Artful Dodger actor dies aged 53

Jack Wild, the actor who played the Artful Dodger in the 1968 film Oliver!, died last night after a battle with cancer, his agent announced today.

The former child star, who was just 16 when he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the classic film, was 53.

Wild's agent Alex Jay said: "My client Jack Wild died peacefully at midnight last night after a long battle with oral cancer."

Wild was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2000, and after surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he was unable to speak.

Wild blamed his mouth cancer on a lifestyle of heavy smoking and drinking, saying it had made him a "walking time bomb" for mouth cancer.

He was given the all-clear following surgery, in which he had his tongue and voicebox removed.

Despite not being able to speak, Wild still performed in panto, and his wife, Claire Harding, would lip read and speak for the Oliver! star.

Last year he worked with Cancer Research UK to urge others to be aware of the risk factors and know the symptoms of the disease.

He said he spent the "70s and 80s in a drunken haze" but had been sober for 16 years.

"Until I was diagnosed with mouth cancer, I'd never heard of it. My lifestyle had made me a walking timebomb," he said.

"I was a heavy smoker and an even heavier drinker and apparently together they are a deadly mixture.

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