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Denholm Elliott dies from Aids-related TB, aged 70

DENHOLM Elliott, one of Britain's finest character actors, died in Ibiza yesterday of tuberculosis brought on by Aids.

The 70-year-old film and stage star had been ill for three years but chose to keep secret the fact that he had been diagnosed HIV-positive. His agent, Jean Diamond, said: 'He has been ill for three years . . . He died of TB which was Aids-related. We don't know how it was contracted.'

Last night, his fellow actors expressed shock and sadness. Donald Sinden, with whom he starred in the 1952 classic The Cruel Sea, said: 'He was one of the finest screen actors and a very special actor at that. He was one of the last stars who was a real gentleman. It is a very sad loss.'

Sir Peter Ustinov said: 'He was a wonderful actor and a very good friend on the occasions that life brought us together.'

Dennis Potter, the playwright who worked with Mr Elliott on the film Brimstone and Treacle, said: 'He was a complicated, sensitive and slightly disturbing actor. Not only was he a very accomplished actor, he was a dry, witty and slightly menacing individual. As a man, I always found him very open, very straightforward and very much to the point.'

After a year at the Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Art, from which he was ejected, Mr Elliott broke into films in 1949 in David Lean's The Sound Barrier. That was quickly followed by The Cruel Sea, They Who Dare (1953) and Pacific Destiny (1955).

In recent years, he was perhaps best known for his roles in A Private Function, Defence of the Realm, A Room With a View and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He was made a CBE in 1988.

Virginia McKenna, his first wife, said: 'It is absolutely dreadful, but the person I am thinking of at the moment more than anybody is his wife. It must be terrible for her.'

Paul Barton, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'We support those people who find they are HIV-positive and make it public but we would also defend . . . those who wish to keep their diagnosis private. If the publicity surrounding Mr Elliott's sad death brings home the realities of HIV and Aids, then perhaps something positive will come of it.'

(Photograph omitted)