIntyre made a dramatic exit last year, said: "The nation is now in mourning..."

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