ANNE Kirkbride, the actress who played Deirdre Barlow in Coronation Street, has died aged 60.
She passed away in a Manchester hospital following a short illness, her husband confirmed tonight.
Kirkbride first appeared in the long-running ITV soap in 1972, and played her much-loved character for 44 years.
The actress is survived by her husband, David, and her brother John.
A statement on the ITV website said her husband David Beckett and the programme's cast and crew are "heartbroken and deeply saddened".
Executive producer Kieran Roberts led tributes for the actress.
"There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne's passing," he said.
"We know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow.
"She will be greatly missed by the Coronation Street team who share happy memories of working with her.
"We feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Our thoughts are with David and their family."
William Roache, who played Kirkbride's onscreen husband Ken Barlow, said: "I feel Anne's loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years.
"She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away," he added, Sky News reported.
"She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama.
"We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her.
"Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed," he added.
Additional reporting by PA
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