The actor Dennis Waterman – who starred in the TV shows Minder, The Sweeney and New Tricks – has died at the age of 74.
Waterman, best known for his role as the bodyguard Terry McCann in ITV’s Minder, had a showbiz career that spanned 60 years.
He first found fame playing the tough cop George Carter in The Sweeney and then starred as Gerry Standing, a retired police officer brought back as part of a cold case unit, in the BBC’s New Tricks.
A statement from Waterman’s family said: “We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Dennis passed away very peacefully in hospital in Spain, on Sunday afternoon, with [his wife] Pam by his side. The family kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”
Waterman also had TV roles in ITV’s Where The Heart Is and the BBC’s The Canterbury Tales and Moses Jones.
He was also known for singing the theme songs to many of his shows, and was caricatured by David Walliams in Little Britain.
Walliams’s co-star Matt Lucas was among those to pay tribute. “I grew up watching Dennis Waterman’s iconic performances in The Sweeney and Minder,” he tweeted. “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 actor and writer Reece Shearsmith said: “RIP Dennis Waterman. When I worked with him on New Tricks he made me the best cups of tea. And of course I just spent the time grilling him about Scars of Dracula.” Waterman starred in the 1970s Hammer horror film alongside Christopher Lee.
The comedian Paddy McGuinness also paid tribute. He tweeted: “Myself and my Phoenix Nights cast mates used to sing the theme tune to Minder on tour and on the Karaoke! Gutted I never got to meet him, always wanted to be Terry McCann. Another icon from my childhood gone. RIP Dennis Waterman.”
The DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles reminisced about a charity golf trip he took alongside the actor: “I played golf on a tour to Bermuda with Dennis Waterman – I’m not much of a golfer – he was – but it was time spent with him between rounds that were well worth the trip. A genuinely lovely guy. RIP.”
Born in London in 1948, Waterman was the youngest of nine children. He was educated at the Corona theatre school and began his showbiz career at a young age. He was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of 12 after a role for the Children’s Film Foundation.
He married four times. He left his second wife, with whom he had two daughters, for the actor Rula Lenska. The couple divorced in 1998 and Waterman married Pam Flint in 2011. His daughter Hannah Waterman played Laura Beale in EastEnders and guest starred in New Tricks in 2007.
Waterman faced criticism after he admitted hitting Lenska, but claimed she was not “a beaten wife”. In an interview with Piers Morgan he said he was “very, very ashamed” of the incident.
He was also accused of trivialising domestic violence for telling Morgan’s Life Stories series: “I must have punched her one time because she did have a black eye.” He went on to add: “She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different.”
Minder, which brought the criminal underworld of West London to millions of homes up and down the country, was revived by Channel 5 in 2009, but Waterman did not return. His last film role was in Never Too Late in 2020, filmed in Australia.
His extensive career included numerous stints on the stage. He played Alfred Doolittle in a Royal National Theatre production of My Fair Lady, and starred in a touring production of Don’t Dress For Dinner.
He also starred in productions of Twelfth Night, Edward Bond’s Saved at the Royal Court Theatre and Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance. He had a keen interest in music and had chart success in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.