Long-serving detective Tom Barnaby will be replaced by his cousin in ITV's Midsomer Murders as actor John Nettles steps down from the show, it was announced yesterday.
Nettles is leaving the show after 13 years and more than 80 episodes of the light-hearted whodunnits as his character retires.
The central role will now go to his relative, DCI John Barnaby, who is to be played by familiar face Neil Dudgeon, whose past roles have included Life Of Riley and Common As Muck.
The new actor will be seen tonight in the ITV1 show when the original DCI Barnaby heads off to the South Coast to enlist his cousin's help.
Nettles finishes filming his last series in July, with Dudgeon taking over when the next series goes into production later that month.
Nettles said: "I wanted to die in noble fashion in the service of my country and then be buried with full military honours in Westminster Abbey.
"In the event, Tom and his long-suffering wife Joyce will simply retire. It's always better to leave when people want more.
"It has been a joy to be involved in such a long-running series, with so many good actors and great storylines."
He added: "If Neil has half the good times that I have had on Midsomer then he will be in seventh heaven.
"I am only worried that he is much younger than I am and a much better actor."
Producer Brian True-May said: "Although we will miss the huge contribution that John has made to the series, the brand of Midsomer is so strong that I am confident of its continuing success.
"We look forward to our new Barnaby tackling more murder and mayhem in Midsomer.
"Having worked with Neil Dudgeon twice on Midsomer Murders already, I feel he is the perfect choice.
"I admire him as an actor and know he will be a wonderful addition to the team and a great ambassador for the series."
Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, said: "We're delighted Neil will carry on the Barnaby name. He's a fine actor and we're pleased he's agreed to join the series."