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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 15:18 GMT
Avengers actor Gareth Hunt dies
Gareth Hunt in 1993
Gareth Hunt also appeared in the sitcom Side by Side
Actor Gareth Hunt, star of The New Avengers, has died of pancreatic cancer aged 65, his agent has announced.

Hunt played the role of Mike Gambit in the TV series, alongside Joanna Lumley's Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed.

Lumley paid tribute to her "dear friend" who she said was "loved by everyone who knew him".

In later years Hunt became well known as the face of Nescafe with a trademark handshake to reveal coffee beans.

He also had a roles in Doctor Who, Upstairs Downstairs and briefly appeared in EastEnders in 2001.

A statement from his agent said he died at his home in Redhill, Surrey, adding: "He fought the disease with great courage and through his strength of character and his wonderful sense of humour he continued to work right up until the end of 2006."

Gareth Hunt in EastEnders
Hunt played a crime boss in EastEnders

Lumley said: "Gareth was also a very good actor, which was often overlooked. He started life in the RSC and he was just terrific.

"He kept his illness quiet, only his family and a few close friends knew. I went out with him for his birthday in February and he was pretty frail but still hysterically funny."

Hunt is survived by his wife, Amanda, and three sons.

After small roles with the RSC he landed a part in the popular drama Upstairs Downstairs.

He played Frederick Norton, a soldier who finds employment as a footman.

But he entered the limelight proper in The New Avengers, which ran for two seasons in 1976-77 with Patrick Macnee returning from the original series.

Hunt's character Gambit was an expert marksman and athlete and his verbal sparring with Purdey became a running theme.

He appeared in EastEnders as crime boss Ritchie Stringer and was one of the suspects in the shooting of Phil Mitchell.

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