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MacCorkindale, star of 'Casualty', dies of cancer

The actor Simon MacCorkindale, who for six years appeared as Dr Harry Harper in the BBC drama Casualty, has died of cancer.

His wife, Susan George, said yesterday: "No one could have fought this disease any harder than he did since being diagnosed four years ago. He fought it with such strength, courage and belief. Last night, he lost this battle, and he died peacefully in my arms.

"To me, he was simply the best of everything, and I loved him with all my heart. He will live on in me forever."

The publicist Max Clifford, who was friends with the couple for many years, described Mr MacCorkindale, 58, as "a lovely man" and praised the "courage and dignity" with which he had fought his illness.

Mr Clifford added: "He never said 'why me' – it was always 'I have to beat it'. When you face up to what he's faced up to over the last few years there's a quiet courage which is testimony to the kind of man he was."

John Yorke, the controller of BBC drama production, said: "One of the reasons so many people have loved working with him on Casualty is because of the tone he established on the shop floor – always welcoming, always disciplined, always quietly the leader. Simon had an extraordinary career encompassing, among many other things, matinée idol, Hollywood lead, film and theatre director, film producer and horse breeder. That amazing energy and appetite for life remained with him to the end."

As a child, MacCorkindale hoped to follow his father into the RAF but at the age of 13 he failed an eye test and was told he would have to find an alternative career. Having briefly contemplated the diplomatic service he opted for acting.

He began his acting career in the theatre, making his West End debut in Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, but in the 1970s he broke through in television as the Roman Emperor Augustus's son Lucius in the acclaimed series I, Claudius.

In 1977 he won international recognition starring opposite Peter Ustinov as the smooth murderer Simon Doyle in Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile.

His good looks led to him being touted as a possible successor to Roger Moore as James Bond. In the 1970s, he moved to the US but he remained primarily a television and theatre actor.

After being told in 2007 his cancer was terminal and he had less than five years to live MacCorkindale returned to the stage, appearing as Captain Georg von Trapp in a West End production of The Sound Of Music until 2009. He said last year: "I'm as active as I've ever been."

His last television role was as Sir David Bryant in New Tricks. He died on Thursday night in London. His marriages to Ms George and to his first wife, Fiona Fullerton, were childless.