'Blue Peter' star dies of cancer

CHRISTOPHER TRACE, the original presenter of the classic children's television programme Blue Peter, died yesterday aged 59. He had been admitted to the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, in east London in July suffering from cancer of the oesophagus.

His death came two days after he had relived memories of his time on the programme with another former presenter, Valerie Singleton. Mr Trace's daughter Jessica said: 'Valerie managed to join a gathering of his old friends at the hospital. He really enjoyed it. He was cracking jokes.

'He was bright as a button. Death came very quickly and he died in his sleep,' she said.

Mr Trace worked on Blue Peter from its launch in 1958 until 1967, originally partnered by Leila Williams, and then by Ms Singleton and John Noakes. But his last year on the programme was overshadowed by publicity when his first wife, Margaret, divorced for him on the grounds of his adultery with a Norwegian girl he had met on a Blue Peter assignment.

Before joining Blue Peter, he had been a bit-part actor in films - one of his roles was as Charlton Heston's double in Ben Hur.

He left the children's show after nine years and later moved to Norwich where he worked on the BBC Nationwide programme. He later left television, working for the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association in London before becoming a handyman in Hemel Hempstead.

He spent his final year living in east London on invalidity benefit after a back injury forced him to stop work. He believed the injury could have developed from his demonstrating a game that involved hopping in and out of a column of tyres on Blue Peter.

Mr Trace leaves a son, Jonathan, and daughter, Jessica.

(Photograph omitted)

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