- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green
The comedian Freddie Starr has died at the age of 76, according to reports.
Starr, a household name who rose to fame in the 1970s, was found dead at his home in Spain, it has been widely reported..
A post on Facebook and Twitter pages claiming to belong to Starr appeared to confirm the news.
In 1986, he was famously at the centre of one of the best known newspaper headlines when The Sun splashed with: “Freddie Starr ate my hamster.”
A post said: “This is Freddie’s manager Just to confirm Freddie has passed away. R.i.p to our greatest comedian of all time.”
Fellow comedian Bobby Davro said he admired the performing and was sad to see his health deteriorate in his later years.
He told ITV News: "All the time I have breath in my body, I don't think I'll ever be as funny as that man. He was the funniest man I've ever seen, he had a physicality about him. His body language, he had charisma."
Russ Abbot, who appeared in Starr's Variety Madhouse comedy series in 1979, described the stand-up as a "loose comedy cannon".
The 71-year-old credited his appearance on that show with helping to launch his career, said: "You never knew what he would do next. A natural funnyman and hilarious.
"He was hugely popular in his day, unique in his unpredictability and bursting with a talent not seen before or since."
Starr’s fellow comic Jim Davidson was among those paying tribute. He tweeted: “Just heard the news. Freddie Starr was the greatest.”
Actor Bobby Davro said on Twitter that Starr was “one of our greatest comedy talents”.
He wrote: “I’ve just heard that Freddie Starr has died. He was the funniest man I have ever seen. I’m so sad we have lost one of our greatest comedy talents. RIP Freddie.”
TV presenter Amanda Holden said she hopes Starr is “remembered with a smile”.
Writing on Twitter, she said: “Sad to hear of Freddie Starr passing today. His style may have fallen out of comedy fashion & favour-but it’s important to recognise his once huge popularity& fame.”
Britain’s Got Talent host Holden, 48, said Starr’s parodies were “outrageous and edgy”.
Merseyside-born Starr was the lead singer of the Merseybeat group the Midniters during the 1960s and rose to national prominence in the early 1970s after appearing on Opportunity Knocks.
He was known by fans for his eccentric and often unpredictable behaviour.
The Sun's hamster story claimed Starr placed the small creature between two slices of bread and ate it at a friend’s home after returning from a performance in Manchester.
But in his 2001 autobiography Unwrapped, Starr said the incident never took place.
During the 1990s, he starred in several TV shows including Freddie Starr (1993–94), The Freddie Starr Show (1996–98) and An Audience with Freddie Starr in 1996.
He took part in the 2011 series of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here but dropped out owing to ill health.
Police investigated an allegation of historical sexual abuse against Starr in 2012, which he said left him “suicidal”.
Starr was told in 2014 he would not be prosecuted after spending 18 months on bail.
He lost a damages claim against his accuser in the High Court in 2015.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, he revealed he moved to Spain following the ruling, which left him facing a bill unofficially estimated at about £1 million.
He told the paper: “No matter which way I turned there was a f revolver pointing at my head so I thought ‘I’m not going to tell anyone, I’m just going to get on a plane and go to Spain, the place I love, and this is where I’m going to die’.
“I didn’t even know how high the legal fees were until after I’d left Britain.”
According to The Sun, Starr was found dead inside his apartment in the resort of Mijas on the Costa Del Sol.