Soap actor John Bardon has passed away, at the age of 75. The actor, best known for his role as Jim Branning on the BBC1 soap Eastenders passed away earlier today after fighting ill health for a number of years.
Bardon played Jim Branning, the husband of show legend Dot Branning (June Brown) between 1996 and 2011.
A statement, released today by soap bosses read: ''Everyone at EastEnders is absolutely heartbroken to learn that John has sadly passed away. His bravery, dignity and courage in battling against the devastating effects of his stroke were admired by all who had the privilege of working with him.''
''Loved by us all, John was an exceptionally talented actor whose humour, mischievousness and brilliant performances made Jim Branning one of Walford's most loveable, memorable characters and we will miss John forever."
In light of the news, tonight's episode of the serial drama will be dedicated to the actor. Jim, best known for his relationship with Dot, tied the knot to the long-running Walford resident in 2002 but their marriage faced troubles in 2007 when Jim suffered a stroke, a storyline written in after Bardon himself suffered one.
He exited screens in 2011 when he was admitted into a nursing home after Dot was unable to provide adequate care for her poorly husband but continues to be referenced on-screen as his loyal wife makes regular off-screen visits to see him.
Show bosses have not yet revealed whether the character of Jim will be killed off-screen.
Speaking out following the sad announcement, his co-star June Brown led tributes to the actor, saying: ''I am so sorry that John has passed away but hope that he is now at peace after seven difficult years. I shall miss him very much as I loved him dearly. My thoughts are with his devoted wife, Edna."
Also paying tribute to the actor was his on-screen granddaughter Natalie Cassidy, who plays Sonia Fowler. She said: ''I never had a real granddad so John was like an actual granddad to me. He was a lovely man and I learnt a lot from him."
Perry Fenwick, who plays Billy Mitchell commented: ''I'm absolutely gutted. John was a lovely, lovely man to work with. I'll miss him."
Our thoughts go out to John's wife and family, as well as to the cast of EastEnders at this difficult time!