Esteemed British actor Edward Woodward has died, aged 79, according to his agent.

The actor was a major star of film and TV in the 1970s and 80s, particularly in the British detective drama Callan, horror classic The Wicker Man and US series The Equalizer.

The Croydon-born actor most recently had guest roles in EastEnders and The Bill.

The veteran actor had been suffering from various illnesses, including pneumonia, and died in hospital, his agent said.

Janet Glass released a statement praising Woodward’s ‘brave spirit and wonderful humour’.

She said: “Universally loved and admired through his unforgettable roles in classic productions such as Breaker Morant, The Wicker Man, Callan, The Equalizer and many more, he was equally fine and courageous in real life, never losing his brave spirit and wonderful humour throughout his illness.

“He was further sustained by the love of his wife, Michele, children, Tim, Peter, Sarah and Emily, his grandchildren and numerous friends. His passing will leave a huge gap in many lives.”

Woodward rose to fame in the spy series Callan. Cult film The Wicker Man saw him play a devout Christian police officer drawn to investigating the disappearance of a young girl in a sinister community.

In the 1980s he gained international attention in hit US TV series The Equalizer, playing a former spy turned gun-for-hire.

Woodward recently joined EastEnders for a short stint as Tommy Clifford.

Speaking about the role to What’s On TV earlier this year, he said: “I was very pleased. I only like to do a few jobs each year and I pick the ones I can’t turn down. I liked the character and six episodes suited me.”

He said that as well as working on an autobiography, he’d been spending time painting watercolours.

Woodward lived in Cornwall with his wife, actress Michele Dotrice, who’s known for playing Frank Spencer’s long-suffering wife Betty in the classic sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.