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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 22:21 GMT
Halfpenny crowned dance champion
Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett
Jill Halfpenny had been favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing
EastEnders star Jill Halfpenny has been crowned the champion of champions in a live festive edition of the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing.

Along with professional partner Darren Bennett, the 29-year-old beat off stiff competition from news presenter Natasha Kaplinsky, who won the first series.

Four other couples from the two series also took part, including Denise Lewis who was the judges' favourite.

Viewer phone votes from the shows have now raised 1m for Children in Need.

Musical role

Kaplinsky, 32, was the winner of the first series of the hit ballroom dancing show, along with dance partner Brendan Cole.

The presenter of BBC One's Breakfast programme had previously said she had hung up her dancing shoes for good but was persuaded to return for the festive special.

But she said she would have liked longer to practice and added that she fully expected Halfpenny to win.

Since her win at the end of the second series earlier this month, Halfpenny has landed the role of Roxie Hart in the West End musical Chicago.

A Christmas special, Strictly Ice Dancing, will air on Boxing Day with former England goalkeeper David Seaman, Liberty X's Jessica Taylor and EastEnders actress Scarlett Johnson taking part.

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