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Jeremy Beadle, king of the TV practical jokers, dies aged 59

Jeremy Beadle, the quiz-master and king of the televised practical joke in ITV's Beadle's About and You've Been Framed, has died of pneumonia while suffering from leukaemia. He was 59.

A trivia expert, he also entertained readers of The Independent Magazine on Saturdays with his testing questions. He leaves his wife, Sue, his daughters Cassie and Bonnie, and stepchildren Leo and Claire.

Beadle was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2005, 10 months after having a tumour removed from his kidney. Last week reports emerged that he was gravely ill with pneumonia.

His agent, Nick Canham, said: "Our heartfelt condolences go to his family. He will be greatly missed."

Beadle was born in Hackney, east London, on 12 April 1948, in difficult circumstances. The first two years of his life were spent in and out of hospital as he underwent surgery for Poland syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which stunted growth in his right hand, a condition for which he was mocked by hostile sections of the media in later life.

His father had left his mother when learning that she was pregnant with Jeremy. He refused ever to seek a meeting with his father. In a 2001 interview with The Independent, he said: "People find it very, very difficult to understand... [but it] would be incredibly selfish of me to go out and talk to a total stranger. I actually think it would have almost been a slap to my mum. She gave me the love that I needed, the inspiration, the protection and the important things."

With his mother working as a secretary to make ends meet – his father provided no money – Jeremy got into trouble at school and was expelled. He took up a number of adventurous jobs, at one point taking photographs of topless models. Eventually he made it into writing for radio and television, going on to provide material for stars such as Terry Wogan, Noel Edmonds and Kenny Everett.

But Beadle found fame in his own right fronting the LWT prank shows which attracted millions of viewers from 1987 to 1996. Horrified victims would look on as their car was apparently destroyed or their shop supposedly wrecked, before a grinning Beadle would emerge to howls of laughter all round.

Although his mischievous public image was as derided by some as it was loved by others, Beadle was also a significant fundraiser for many charities, including Children with Leukaemia, long before he was diagnosed with the disease. He is believed to have raised more than £100m for good causes. Beadle was a Trust Patron of The Philip Green Memorial Trust, and he annually hosted a quiz party along with Crown Prince Shwebomin of Burma to raise money for children.

Beadle was recognised with an OBE in 2001. In his Independent interview, he said: "I was quite moved to be honest. My eyes welled up. I've always done charity stuff for my own reasons, and quite selfish reasons. I like to make a difference. It's very easy just to sit back and feel sorry. Well, I hate that, I hate pity. So I turn it into something very positive. It's very selfish. It's actually stopping me from feeling pity."

Throughout his life he pursued his love of trivia, writing Today's the Day and A Chronicle of the Curious as well as contributing to the highly successful Book of Lists and People's Almanac. He was also director of Britain's largest supplier of pub quizzes, Redtooth.

He was the writer and host of the notoriously difficult media quiz at The Atlantic Bar and Grill, attended by celebrities including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2005, he refused to stop working, and as recently as last autumn released three new books.