Dennis Waterman: Minder and New Tricks star dies aged 74

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Image source, Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

Actor Dennis Waterman, known for his roles in TV shows including Minder, The Sweeney and New Tricks, has died, his family have said. He was 74.

A statement said: "We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Dennis passed away very peacefully in hospital in Spain."

He died on Sunday afternoon with wife Pam at his side, they said.

"The family kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time," they added.

Image caption,
Dennis Waterman played the title role in William in 1962

Born in London and educated at the Corona Theatre School, Waterman began his career in a role for the Children's Film Foundation, after which, at the age of 12, he was invited to join Stratford's Royal Shakespeare Company.

He went on to find fame in his teens in William, the BBC's adaptation of Just William.

He became one of the best-known faces on British television in the 1970s when he played Det Sgt George Carter opposite John Thaw in ITV's police drama The Sweeney.

Image source, Fremantle Media/Shutterstock
Image caption,
John Thaw and Dennis Waterman in The Sweeney

He enjoyed more success in Minder from 1979 to 1989 as Terry McCann, the bodyguard and partner to George Cole's wheeler dealer Arthur Daley.

Image source, Fremantle Media/Shutterstock
Image caption,
George Cole and Dennis Waterman in Minder

Waterman went on to star in the comedies On the Up and Stay Lucky, before another popular and long-running role as another Cockney detective in New Tricks, which ran from 2003 to 2015.

As Gerry Standing, he starred alongside fellow acting stalwarts James Bolam and Alun Armstrong.

Image caption,
Waterman with Judy Buxton in On the Up

Waterman became well-known for singing the theme songs to many of his shows, and was caricatured by David Walliams in Little Britain as a result.

Throughout his acting career, he continued to pursue his interest in music, and had number one hits in Australia and New Zealand, and got to number three in the UK charts with I Could Be So Good For You, the theme song from Minder.

Paying tribute, actor and comedian Matt Lucas tweeted: "I grew up watching Dennis Waterman's iconic performances in The Sweeney and Minder.

"His guest appearance in our Little Britain Live show at Hammersmith Apollo - in which he hilariously duetted with David's absurd impersonation of him - remains the absolute highlight of my career."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Waterman, Walliams and Matt Lucas on stage during a special Comic Relief performance of Little Britain

In 2009, he starred in the BBC's hard-hitting drama Moses Jones, a role he said at the time he relished because it cast him in a different light.

"I really enjoyed it, because it was a very different kind of character - and that's important," he explained.

"On television in Britain, I'm sort of the cheeky chappie, everybody's mate, but I've never played anything like that in the theatre.

"It's strange that you get cast as different things in different parts of the media."

His last film role was in Never Too Late in 2020, which was filmed in Australia.

Waterman had been married several times, including to actress Rula Lenska until 1998. In 2012, he was criticised after admitting he had hit her "one time", but said she was not "a beaten wife".

His daughter, Hannah, became a TV star in her own right, landing a role in EastEnders as Laura Beale.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Waterman and Thaw with comedy legends Ernie Wise and Eric Morecambe in 1978

Tributes have flooded in for the star, with broadcaster Kay Burley describing him as a "brilliant actor who was a staple on our screens throughout the 70s and 80s".

"Loved The Sweeney. Loved Minder more," she tweeted.

Larry Lamb, who replaced Waterman in New Tricks in 2015, also paid tribute to his "mate".

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DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles remembered a charity golf trip to Bermuda alongside Waterman: "I'm not much of a golfer - he was - but it was time spent with him between rounds that were well worth the trip. A genuinely lovely guy."

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