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


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The Independent Online

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.