Support pours in for Dame Barbara Windsor after Alzheimer's announcement

Dame Barbara Windsor (Yui Mok/PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Support has poured in for Eastenders star Dame Barbara Windsor after her husband revealed the actress has been living with Alzheimer's.

Scott Mitchell says his 80-year-old wife has kept the devastating news secret since they were first told in 2014 – but that her symptoms have grown worse in recent weeks.

In an emotional interview with The Sun, Mr Mitchell said he wanted to set the record straight amid rumours in showbusiness circles about her deteriorating health.

He said: “Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it’s becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.

“I’m doing this because I want us to be able to go out and, if something isn’t quite right, it will be OK because people will now know that she has Alzheimer’s and will accept it for what it is.”

The star, famous for her roles in nine Carry On films and for playing pub landlord Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, was given the heartbreaking diagnosis on April 22, 2014.

Husband Scott added that after shedding some tears, her first words were: “I’m so sorry”, Mr Mitchell added.

A small circle of friends who had begun to notice her occasional confusion were told shortly after the diagnosis, he said. But he stopped the news from going public after his wife struggled to come to terms with it.

He stressed that revealing the news any earlier would have been detrimental to her health.

Television presenter Lorraine Kelly extended her sympathy to the actress's family, tweeting: "Such sad news about Barbara Windsor - a funny, kind, generous, big hearted woman.

"Alzheimer's is a very cruel disease. I hope she knows how much she is loved. Thoughts with her husband Scott."

Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan was among the others sending messages to Dame Barbara.

He wrote: "Sending my love & support to the fabulous Dame Barbara Windsor, one of my favourite people. Alzheimer's is a horrible thing. She & Scott going public about it like this is a typically gutsy decision by one of the gutsiest ladies I know. We're all rooting for you, Babs!"

Dame Barbara Windsor is said to be "thrilled" by the reaction from the public over her announcement.

Journalist Jane Moore, who revealed the actress's diagnosis in the interview with her husband Scott, said the former EastEnders star was having a "good day" after the news broke.

Moore told ITV's This Morning that she has spoken to Dame Barbara and Mr Mitchell, and added that "she's totally aware of what is happening today".

What is Alzheimer's?

  • Some 850,000 people in the UK suffer a form of dementia and the majority have Alzheimer's, a terminal condition affecting the brain

  • People on average live for around eight to 10 years after first developing Alzheimer's symptoms

  • Its exact cause is unknown but increasing age, family history of the condition, previous severe head injuries and lifestyle factors linked to cardiovascular disease may increase the risk of developing it

  • Between 2002 and 2012, 99% of clinical trials testing new therapies for Alzheimer's ended in failure

  • The disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, the doctor who first described it

Dame Barbara also starred in the Carry On films. Credit: PA

Mr Mitchell told The Sun that he first noticed symptoms of the condition in 2009, just before Dame Barbara left EastEnders for the first time, when she began finding it difficult to learn her lines.

She underwent a series of mental agility tests, a brain scan and a lumbar puncture, before the couple’s worst fears were confirmed.

By 2016, her forgetfulness and confusion were getting worse, and it was agreed she would leave EastEnders for the final time, Mr Mitchell said.

She has now retired from charity work as well as acting, he added.