Colin Tarrant: Actor best known as Inspector Monroe in 'The Bill'


The actor Colin Tarrant was a permanent fixture on television for 12 years as the by-the-book, disciplinarian Inspector Andrew Monroe in The Bill. He took the role of Sun Hill police station's third most senior officer at the height of the programme's success, joining itin 1990, six years after it had been launched on ITV.

Monroe was a former miner who,despite his authoritarian nature, was respected by those both above and below him in the ranks. He was a walking encyclopedia of police procedures and reminded fellow officers of relevant points in a firm but polite way.

For him, the rules were black and white – and his officers had to be whiter than white. When he refused to allow Detective Superintendent Ted Roach (Tony Scannell) to leave the station pending an investigation into an earlier brawl, the fiery officer punched him in the face. Monroe reported him for striking a senior officer and Roach walked out on the spot.

It was Tarrant's turn to go when in 2002, after 583 episodes, Monroe died – along with five other officers – as the result of a petrol bomb being thrown by one of his own corrupt police constables inside Sun Hill and igniting gas canisters while a race riot flared outside. The Bill was finally axed eight years later.

Born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, Tarrant attended the town's grammar school, where he acted in drama productions and was president of the debating society. His talents as a footballer led him to play for Derbyshire boys, but he was turned down by Huddersfield Town after a trial.

Although he gained a degree in English and drama from Exeter University and a Certificate in Education from Clifton College, Nottingham, Tarrant abandoned ideas of becoming a teacher when he had the opportunity to join the company at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter.

In 1977, he switched to the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, run by Peter Cheeseman, who with Stephen Joseph pioneered theatre-in-the-round, whereby audiences completely surrounded the actors. His roles there included Edmund in King Lear and Jack Absolute in The Rivals. He then enjoyed seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon and London (1980-82), directed by Ronald Eyre and Trevor Nunn.

The actor made his screen début with a small role in the television play Elphida (1987), before playing Will Brangwen in Anne Devlin's three-part BBC adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel The Rainbow (1988). After leaving The Bill he had one-off roles in Holby City (2004), Heartbeat (2007), Doctors (two parts, 2007, 2009), Casualty (2010) and Midsomer Murders (2011), and appeared alongside Robert Carlyle in the 2008 film Summer.

He spent most of his later years on stage. In 2005, he starred as Brian Clough in Old Big 'Ead in the Spirit of Man, at the Playhouse, Nottingham, the city where the maverick football manager had reaped such success. "I am a Nottingham Forest fan from birth," he said at the time. "I grew up in Shirebrook, a declining pit town in the East Midlands, I'm a staunch socialist and I failed my 11-plus. I can relate to Brian Clough on so many levels."

When the play, written by Stephen Lowe, toured Britain the following year, one critic praised the actor for his portrayal of the finger-wagging Clough with "neck awry, brows beetling" and for capturing his "ebullient, endlessly beguiling and endlessly lovable" personality. Tarrant followed it with another acclaimed stage role, as the vagrant Davies in a Nottingham Playhouse production of the Harold Pinter play The Caretaker (2006).

Later, he was interestingly cast as the Old Gentleman on the train in Mike Kenny's adaptation of The Railway Children, staged by York Theatre Royal at the city's National Railway Museum, in 2008 and 2009. He then played the tragic John in a national tour of Calendar Girls (2010-11).

Tarrant's marriage to Valerie Hays was dissolved. His son, Juma Woodhouse, born in 1988 from a subsequent relationship with Patricia Woodhouse, survives him, as does his partner, Sabrina Morris, and their baby son, Louis. Tarrant died in hospital, apparently by his own hand, after being found at home in Bristol with knife wounds.

Colin Tarrant, actor: born Shirebrook, Derbyshire 14 June 1952; married 1971 Valerie Hays (marriage dissolved), partner to Patricia Woodhouse (one son), partner to Sabrina Morris (one son); died Bristol 26 January 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world