Breaking national news: Video and his career in pictures as former Coronation Street star Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth, has died

Former Coronation Street star Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth for many years, died this morning, a spokeswoman for the show said.

The 71-year-old left the soap in 2010 after more than 30 years playing the pigeon-fancying, loveable rogue alongside Liz Dawn, who played his wife Vera.

A life-long heavy smoker, he suffered a minor heart attack following a bypass operation in 2002.

A statement from the show said: 'The cast, crew and production team at Coronation Street are devastated to hear of Bill's death. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill's wife and soulmate Ali and their family at this very sad time.'

His family asked 'for privacy as they grieve for a wonderful husband, father and brother'.

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Catherine Tyldesley, who plays Eva in show, said: 'So sad to hear that Bill Tarmey has died. �legend �RIPBILL. My deepest sympathies to all who knew him best xxx'.

Tarmey, a native Mancunian, started out working as a builder and began his showbiz career singing in working men's clubs.

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He joined Coronation Street as an extra in 1977 but show bosses spotted his potential and two years later he landed the role that made him famous.

He was dogged by ill-health and suffered a heart attack at the age of 35, followed by a stroke a year later.

A heavy smoker, he underwent a quadruple heart bypass 15 years ago and another bypass operation in June 2002.

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