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Actor Dennis Waterman has died at the age of 74, his heartbroken family has confirmed.

The star – known for his roles in television shows such as Minder, The Sweeney and New Tricks – died at his home in Spain.

A statement released by his family said: "We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Dennis passed away very peacefully at his home in Spain."

Dennis died on Sunday afternoon with his wife Pam by his side, his family explained.

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

Comedian and Great British Bake Off host Matt Lucas was among the first to pay tribute.

Sharing a photo of them on stage together with David Walliams, Matt wrote: "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."

One fan tweeted: "Don't normally get involved with Twitter grief vampirism but really saddened by Dennis Waterman passing. Minder was a huge part of growing up, staying up to watch it was always a treat."

Another said: "From The Sweeney to Minder and countless other roles… so sad to hear that Dennis Waterman has died. RIP."

And someone else said: "Sad to hear that Dennis Waterman has died. The Sweeney is the greatest British cop show ever made, he was also great in Minder."

Dennis married Pam Flint in 2011, though he was married three times before – first to Penny Dixon from 1967 to 1976, Patricia Maynard from 1977 to 1987 and Rula Lenska from 1987 to 1998.

He leaves behind two children, including actress daughter Hannah Waterman, who played Laura Beale in EastEnders between 2000 and 2004.

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