Politicians lead tributes to 'courageous' Goody

Reality TV star dies peacefully in her sleep, aged 27, after losing her struggle against cervical cancer

Moving tributes were paid yesterday to the reality TV star Jade Goody, who lost her battle against cervical cancer at the age of 27.

The death of the recently married mother at her home in Essex early on Mother's Day was announced by her publicist Max Clifford. Her family said she had died peacefully in her sleep.

Gordon Brown praised the former Big Brother star, whose suffering in the final months of her life had been played out in the full glare of the public eye. "She was a courageous woman both in life and death and the whole country have admired her determination to provide a bright future for her children," he said. She left two sons, Bobby, five, and Freddy, four . The Tory leader David Cameron also paid tribute. He said: "Her brave fight has raised awareness of this terrible disease and her legacy will be to save the lives of more young women in the future."

Her mother, Jackiey Budden, said: "My beautiful daughter is at peace."

The Indian actress, Shilpa Shetty, who Goody was accused of racially abusing during an ill-fated appearance on Celebrity Big Brother two years ago, said: "I am deeply saddened but I am glad Jade is out of pain and that she died peacefully with her family around her."

The death of the former dental nurse from Bermondsey, south-east London, prompted a widespread outpouring of sadness from fellow celebrities, politicians, royalty and ordinary people. Goody was told of her condition in August last year during the Indian version of the show that propelled her to fame in 2002. Since then, she had signed numerous magazine, newspaper and television deals in a bid to safeguard the financial future of her boys.

Prince Azim, the son of the Sultan of Brunei, who struck up an unexpected friendship with Goody over a dinner, said: "Jade was a warm and lovely lady." The comedian and actor Stephen Fry, who met her when they appeared on Jonathan Ross's chat show, described her as "a kind of Princess Di from the wrong side of the tracks". He said: "I warmed to her immensely. All impulsive spirit and smiles. What a life."

The model and presenter Danielle Lloyd, who found herself alongside Goody at the centre of the 2007 Celebrity Big Brother bullying row that caused a record 45,000 complaints to the TV watchdog Ofcom, described her as "a brave and courageous human being".

Another fellow Celebrity Big Brother inmate, the racing pundit John McCririck, said Goody's high-profile battle against cancer had "justified her whole existence" saving countless lives. He said: "For so many young girls it was a wannabe wish; they wanted to be like Jade Goody."

Outside Goody's home in Upshire, Essex, scores of well-wishers left flowers and cards. Marjorie Loftus, 78, who had come from Barnet, north London, to leave a heart-shaped card and flowers, referred to Goody's famous "East Angular" slip during her first appearance on Big Brother in which she finished fourth. She wrote on the card: "You may not have known where East Anglia was but you knew the way to our hearts."

Goody, who married Jack Tweed last month in an emotionally charged ceremony, had also planned every detail of her funeral. It is expected to be another highly public affair. Hundreds of admirers are expected to line the route when a cortege bearing her body drives through the streets of Bermondsey, where Goody grew up to the churchyard of St John the Baptist in Buckhurst Hill, Essex.