Speculation is already mounting as to who will replace John Nettles as the lead star in Midsomer Murders, with ITV refusing to rule out a female actress taking over as chief copper.

The 65-year-old actor, who’s played the methodical detective for more than a decade, announced he will leave the series after filming a last batch of 16 episodes, which means he’ll be on screen as DCI Tom Barnaby until 2011.

“I never thought when we were filming the pilot The Killings at Badger’s Drift in 1996 that I would go on to film so many episodes,” said John.

“It’s the end of an era for me, and while I’m very sad to be handing in Barnaby’s police badge, he has solved nearly 200 murders, which I think meets the targets of modern policing!”

ITV has confirmed that Midsomer Murders will continue without John, with Holby City’s Robert Powell, Wire In The Blood star Robson Green and Whitechapel’s Phil Davis all front-runners to replace him.

Former Coronation Street star Sarah Lancashire, who played a detective in Rose and Maloney, has also been tipped for the role.

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