Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 12:23 UK

PC Tony Stamp to leave The Bill

Graham Cole
Graham Cole has been on The Bill for 21 years

Actor Graham Cole, who plays PC Tony Stamp in The Bill is to leave the show after 21 years.

The 57-year-old said he was "sad to leave", but had "had a wonderful time patrolling the streets of Sun Hill".

The drama's production team said it felt it had taken Cole's character as far as possible and that the time was right to say goodbye to him.

Cole will be on screens until later this year and show bosses said the door would be open for a possible return.

"Tony has been a big part of my life for a long time, but I'm looking forward to seeking out some new challenges and enjoying life outside the nick!" Cole said.

Producers denied reports Cole's character had been axed because he was too old, saying character changes were "based on storyline and dramatic needs".

Executive producer Johnathan Young said: "Graham is a much-loved and admired member of cast."

"He has contributed an enormous amount to The Bill and we are grateful for his enthusiasm and support over the years. PC Tony Stamp leaves an amazing legacy."

The Bill, currently being shown on Wednesdays and Thursdays on ITV1, is to relaunch this autumn.

The number of episodes will be cut to one-per-week as a result of ITV's measures to make savings of £65m.

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