Actor George Cole, best known for playing used-car salesman Arthur Daley in ITV drama Minder, has died aged 90
Cole, whose showbusiness career spanned 70 years, starred as small-time wheeler dealer and crook Daley alongside his bodyguard Terry McCann, played by Dennis Waterman.
Cole died in hospital in Reading on Wednesday with his family at his side, according to agent Derek Webster.
Mr Webster said: “It is with deep regret that I have to announce the sad death of one of our most loved and respected actors.
“George Cole passed away yesterday at the Royal Berkshire Hospital after a short illness.”
His wife Penny, daughter Tara and son Toby were with him at his bedside, he added.
George with his wife, actress Penny Morrell in 1985
It was understood he died as a result of pneumonia.
Mr Webster added: “The family are struggling to get their heads around it because it did happen rather quickly.
“Even though he was 90 and he was quite frail it was a bit of a surprise.”
Cole, who was made an OBE in 1992 and was married twice, first to Eileen Moore and then Penny Morrell.
Minder, which ran from 1979 to 1994, brought the criminal underworld of west London to millions of homes up and down the country.
Cole’s character, an ambitious but feckless small-time crook, spent each episode dreaming up another get-rich-quick scheme while avoiding the attentions of the police – in the form of Patrick Malahide’s Mr Chisolm – and the never seen but often mentioned ‘er indoors.
When Waterman left the show, Gary Webster stepped into the role for the last two series.