Leah Bracknell: Former Emmerdale actress dies of lung cancer at 55

16 October 2019, 16:45 | Updated: 16 October 2019, 22:56

Former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell has died aged 55, three years after being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, her manager has said.

The actress, who played British soap's first lesbian character Zoe Tate on the ITV show for 16 years until 2005, died in September.

A statement from her manager, on behalf of Bracknell's family, said: "They would like to thank all the public for their support and generosity which contributed to the extension and quality of her life over the past three years.

"Leah continued to embrace life and faced her illness with positivity. Many aspects of her journey can be found on her blog - somethingbeginningwithc.com."

After quitting the role, the mother-of-two went on to appear in other TV series such as Judge John Deed, Casualty 1907 and Doctors and also took stage roles in Gaslight and Strangers On A Train.

In October 2016, aged 52, Bracknell revealed she had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Fans raised £50,000 on a GoFundMe page to pay for her to have cutting-edge treatment in Germany due to a lack of options on the NHS.

She thanked everyone involved, saying: "I really did not expect or feel deserving of such interest and kindness."

In February, she told ITV's Loose Women she had a positive outlook on life and was not fearful despite her diagnosis.

"I've talked before about how my response was one of absolute anger, it's infuriating - how dare you tell me this - which is why I didn't want someone to guesstimate what someone thought my prognosis would be.

"It's based on statistics that could be out of date, that could be not about my age, not about my specific sort of cancer. I don't want to be a statistic."

She revealed to the TV panel chat show she was taking a new medication she hoped would extend her life, but in August she revealed her cancer treatment had stopped working.

A tweet by Emmerdale called her a "generous and caring colleague, much loved by cast and crew alike", while former Coronation Street and Happy Valley actress Sarah Lancashire called it "such sad news".

Lisa Riley, a former co-star on the show, tweeted that she was "a true angel to work with", while Sally Ann Matthews, who joined around the time Bracknell left, said "the world has lost a little sparkle".

Two of the long-running programme's newest players, Helen Kent and Dean Andrews, also posted tributes on Twitter.

Kent said she felt "very privileged to have known her and worked with her", while Andrews, who joined the Emmerdale cast earlier this year, tweeted that she was "taken far too young".

ITV said in a statement: "Everyone on Emmerdale is very sad to hear of the death of Leah Bracknell.

"Leah was a hugely popular member of the Emmerdale cast for over 16 years. During that time she featured in some of the show's most high-profile and explosive plots and always delivered a pitch perfect performance."

Born Alison Rosalind Bracknell on July 12 1964, she was given her showbusiness debut by her TV director father, David, who cast her in The Chiffy Kids series in 1976.

She studied at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and aged 25, she was cast in Emmerdale.