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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Bill cast clear-out
Billy Murray and wife, Elaine
Bill star Billy Murray, pictured here with wife, Elaine, is one of six stars leaving the series
Six cast members from the long-running TV drama The Bill are to leave the series, it has been revealed.

The mass exodus includes one of the ITV police show's longest-serving actors, Peter Ellis, who plays Chief Superintendent Brownlow.

Ellis, who has been in the series since it began 16 years ago, is not having his contract renewed, but the other five are going of their own accord.

His departure means there are only two original cast members left in the show, which centres around the fictional Sun Hill police station.

Clive Wedderburn
On the way out: Bill actor Clive Wedderburn, who plays PC Gary McCann

Another big-name casualty is Billy Murray, who stars as 'bent' officer DS Don Beech.

A spokeswoman for The Bill said: "The character of DS Beech has had a huge storyline running over a very long time where he is a corrupt copper.

"When we first discussed this with Billy we made it clear that one day his character would get his comeuppance, and he agreed to that."

Explosive

She promised that Beech would be leaving at the end of an "explosive" storyline.

The other actors on their way out are Clive Wedderburn (PC Gary McCann), Russell Boulter (DS John Boulton), Alex Walkinshaw (PC Dale Smith) and Gregory Donaldson (PC Tom Proctor).

"All these characters are leaving, but they are virtually all leaving of their own accord," the spokeswoman said.

"The only one whose character is being brought to an end is Brownlow, and that was because we decided we needed a new face at the top.

"I think Peter (Ellis) was shocked by the decision, because obviously he's been with the series for 16 years, but we take our guidance dramatically from the real police force and, if this had been real life, he would have gone by now," she added.

The departures are to be spread over the course of the year, with Donaldson's character PC Proctor the first to go.

Beech will leave with Boulton in a dramatic exit scheduled for the autumn.

When Ellis films his final scene as Chief Supt Brownlow, only two original characters will remain - Trudy Goodwin, who plays Sgt June Ackland and Mark Wingett's PC Carver, both of whom starred in The Bill's 1983 pilot.

The series has featured a number of well-known guest stars over the years, with Denise Van Outen, Leslie Grantham and Arsenal footballer Emmanuel Petit among those accepting cameo roles.

See also:

04 May 98 | UK
Axed TV star Tosh dies
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