Corin Redgrave 'critical' after heart attack at rally

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The actor and political activist Corin Redgrave was critically ill last night after suffering a heart attack while delivering an impassioned speech at a rally.

The actor and political activist Corin Redgrave was critically ill last night after suffering a heart attack while delivering an impassioned speech at a rally.

Redgrave, 65, was addressing a public meeting on the future of a controversial travellers' site in Billericay, Essex, when he fell to the floor.

Police manning the meeting at a theatre in Basildon, which was attended by more than 300 people, had to carry out emergency resuscitation after the actor stopped breathing. He was then transported to Basildon Hospital, where he is on a life support machine.

Redgrave, who recently revealed he was suffering from cancer, had been speaking for less than five minutes and had told councillors "You have the power of life and death to do a great deal of good or the power to do harm" shortly before collapsing.

A paramedic from Essex Ambulance Service, Emma Dyer, said the actor lost consciousness and was bought back to life by two policemen using defibrillators. "Getting assistance as quickly as he did undoubtedly made a big difference to his chance of survival," she said.

In the confusion that ensued, Redgrave's wife, the actress Kika Markham, who was in London, was not informed until over an hour after her husband's collapse. She was then driven from London to Basildon to be with him.

Kathleen McCarthy, also from the travellers' site, said she accompanied Redgrave to the hospital. "Corin is critically ill," she said. "He's on life support and he's fighting for his life."

She added: "He got so angry when he was talking because he had heard people telling lies about us."

She said that Redgrave had earlier been incensed after he accompanied a group of travellers to a local pub, where they were turned away, she said. "We are all feeling it. He is like a member of our family. He is such a nice man. If he goes we will all grieve for him like one of our own," she said.

Sue Conlan, a senior member of Peace and Progress, the political party which Redgrave recently helped to found with his sister, Vanessa, confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack but said its severity was still unclear.

"We do not know the details, but he clearly wasn't fit enough to get anybody to call his wife", she said.

Earlier in the day Redgrave had been in Westminster with travellers from Dale Farm to talk with MPs about their situation. Travellers, along with villagers from the nearest village to the site, Cray Hill, where almost 1,000 people live, attended the meeting.

The dispute arose after travellers moved onto the seven-acre site, on green belt land, five years ago prompting an outcry from local residents, some of whom removed their children from the local school after the families' children began attending.

The site has been declared illegal by a planning inspector, and after appeals were turned down, the majority of the 600 families living on the site were told to move on by last month.

The meeting was held so that councillors could decide whether to evict the families living on the site. Organisers postponed the meeting following Redgrave's collapse.