Antiques Roadshow heartbreak as beloved star dies at 52 - Fiona Bruce leads tributes

Fiona Bruce in a cream outfit
(Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock)

Fiona Bruce has led tributes to the "simply irreplaceable" Nicky Illis, a director who had worked on major BBC shows like Antiques Roadshow and Fake or Fortune.

The 59-year-old shared in a statement: "Nicky is simply irreplaceable. Not just for her huge talent but also for her sheer exuberance, enthusiasm and sense of fun. Everyone on the team loved her and none more than me."

Nicky Illis with a cameraman
Nicky died at the age of 52

Also paying tribute was Robert Murphy, a series editor, who penned: "Nicky and I first worked together in 2001 on the BBC series House Detectives, travelling to India to film the crumbling ruins of a house once occupied by Robert Clive.

"In the baking heat of Kolkata, I was privileged to see one of the best TV directors of their generation at work. Throughout her career, Nicky had an incredible drive and curiosity as well as visual flair – she always brought the best out of the cast and crew she worked with and inspired fierce loyalty in her teams."

Fiona Bruce and an expert on Antiques Roadshow
Nicky was a director on Antiques Roadshow (BBC)

He continued: "In 2012 we were reunited on the series Fake or Fortune and over the next decade we worked closely together as it grew into a hugely successful returning series. We were partners in art crime, united by our shared love of art, storytelling and the twists and turns of this addictive show."

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Robert then concluded: "I can picture her coming into the office, coffee in one robe hand, a bag slung over her arm bulging with art books, ready to solve another mystery. It's quieter now and we've lost a precious font of knowledge, a trailblazer and a great friend. She will be very much missed."

Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce with a painting
Nicky was the brains behidn Fake or Fortune (Anna Gordon)

Nicky, who was 52 at the time of her death, had been living with cancer, but the director carried on with her life despite the illness, even directing an episode of Fake or Fortune earlier in the year.

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She is survived by her husband Seb and their two children, Luke and Eliza.

Nicky's credits also include One Foot in the Past, The House Detectives, The Real Jane Austen, A Picture of Britain and How We Built Britain.