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John Savident: Coronation Street’s Fred Elliott dies aged 86

Actor John Savident, best known for playing Fred Elliott in Coronation Street, has died aged 86, his agent has announced.

The actor was famous for his booming voice while playing the local butcher on the ITV soap.

His co-star Sue Nicholls, who played love interest Audrey Roberts, said she was “very sad” to hear of his death.

“My memories of working with you dear John on the street are a joy, and always will be,” she added.

“God bless you and thank you for being in my life. Much love to you and your friends and family.”

Savident joined the Manchester-based soap in 1994, and quickly became a favourite with viewers thanks to his huge personality and loud voice.

His storylines involved his disastrous love life, including three marriages and several failed proposals.

A secret son, Ashley Peacock (played by Steven Arnold), also arrived on the show and the two later developed a close bond as they worked as butchers together.

Savident’s character was killed off in 2006, suffering a stroke on the day he was supposed to marry Bev Unwin (Susie Blake).

Elliott’s death also saw Roberts, his former romantic interest, confess she still loved him following her turning down his proposal of marriage years previously.

The butcher’s other previous wives were Maureen Holdsworth (Sherrie Hewson) and barmaid Eve Sykes (Melanie Kilburn).

One of Elliott’s most distinctive character traits was that he often said things twice, usually inserting the words “I say” between them – for example: “Best of British is that, I say best of British.”

Even in his death scene, Elliott said to Unwin “Be happy, I say, be happy”.

John Savident, Steven Arnold and Julia Haworth of "Coronation Street"

Iain MacLeod, ITV’s executive producer for continuing drama, said: “Everyone at Coronation Street is deeply saddened to learn of John Savident’s death.

“As Fred Elliott, John firmly established himself in the pantheon of Coronation Street greats.

“His peerless comic timing, combined with a deep pathos arising from his outstanding dramatic skill, made Fred an unforgettable, iconic character that provided great joy to viewers for many years.”

Outside Coronation Street, Savident’s other screen credits included a role in political comedy Yes, Minister.

He was cast in Doctor Who, Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian thriller A Clockwork Orange, biopic Gandhi, war film Battle Of Britain, and period drama Middlemarch.

Savident also appeared opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1993’s Oscar-nominated The Remains Of The Day.

He was in the first staging of the musical Phantom Of The Opera, in October 1986 in the West End, as the opera house owner Monsieur Firmin.

After leaving his soap work, Savident appeared on stage in productions of panto Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and Harold Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice.

Born in Guernsey in 1938 to a local fisherman father and a Swiss mother, Savident and his family left the Channel Islands, then under German occupation, and moved to Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, when he was three.

He started his career as a policeman in Manchester and during his six years of service was stabbed in the arm as he tried to break up a gang fight.

Initially pursuing his acting ambitions in amateur productions, Savident quit the force when a producer overheard him talking in a pub and offered him a part as Robin Hood in a London panto, launching his acting career.

Savident was married to theatre director Rona Hopkinson and they had two children.

Broadcaster Tom Hourigan said Savident delivered “arguably one of the most distinctive characters – and deliveries – in British soap history”.

Actor Stuart Antony shared a picture of himself with Savident, describing him as “always lovely and witty”.

A statement from Savident’s agent announcing his death to the PA news agency said: “He was a much-loved husband and father of two and will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

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