'EastEnders' star Anna Karen has died in a house fire aged 85

Anna Karen and Barbara Windsor on the set of 'EastEnders'.
Anna Karen and Barbara Windsor on the set of 'EastEnders'. (Image credit: BBC)

EastEnders and On the Buses actress Anna Karen has passed away aged 85, it has been confirmed.

In EastEnders Anna played the role of Aunt Sal, the sister of Peggy Mitchell, who was played by her lifelong friend, the late Barbara Windsor. Anna played Aunt Sal between 1996 and 2017, with a few short breaks in between.

Another iconic role was her On the Buses sitcom character Olive Rudge, who she played between 1969 and 1973.

Anna also had roles in Carry On Camping in 1969, where she met Barbara Windsor, and Carry On Loving in 1970. She also reprised her On The Buses character Olive in the 1970s sitcom The Rag Trade.

Barbara Windsor’s widower, Scott spoke to Mail Online about how Anna supported Barbara for so many years, revealing: "Anna had seen Barbara go through every stage of her life and their late-night phone calls together before Barbara’s illness will always be a fond memory for me of hearing them put the world to rights.

"Anna and I had kept in regular contact since Barbara’s passing and she was a good friend and support to me when things were tough and we spoke a couple of weeks ago. It was a fun chat and I thought how upbeat she sounded."

EastEnders also paid tribute to the star on social media... 

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The cause of death has been revealed to be a house fire, after a spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: "Sadly, a woman has died following a house fire on Windsor Road in Ilford.

"Part of the ground floor of a mid-terrace house was damaged by fire. Sadly a woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The Brigade was called at 22:40 and the fire was under control by 23:38."

They added: "Three fire engines and around 20 firefighters from Ilford and Barking fire stations attended the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation."

Many people have paid tribute to Anna, including actress Rita Simons, who played Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders. She 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."

And Nemesis actress Jeanine Nerissa Sothcott added: "Very sad to learn of the death of wonderful comic actress #AnnaKaren I loved her in #OnTheBuses the sidecar skit was hilarious. Forever quoting Olive in our house. RIP"

Anna is survived by her stepdaughter, Gloria, from her marriage to fellow On the Buses actor Terry Duggan.

Lucy Buglass
Senior Staff Writer

Lucy joined the WhatToWatch.com team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes, reviews and the latest TV news. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.

She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story, Stranger Things and Black Mirror but she is also partial to a quiz show or a bit of Say Yes to the Dress