Tributes pour in after Only Fools And Horses star John Challis dies following cancer battle

John Challis. Credit: PA

Tributes have poured in for Only Fools And Horses star John Challis who has died aged 79 after a long cancer battle. The actor – best known for playing Terrance ‘Boycie’ Boyce in the sitcom – passed away peacefully in his sleep, his family said.

Challis was best-known for his portrayal of unscrupulous second-hand car dealer Boycie in the beloved show, alongside Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

Sir David, who played Derek “Del Boy” Trotter, described his former co-star as “a gentleman in the true sense of the word”.

Sir David Jason and John Challis. Credit: PA

He said in a statement: “It is with much sadness to hear that John Challis, a dear friend, has passed away. He was a wonderful actor, a gentleman in the true sense of the word and I know he will be missed by so many.”John, who also starred in Only Fools spin-off The Green Green Grass and Benidorm, had been diagnosed with cancer in 2019.

He said Boycie was “a character so well loved by the many fans of that show so I am pleased that he witnessed the outpouring of admiration recently shown for the 40th anniversary of the first episode in 1981."

“I send my love and condolences to his wife, Carol.”

Also paying tribute was Sue Holderness, who played his on-screen partner Marlene. She said in a statement: “Marlene without Boycie, it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John. “I will miss you every day.”

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Actress Crissy Rock, who appeared in Benidorm with Challis, was also among those to pay tribute after the sad news broke.

She described being "heartbroken" by the passing of a "true gentleman".

Allo ‘Allo! actress Vicki Michelle also paid tribute to the actor, who was born in Bristol in 1942.

Former heavyweight champion boxer Frank Bruno tweeted: “John Challis RIP cannot believe it.

“(He) used to say to me ‘Franklyn my dear boy how the devil are you boxed anybody round the ears recently?’ Loved all the TV he did.”

Challis cancelled a 30-date speaking tour earlier this month after only one appearance due to ill health.

A statement from his family said: “It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news.

“Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

“He will always be loved for being ‘Boycie’ and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

Sue Holderness played Marlene in Only Fools And Horses, completing a famous double act with her on-screen husband John Challis Credit: Myung Jung Kim/PA

“Please respect the privacy of John’s family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John’s life – when everyone will be welcome to come along.”

Challis played Terrance Aubrey Boyce in Only Fools And Horses from 1981 to 2003, as well as in Boycie-focused spin-off show The Green Green Grass.

John Challis pictured in 1999. Credit: PA

He recently became an honorary citizen of Serbia, where the BBC sitcom remains hugely popular.

Challis made the documentary Boycie In Belgrade, exploring why the show was so beloved in the Balkan country.

Boycie, a cigar-smoking businessman with a mocking laugh, was married to the feisty Marlene – played by Sue Holderness – and regularly butted heads with Sir David’s Del Boy.

Challis was also known for playing Monty Staines in ITV sitcom Benidorm.

His family have requested that instead of flowers, donations are made to his favoured animal charities – Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.