Heartbeat actor William Simons, who played the role of PC Alf Ventress in the hit TV police drama for nearly two decades, has died aged 79.
The Welshman starred as the character in all 18 series of the 1960s-based ITV show between 1992 and 2010.
During his 60-year acting career, he also appeared in Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Last Of The Summer Wine, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries and Bergerac, among other series.
In a statement confirming his death, his agent said: “He was a wonderful, kind, warm, witty, lovely human being and anyone who ever worked with him or knew him will be devastated.”
Jason Durr, who appeared with Simons in Heartbeat, paid tribute to “a great actor and a lovely man”.
Swansea-born Simons was 51 when he landed the role he will be best remembered for, playing Alf Ventress in Heartbeat, which at its height drew 13 million viewers.
A popular fixture on the show, set in the fictional Yorkshire villages of Ashfordly and Aidensfield, the character continued to appear in the series as a civilian after retiring from the force.
Simons also revived the role in six episodes of The Royal.
In a rare interview back in 2013, the actor said of his character: “Alf Ventress had no particular ambition in life. He spent his time behind the desk; he was a heavy smoker – unlike me. I don’t smoke, so we used herbal cigarettes.
“Heartbeat gave me enormous pleasure because everyone got along so well. People still stop me to say how much they love watching the repeats.”
His time on Heartbeat saw him buy a house in the village of Goathland, where most of the filming took place.
However, he sold up in 2008 after living there for 14 years due to the attention he was getting from fans.
“It was impossible to step outside without being recognised as visitor numbers escalated with Heartbeat’s popularity,” he said.
In later years, he spent much of his time in France.