LESLIE GRANTHAM was known to millions of viewers for his role as adulterous Queen Vic landlord Dirty Den. More than 30 million viewers tuned in to see Den Watts serve divorce papers to wife Angie (Anita Dobson) in the famous episode on Christmas Day 1986, with the words “Happy Christmas, Ange”.

Dirty Den was believed to have been shot dead by a hitman in 1989, but Grantham made a shock return to Albert Square in 2003.

And some 17 million viewers watched his return to the BBC One soap.

Off screen, London-born Grantham had an eventful personal life.

As a teenager, in 1967 he was convicted of murdering a German taxi driver while serving as a soldier – a charge he always denied.

He served an 11-year sentence and later returned to Leyhill Open Prison in Gloucestershire as a VIP guest to open an art exhibition.

He said the jail fostered his interest in amateur dramatics.

In 2004, Grantham was exposed after taking part in webcam sex sessions from his EastEnders dressing room at Elstree Studios.

He issued an apology for the scandal, which had also seen him criticise his co-stars, describing his actions as “a moment’s stupidity” of which he was “wholeheartedly ashamed”.

Dirty Den was killed off for the second and final time – by his second wife Chrissie (Tracy-Ann Oberman) – in 2005. More than 14 million viewers watched Den’s demise.

Grantham felt that EastEnders was not what it once was.

“With Den and Angie, one minute he’d make you laugh, the next he’d cut your legs off. There was humour. Everyone thought Den was a lovable rogue. He wasn’t evil, he was just Jack the lad,” he told the Press Association.

“When he came back a second time, he suddenly became this Machiavellian character.

“I’m not saying it was better when I was in it, but when you’re doing four episodes a week, you can’t keep up that level of consistency.”

Grantham and actress Jane Laurie, the mother of his three sons, divorced in 2013 after being married for more than 30 years.

Having almost disappeared from the small screen, Grantham in his later years focused on touring theatre work and panto.

In 2016 he published his debut children’s fantasy novel Jack Bates And The Wizard’s Spell.

He was offered reality shows but turned down what he called “humiliation TV”.

And Grantham, reported to be living in Bulgaria before he died at the age of 71, was philosophical about his life.

“Life isn’t a straight line. It’s like travelling the motorway. Every now and then, you have to take a diversion,” he told the Press Association.

“Unfortunately, some of my diversions have been quite catastrophic. But I’m safe in the knowledge that what I do now is good.”

Dirty Den’s biggest storylines

GRANTHAM played a key role in some of EastEnders’ most explosive storylines and remains one of the soap’s most famous stars.

Appearing in the series’ first ever episode in 1985, Grantham starred as Den Watts – later receiving the nickname “Dirty” after getting his adopted teenage daughter’s 16-year-old friend pregnant.

His tumultuous marriage to alcoholic wife Angie captivated the nation and more than 30 million people – at the time over half of the UK population – tuned in to the 1986 Christmas special to watch Den present her with divorce papers.

Grantham first left Albert Square in 1989 after a criminal gang he was involved with, called The Firm, tried to kill him.

Viewers were led to believe he had died, but the character returned to the soap in September 2003, when it was revealed he had faked his death and fled to Spain.

It later emerged that, while in exile, Den had remarried. His estranged wife, Chrissie, played by Tracy-Ann Oberman, joined him in Albert Square but was incensed by his repeated infidelity.

She ended up killing him in the Queen Vic, beating him over the head with an iron doorstop.

Eventually, Chrissie was jailed for the crime and Den was buried in his original grave next to Angie.

Grantham’s final appearance in EastEnders was on the soap’s 20th anniversary.