Only Fools And Horses star John Challis has died aged 79.
The actor, best known for playing second-hand car dealer Boycie in the show, died ‘peacefully in his sleep after a long battle with cancer. It comes just weeks after he cancelled a 30-date speaking tour 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.
‘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 starred in Only Fools And Horses alongside Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst for 22 years before going on to star in the spin-off The Green Green Grass.
He recently became an honorary citizen of Serbia, where the BBC sitcom remains hugely popular, and made the documentary Boycie In Belgrade, exploring why the show was so adored 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.
Besides his role in Only Fools And Horses, Challis also portrayed Monty Staines from the seventh series onwards in the ITV sitcom Benidorm from 2015 to 2018.
His family has requested that instead of flowers, donations are made to his favoured animal charities – Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
Tributes have been flooding in for the late star, with Sue Holderness, who played Boycie’s wife Marlene in Only Fools And Horses, leading the way.
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.’
The Three Degrees singer Sheila Ferguson tweeted: ‘I’ve been waiting for this for a few days now.
‘It is with great sadness that I tell you that my dear friend, John Challis (Boycie from OFAH) has just passed.
‘I’ve been in touch with his wife, Carol, who is obviously heartbroken, as am I. Much love, S.’