Sir David Jason leads tributes to 'dear friend' actor John Challis after his death aged 79

19 September 2021, 20:05 | Updated: 19 September 2021, 21:48

David Jason had shared a tribute to his former co-star.
David Jason had shared a tribute to his former co-star. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Sir David Jason has led tributes to his "dear friend" actor John Challis following his death aged 79.

Challis, who played second-hand car dealer Boycie in Only Fools and Horses "died peacefully in his sleep" after an ongoing battle with cancer, his family said in a statement.

Sir David - who played Del Boy in the iconic sitcom - spoke of his "sadness" following the news, describing Challis as "a gentleman in the true sense of the word".

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."

He went on to say that 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."

Read more: England and Spurs legend Jimmy Greaves dies aged 81

Sue Holderness shared a tribute to her on-screen husband.
Sue Holderness shared a tribute to her on-screen husband. Picture: Alamy

Also paying tribute was Sue Holderness, who played Challis' 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."

The hit sitcom ran between 1981 and 2003.
The hit sitcom ran between 1981 and 2003. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile, 'Allo 'Allo! actress Vicki Michelle tweeted: "Shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Wonderful John Challis such a fabulous man. Loved by the Nation.

"Condolences to his family and loved ones."

Actress Crissy Rock, who appeared in Benidorm with Challis, said: "I am heartbroken to hear the news that the legendary actor @BeingBoycie has sadly passed away.

"John you were a true gentleman and always so loving and supportive towards me. I am thinking of your family and close friends at this hard time. Rest well. Crissy xx."

Former Doctor Who actor Colin Baker, who appeared alongside Challis in the 1975 safety information film Drive Carefully, Darling, tweeted: "Oh my goodness. My friend John Challis has died.

"What a lovely man he was funny warm and a great lover of his garden and nature. We are all the poorer for his loss."

Read more: Only Fools and Horses star John Challis dies aged 79 after battle with cancer

Members of Only Fools and Horses the musical also shared their tributes to Challis.

Jeff Nicholson - the actor playing Boycie in the show - recalled how the star told him to "carry the torch for us" shortly before his death.

The show tweeted: "Our thoughts and love are with the family of John Challis. He leaves behind him a legacy of humour and laughs. A true legend."

In tribute to their long-term fan, Somerset County Cricket Club shared a video filmed with Challis earlier this year in which he comically announced the extension of a player's contract.

The club tweeted: "Somerset County Cricket Club are extremely saddened to hear about the passing of long term supporter John Challis.

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

EastEnders actress Tracy-Ann Oberman described the actor as an "icon".

She tweeted: "Omg just seen news about John Challis. I'm absolutely gutted.

"He had become such a wonderful friend and ally from meeting here Twitter.

"Love you John you icon and all thoughts to your beloved family. May your memory be a blessing. So sad."