The Sweeney and New Tricks actor Dennis Waterman dies aged 74

Reporter Ian Woods takes a look at Waterman's complex legacy

Dennis Waterman, star of TV shows such as Minder, The Sweeney and New Tricks, has died, his family has said.

In a statement, the 74-year-old's loved ones said he died in Spain with his wife Pam by his side. “The family kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time,” they added.

Waterman starred as bodyguard Terry McCann in Minder, but he first found fame as tough nut cop George Carter in The Sweeney.

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The actor also played Gerry Standing in the BBC’s New Tricks, and throughout his career other TV roles included ITV’s Where The Heart Is, The Canterbury Tales and Moses Jones, both for the BBC.

His last film role was in Never Too Late in 2020, which was filmed in Australia.

Born in London, Waterman was educated at the Corona Theatre School and began his showbiz career at a young age. Following a role for the Children’s Film Foundation, he was invited to join Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

John Thaw (left) and Dennis Waterman (right) on the set of "Sweeney 2" in 1977.

A role in the BBC’s adaptation of the Just William books followed.

Waterman had been married four times, including to the actress Rula Lenska. On an episode of Piers Morgan's Life Stories, Waterman admitted to physically abusing Lenska.

Little Britain co-creator and actor Matt Lucas paid tribute to Waterman following his death.

On Little Britain, co-creator David Walliams had caricatured Waterman, who became well-known for singing the theme songs to many of his shows.

“I grew up watching Dennis Waterman’s iconic performances in The Sweeney and Minder,” Lucas wrote in a tweet. “His guest appearance in our Little Britain Live show at Hammersmith Apollo – in which he hilariously duetted with David’s absurd impersonation of him – remains the absolute highlight of my career.”

The BBC’s chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, issued a statement on behalf of the corporation, saying: “We are incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Dennis Waterman, an unforgettable actor who will be missed by us all.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”