Actor Leslie Grantham, best known for his role as Dirty Den Watts on EastEnders, has died at the age of 71.

His representative confirmed the news in a statement which read: "We formally announce the loss of Leslie Grantham, who passed away at 10.20am on the morning of Friday 15 June 2018.

"His ex-wife and sons have asked for their privacy to be respected at this difficult time, and for there to be no approaches to them for information or comment.

"They will not be making any statements to the media. They also ask that no photographs be taken of them in their grief.

"There will be a private funeral which will be attended by close family and friends only."

EastEnders star Leslie Grantham has died

Earlier this week it had been reported that Grantham was critically ill in a hospital in the UK. He had been living in Bulgaria but returned to the UK for hospital treatment.

Grantham became a household name playing pub landlord Den Watts in EastEnders from 1985 to 1989. 

EastEnders' classic Christmas Day 1986 episode, which saw Den give wife Angie (Anita Dobson) divorce papers, was watched by over 30m people in the UK.

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The character of Dirty Den was apparently murdered in 1989, but made a shock return to Albert Square in 2003.  

In 1989, viewers were led to believe Den had died when a criminal gang called The Firm shot him, but the character returned to the soap in September 2003 when it was revealed he had faked his death and fled to Spain.

It later emerged that, while in exile, Den had remarried. His estranged wife, Chrissie, played by Tracy-Ann Oberman, joined him in Albert Square but was incensed by his repeated infidelity and ended up killing him in the Queen Vic.

Oberman tweeted that she was "really sorry" to hear of Grantham's death, saying he was "a very very good actor".

John Yorke, EastEnders' executive consultant, said of Grantham's passing: "Everyone at EastEnders is deeply saddened to hear that Leslie has passed away. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends at this extremely difficult time."

Grantham's final appearance in EastEnders was on the soap's 20th anniversary in 2005. 

The actor is survived by his ex-wife, actress Jane Laurie, and their three sons.