Emmerdale star Steve Halliwell, who played Zak Dingle on the STV soap opera for nearly three decades, has died aged 77.
The actor, who made his first appearance as the Dingle family patriarch in October 1994, died “peacefully with his loved ones around him”, his family said in a statement issued by the broadcaster.
The statement said: “It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that Emmerdale can confirm that Steve Halliwell, our beloved Zak Dingle, has peacefully passed away.
“All our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones through this very difficult time, and we’d request that their privacy is respected as they grieve for his loss.
“Steve will forever be synonymous with Emmerdale. The proud defender and head of the Dingle family. Heart and humour in all he did, it has been and always will be impossible not to smile when you think of him.”
Halliwell’s family praised him as the “most amazing father and grandfather you could ever wish for” as the confirmed the news.
“He went to sleep, peacefully with his loved ones around him”, they said in a statement.
“He was making us laugh to the end, the most amazing father and grandfather you could ever wish for, family was everything to him.
“We would like to thank the wonderful staff at St James Hospital and the Wheatfield Hospice for their love and kindness in his final days. He didn’t want sadness, just to rejoice in a life well-lived.”
John Whiston, managing director of continuing drama and head of ITV in the north, hailed Halliwell “as wonderful off-screen as on” as he paid tribute.
He added: “To millions of Emmerdale viewers he was the brawny but crafty Dingle patriarch who led the clan with a strong fist and a warm heart.
“To everyone who worked on Emmerdale he was a much-loved friend and colleague, the undoubted father of the show, but also its fun mischievous uncle. We will miss him enormously.”
During his time on the soap, his character divorced his first wife Nellie, played by Sandra Gough, and later married Lisa, portrayed by Jane Cox.
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