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Ex-EastEnders actor dies at 75

Actor John Bardon, who was known by millions for his role as Jim Branning in EastEnders, has died at the age of 75.

He is understood to have died in the early hours of this morning, seven years after a debilitating stroke which has left him needing round-the-clock care in recent years. His death was announced by the BBC.

Actress June Brown - who played his screen wife Dot - said: "I am so sorry that John has passed away but hope that he is now at peace after seven difficult years.

"I shall miss him very much as I loved him dearly. My thoughts are with his devoted wife Enda," she added.

Bardon's characterful face made him a familiar figure on screens, with appearances in a number of sitcoms, comedy films and TV dramas. He had regulars roles in ITV drama Rumpole Of The Bailey and films such as Clockwise, East Is East and One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing.

He made his last appearance in EastEnders three years ago and his character's disappearance from the series was explained by Branning also suffering a stroke.

Speaking on behalf of the programme, an EastEnders spokeswoman said: "Everyone at EastEnders is absolutely heartbroken to learn that John has sadly passed away. His bravery, dignity and courage in battling against the devastating effects of his stroke were admired by all who had the privilege of working with him.

"Loved by us all, John was an exceptionally talented actor whose humour, mischievousness and brilliant performances made Jim Branning one of Walford's most loveable, memorable characters and we will miss John forever. Our love and deepest sympathies are extended to Enda, his truly wonderful wife, at this very sad time. May he now rest in peace."

Bardon made his first appearance in the show with a brief role in 1996, and he returned three years later in a more regular role, going on to marry Dot.

He also appeared frequently on stage and picked up an Olivier Award in 1988 for best musical actor for his role in Kiss Me, Kate.

Brown was seen visiting her bed-ridden co-star Bardon for a BBC documentary called Respect Your Elders, which looked at how society treated older people.

She was shaken by the deterioration in his health and with his struggle to be able to speak, although he said he was grateful to be alive but uneasy about the burden placed on his wife to care for him.

Brown said in the programme that she would hate to be in a similar position, adding: "Just put me down."

Others from EastEnders who paid tribute to the actor today included Perry Fenwick (Billy Mitchell) who said: "John was a lovely, lovely man to work with. I'll miss him".

Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia Fowler, said: "I never had a real granddad so John was like an actual granddad to me. He was a lovely man and I learnt a lot from him."

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