Soap stars whove died this year – tragic accident, house fire and cancer battle

Soap operas have been part of the fabric of British culture for millions of viewers across the nation, who have been tuning in to watch their favourite stars for decades.

This year we’ve already said goodbye to several iconic stars, from EastEnders icons June Brown, to Emmerdale legend Andy Devine.

As we get set to honour the nation’s biggest and most-loved soap stars at the British Soap Awards on June 11th, let’s take a look back at some of soaps operas most beloved stars who left us.

From sudden accidents to tragic cancer diagnosis, the late stars are gone but never forgotten…

June Brown

Actress June Brown, who played the much-loved character Dot Cotton on EastEnders for more than three decades, died in April at the grand age of 95.

Brown first appeared in the series in 1985, the year EastEnders was created.

She stayed until 1993, returning to play the same character from 1997 until 2020.

Her family said they were "deeply saddened" to announce that their "beloved mother" had died "very peacefully" at her home.

Dot Cotton was one of the BBC soap's longest-running characters and a favourite with viewers.

An EastEnders spokesperson said: "There are not enough words to describe how much June was loved and adored by everyone at EastEnders, her loving warmth, wit and great humour will never be forgotten.

Andy Devine

Emmerdale star Andy Devine passed away in January and was best known for his role as Shadrach Dingle on the ITV soap.

The actor, born as Peter Devine, played the character on and off from 2000 and made his final appearance in July 2010 when his character was killed off in an emotional storyline related to alcohol abuse.

Speaking in an interview in 2010, Devine admitted his acting career had exceeded all his expectations.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I think the only thing you need to be an actor is a vivid imagination and an ability to put that into action.”

Anna Karen

EastEnders fans were devastated to learn that soap star Anna Karen died in a tragic house fire aged 85 back in February.

The 70s actress, who found fame for her role as Olive in the TV sitcom On The Buses, died in the blaze at her home in Ilford, east London.

Three fire engines and around 20 firefighters rushed to the blaze but despite their best efforts, Anna died at the scene.

Anna's agent Shane Collins, said: "It is very sad news.

"But I'm happy that Anna will now be with her best mate Barbara (Windsor) and her beloved husband Terry Duggan.

Lynda Baron

EastEnders actress Lynda Baron died at the age of 82 back in March with fans learning of her passing in a statement from her agent.

Baron starred opposite Sir David Jason and Ronnie Barker as Nurse Gladys Emmanuel in the hit show Open All Hours, which ran for four series starting in 1976.

Her agent of nearly 30 years, Donna French, said: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved client Lynda Baron.

"She was a wonderful actress and a great friend.

"Her iconic roles of Nurse Gladys in Open All Hours and Aunt Mabel in Come Outside were loved by all generations. We have lost a leading light of our world.”

Maggie Fox

Known for her roles in Coronation Street and Shameless, the actress died suddenly in March following a 'sudden accident'.

Fox played four different roles on Corrie during her career, but she was most notably known as Ruth Audsley in 2001.

The actor’s death was revealed in an announcement made by her heartbroken friend and comedy partner, Sue Ryder.

“It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of Maggie Fox, my comedy partner of 40 years and co-Artistic Director of LipService.

"Maggie passed away yesterday with her family around her,” said the statement.

As you can imagine I am completely heartbroken.” Details of the accident have not been revealed.

Joseph Wandera

Former Coronation Street actor Joseph Wandera died at the age of 27 after "falling ill" in Costa Rica.

An inquest into his death confirmed that Joseph had a seizure whilst on holiday in January of this year.

Joseph had been staying at Villa Verde One, in Calle L Cruz, Tamarindo, and attended a party the night of his death. Police Coroner Ffficer Kathy Dixon

Said at the time: “Whilst at a party, Joseph rang his girlfriend and explained that he did not feel well.

“He had lost sight in one eye and lost sensation in the left side of his body.

“He contacted a friend who picked him up and took him back to their apartment. Joseph went to sleep on the sofa.

“A few hours later, the friend found Joseph on the sofa having a seizure.

“Medics were called but they were unable to revive him and he sadly passed away." In 2018, Joseph appeared on Coronation Street as a buyer interested in purchasing Eileen Grimshaw's car.

Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson, known for her roles in Corrie, Casualty and Doctors, sadly died at her home in France at the age of 89.

A family friend revealed the news but did not announce a cause of death. Wilson became a household name after her roles as Mrs Bradbury in Corrie and Lily Compton in Casualty.

The performer also had roles in hit 70s shows The Brothers and Special Branch.

Wilson leaves daughter Melanie, an actress and singer, and her grandsons Tobie and Ashley.

Fans and friends paid tribute to Jennifer on Twitter.

One said: “Dear All to say sad news that the lovely wonderful English actress Jennifer Wilson has left us on 29th March.

“She was nearly 90 and had a wonderful career and will be much loved by all for her beauty and talent.”

Another wrote: “Farewell my lovely friend Jennifer Wilson who has passed away in Cannes aged 89.

Melanie Clark Pullen

Actor Melanie Clark Pullen, best known for her role in EastEnders, died aged 46, less than a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

The Irish star played Pauline Fowler’s great-niece Mary Flaherty on the long-running BBC soap from 1997 to 1999.

She had also appeared in series such as A Dinner of Herbs and Inspector George Gently, and featured alongside Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville in the 2019 film Ordinary Love.

The actress was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2019, but announced a year later that she was “cancer free” and in recovery.

However, in June 2021, she told fans that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. She died on 29 March, having undergone radiotherapy treatment.

Tributes to the actor, who also ran a coaching company called Strut and Bellow, have poured in on social media following the news of her death.

“We’re deeply saddened to hear that Melanie Clark Pullen has passed away,” wrote the BBC’s official EastEnders account. “Our love and thoughts are with Melanie’s family and friends.”

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