English actor Leslie Grantham, best known for his role as 'Dirty' Den Watts in BBC soap opera 'EastEnders', has passed away at the age of 71, his family has confirmed. According to Metro, Grantham had only recently returned to the UK from Bulgaria — he had been living there since his divorce from wife Jane Laurie in 2013 — and was being closely monitored by doctors since. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the actor told Metro: "We formally announce the loss of Leslie Grantham, who passed away at 10:20 am on the morning of Friday 15th June 2018. His ex-wife and sons have asked for their privacy to be respected at this difficult time, and for there to be no approaches to them for information or comment."

"They will not be making any statements to the media. They also ask that no photographs be taken of them in their grief. There will be a private funeral which will be attended by close family and friends only," it continued.

Grantham has passed away at the age of 71 (Source: Twitter)
Grantham has passed away at the age of 71 (Source: Twitter)

Grantham's rise to fame came with 'EastEnders,' where he portrayed the character of Den Watts, described by the BBC in his obituary as 'complex, attractive and tough; a guy who got an innocent teenager pregnant, fell in with criminal gangs and served time inside for arson.'

The actor's success at playing Watts was arguably because of the undeniable parallels between the character and his personal life, which was punctuated with troubles and numerous jail stints. When he was just 18-years-old, during a posting in Germany as a member of the Royal Fusiliers, an attempted robbery ended up in him shooting and killing a taxi driver.

He was convicted of murder by a jury despite his insistence that he did not know the gun was loaded at the time and ended up spending 10 years behind bars for what was initially a sentence of life imprisonment.

He served jail time in various British prisons and it was during his time at Leyhill Prison that he reignited his passion for acting. He also generated significant press coverage as a result of an online sex scandal in 2004.

Grantham would appear as Watts in 'EastEnders' across two separate stints before the divorce saw him move to Bulgaria and act in Bulgarian TV series 'The English Neighbor.' His troubles also meant that he had attempted suicide attempts on several occasions.

His self-awareness was to be commended, however. He wrote in his biography: "I could have gone out and written how marvelous I am like everyone else does, but I'm not a marvelous person. I've got a huge amount of frailties, a huge amount of complexes and a huge amount of problems."

His death will see tributes pour in from all corners and it'll be difficult to argue that they are undeserved.