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Emmerdale legend Freddie Jones has died aged 91

Emmerdale legend Freddie Jones as Sandy Thomas in Emmerdale

Freddie had played Sandy on and off since 2005 before leaving the soap last year

Emmerdale legend Freddie Jones, who’s best known for his role as the irrepressible Sandy Thomas in the soap, has died aged 91.

The renowned character actor, who bowed out of Emmerdale last year after playing Sandy on and off since 2005, also starred in many films including The Elephant Man, Young Sherlock Holmes and Dune.

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Emmerdale said in a statement: “Everyone at Emmerdale is deeply sad to hear about the death of one of the show’s most brilliant actors and favourite human beings, Freddie Jones.”

His agent Lesley Duff told PA: “It’s with great sadness that I can confirm the death of Freddie Jones.

“He passed away on the evening of July 9 after a short illness.

“Freddie was a much loved and admired actor, known for his triumphs in classical theatre, film and television. He will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him and most especially his family.”

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Freddie Jones in Inspector Morse

Freddie guest starring in a 1991 episode of Inspector Morse, one of his many roles during his long and distinguished career (picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

Freddie spoke to us last year about why he’d decided the time was right to leave as Sandy, who was the father of late Vicar, Ashley Thomas.

“There are two factors that come into play. One was the fictional death of my son, Ashley, which was the denouement, and the great height of my existence in the show. With his death and with my character’s age, I couldn’t see where else it would go.

“Also, I realised I was travelling three hours there and three hours back, with overnight stays and then doing three or four sentences. I realised it was helping nobody.

"The company, with absolute generosity, offered me another year’s contract. I thought: ‘How can I possibly?’ Nothing to do with me as an actor, but as the character. So I turned down the contract, and that is the way it is.”

Emmerdale Sandy Thomas Maisie

Freddie in some of his final scenes in Emmerdale as Sandy last year

But he insisted he’d never retire from acting. “Actors don’t retire! I believe the story goes that Gielgud, at the age of 96, rang Maggie Smith and said in a deep depression, ‘They’ve forgotten me – they don’t know who I am anymore.’ He apparently ended the sentence wonderfully, by saying ‘I’m seriously thinking about changing my agent.’”

Freddie, the father of actor Toby Jones, also enjoyed television roles in Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, Casualty and Heartbeat.