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'Blue Peter' presenter Caron Keating dies of breast cancer, aged 41

Caron Keating, the former television presenter who made her name on Blue Peter , has died after a seven-year battle with breast cancer. She was 41.

Her two sons Charlie, nine and Gabriel, seven, were at her bedside with her husband Russ Lindsay on Tuesday. The family had driven to her mother Gloria Hunniford's home in Kent, after spending Easter at a specialist clinic in Zurich.

Ms Keating's close friend Peter Powell, the former Radio 1 DJ, said that Mr Lindsay drove Ms Keating to her mother's home hours before she died after getting an "inner feeling" about her failing health.

"Russ got into the car with her and drove through the night to get to her mother's home by 1am on Tuesday morning," he said. She had kept the illness secret from all but her closest friends and family for the sake of her children, according to Mr Powell.

Television and show business personalities paid tribute yesterday to her courage and fortitude.

Ms Keating's family thanked the media for the privacy "afforded them during these difficult years". They said she had been "a total inspiration" in life, and that her death had left an "unfilled void".

"Caron Keating sadly lost her seven-year battle against cancer, a battle that she fought with enormous courage, tenacity and optimism," said a statement from the family.

Joining the flagship BBC1 children's programme in 1986, Ms Keating continued to work in television until 2001, nearly four years after discovering she had the disease. Her family spoke of her vivacious personality and the strength she showed in facing cancer and working as a presenter on shows including This Morning .

"Caron was a beautiful, fun-loving, and spirited individual who throughout the last seven years has been a total inspiration to her family and friends... she leaves a legacy of wonderful memories and love," the family said.

Born in Northern Ireland to Ms Hunniford and Don Keating, a BBC producer, her family was regarded as "showbiz royalty" in her birthplace and she followed her mother into a successful television career. She co-presented Blue Peter until 1990, becoming known for performing in intrepid assignments including swimming with sharks and abseiling.

Co-presenter Mark Curry said Ms Keating chose not to talk publicly about her cancer, from which she went into remission several times.

"I knew one day I would get the call to say she had died but I kept hoping that day would never come. I am just devastated. Caron was such a special person."

Another fellow presenter Janet Ellis added: "Caron was enormous fun and full of vitality. I know she was brave and full of life right the way through her illness. She was a splendid mother and her children were lucky to have had her. This is just so terribly sad."

Terry Wogan, who worked with Ms Keating during the Olympic Games in Barcelona for Radio 5, said her death came as a "terrible shock".

"She had glorious qualities of charm and vivacity. It's hard to believe that someone with all these qualities, and still so young, has passed away," he said.

Sir Cliff Richard, who is a family friend, said her death was a loss to those who knew her and to the television industry.

"Caron was gifted, talented, and, to crown it all, beautiful and courageous to the end," he said. A former presenter of This Morning , Ms Keating stayed with the show until 1999. She also appeared on shows such as Holiday , We Can Work It Out , Summer Scene and Attractions , and worked as an entertainment correspondent for Carlton TV.

She spent the last two years of her life in Byron Bay, Australia, with her husband and children, although her family home remained in Cornwall.