EastEnders stars share 'love, affection and gratitude' for Leslie Grantham
Letitia Dean has told of her "special memories" of working with her former EastEnders co-star Leslie Grantham following his death aged 71.
Grantham, who was best known for playing "Dirty" Den Watts on the soap since 1985, died on Friday.
His representative said in a statement that Grantham's "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."
Dean, who appeared on the BBC programme as Sharon Watts - the adoptive daughter of Den and his wife Sharon (Anita Dobson) - said via the EastEnders Twitter account: "I have very special memories of working with Leslie and will cherish them always.
"He and Anita looked after me in my early days and showed me the ropes, always with care and kindness.
"He never failed to make me laugh and I will remember him with love, affection and gratitude forever. See you up there Leslie! Thank you for everything. Love and respect always, Tish. X."
Other EastEnders stars, including Gillian Taylforth and June Brown, also paid tribute to their late co-star.
Taylforth, who appeared alongside Grantham from 1985, said she was "deeply saddened to hear the very sad news".
The Kathy Beale actress said: "I have so many happy memories of working with Leslie, he was always great fun and we shared many laughs.
"Those iconic Christmas episodes were legendary and they will always be part of EastEnders history. My heart goes out to his loved ones."
Dot Cotton actress Brown, another original cast-member, said: "I was very fond of Leslie and am so sorry that he has gone.
"I always enjoyed talking to him, he made me laugh and always had a twinkle in his eye when he said outrageous things."
Brown said Grantham was "a wonderful and special actor, witty and very talented", and that she will "remember him very fondly and with affection."
Shane Richie, known for playing Alfie Moon on the soap since 2002, tweeted that he has "fond memories trying to make each other laugh in front of camera", referring to working with Grantham in 2004.
Richie added that Grantham was "a natural charmer & genuinely gracious, he had his demons but don't we all! BUT there's no denying he was & will always be @bbceastenders greatest landlord #RIPLesleyGrantham."
Grantham's death comes days after he was reported to be in a critical condition in the UK having returned from Bulgaria, where he had been living.
According to The Sun, the screen star had been visited in hospital by close friends in the industry.
He left the UK after splitting with his wife of 31 years, Jane. In 2010, he spent time in Bulgaria filming TV series The English Neighbour.
Grantham shot to fame playing Watts in EastEnders, originally from 1985 to 1989.
A 1986 Christmas Day episode drew an audience of more than 30 million viewers, who watched as Watts handed over divorce papers to on-screen wife Angie.
His character was apparently killed off in 1989 but made a shock return to Albert Square in 2003, before making his final departure in 2005.
Prior to his EastEnders career, in 1967 he was convicted of murdering a German taxi driver while serving as a soldier, which he has always denied, and he went to prison until 1977.
In 2004, he was forced to apologise after he took part in webcam sex sessions from his EastEnders dressing room, the results of which went public.