Dame June Whitfield dies: Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley 'heartbroken'

Actress Dame June Whitfield, best known for her role in the long-running sitcom Terry And June, has died at the age of 93.

Her agent said she "passed away peacefully" on Friday.

Dame June's career stretched back to the 1940s, including roles in the Carry On films, stage productions and TV hits.

In 1992 she made her first appearance in Jennifer Saunders' sitcom Absolutely Fabulous playing Edina Monsoon's mother.

She was made a dame in the 2017 Birthday Honours for her services to drama and entertainment in a career spanning eight decades.

Dame June also appeared in numerous Radio 4 productions during her career, and played Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.

She was granted an OBE at the 1985 Birthday Honours, and was made a CBE in 1998.

Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley, who played Patsy Stone, said: "I am heartbroken to lose such a darling friend and shall never forget her sensational talent, humour and her generosity to us all who had the joy of working with her on Ab Fab.

"She will always have a most special place in my heart."

The show's creator Jennifer Saunders, who played Edina Monsoon, said of her on-screen mother: "It's so tremendously
sad to lose June.

"I will always be grateful that she agreed to be in Ab Fab and even more grateful that she became a dear friend.

"She lived and worked with an extraordinary grace. Everything June did was perfectly measured. She was so loved and I will miss her hugely."

Julia Sawalha, who was Dame June's straight-laced granddaughter Saffy, said: "Thank you Dame June Whitfield,for teaching me my craft with such grace and dignity.

"I always wanted you to know how in awe of you I was, however, you were always far too humble to accept my adoration.

"You were a great source of inspiration to me. Bye-bye Gran."

Dame June was born in Streatham, south London in 1925 and was evacuated from London during the Second World War.

Later she graduated from the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art before the end of the war and her entertainment career began in the same decade with work on the West End stage.

Dame June met her husband Tim Aitchison in the 1950s and the couple went on to have a daughter, Suzy, who followed in her mother's footsteps and became an actress. Mr Aitchison died in 2001.

She also appeared in a show written by Saunders, Jam And Jerusalem.

In a statement, Shane Allen, controller of BBC Comedy, said: "June Whitfield was the North Star of British comedy.

"Her spectacular career is unparalleled in its longevity, with seven decades of being a key element in numerous high profile and successful shows.

Producer Jon Plowman, who worked on episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and the 2016 film version, tweeted that he was "very sad" to hear that June Whitfield had died.

He said: "There was no-one with more warmth or a better ability to just 'place' a line, always an act of utter precision.

"Hit after hit! Take it from Here Terry and June Absolutely Fabulous over seven decade. A great loss."!

Impressionist Rory Bremner has also paid tribute to Dame June on Twitter, saying she was the "go-to comedy actress for three generations".

He added: "From 60s radio to 70s, 80s, even 90s TV. Always graceful and elegant with a real comic glint in her eye and (absolutely) fabulous timing."

Charity Age UK tweeted to say it was "devastated" to hear of Dame June's death.

It said: "June was a huge supporter of the work we do and we'll all miss her greatly."

The actress also appeared in various TV shows including Jonathan Creek, Doctor Who, Coronation Street and EastEnders.