The former On the Buses and EastEnders actor Anna Karen has died in a fire at her east London home.
Firefighters rushed to the blaze on the ground floor of a terrace house in Windsor Road, Ilford, shortly after 10.30pm on Tuesday.
It took them less than an hour to bring the fire under control but, by that time, Karen was already dead. The cause remains under investigation.
Karen, 85, was best known for playing Olive in the 1970s sitcom On the Buses, as well as her recurring role as Aunt Sal, the sister of Peggy Mitchell, played by Barbara Windsor, in EastEnders.
She was a lifelong friend of Windsor, who died in December 2020. Karen’s friends and former colleagues paid tribute to the actor.
The singer Cheryl Baker tweeted: “I have just heard the awful news that my fabulous mate, #AnnaKaren has died in a house fire.
“What an horrific way to die, I can’t bear to think about it. I adored her – she was an absolute treasure, both on and off the screen.”
The EastEnders star Rita Simons, who played Roxy Mitchell, said: “I just heard the awful news about the wonderful Anna Karen. Horrific and awful and so so sad. She was one of the best. Sleep well lovely Anna. Sending all my love to her family and friends.”
The broadcaster Kay Burley said: “Terribly sad news that Anna Karen – Olive from On the Buses – has died in tragic circumstances. May she rest in peace. She was 85.”
Neighbours raised the alarm after seeing smoke billowing from her front door, the MailOnline reported. Sivalai Pavananthakumar, 33, told the website: “There was a lot of smoke, and flames, people in the street had seen what was happening and came out to try and help.
“The fire brigade and police were here quickly and kicked down the door, there was so much smoke.”
He added: “I recognised her and would see her every day when I took my children to school. She was a nice old lady and always said hello.”
Another neighbour added: “I knew her from EastEnders, it was like having a celebrity living in the street. She was a lovely old lady and always spoke to everyone.”
A London fire brigade spokesperson said three fire engines and about 20 firefighters from Ilford and Barking attended the blaze.