The actor, who has died aged 71, appeared in the first episode of the soap in 1985 and became one of its most popular characters.

Leslie Grantham, who has died at the age of 71, 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, Leslie starred as Den Watts – later receiving the nickname “Dirty” after getting his adopted teenage daughter’s 16-year-old friend pregnant.

SHOWBIZ Eastenders 1
EastEnders Dennis Watts (Leslie Grantham) with screen wife Angie (Anita Dobson) (PA)

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.

Leslie 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.

EastEnders celebrates its 25th anniversary
Leslie Grantham as Den Watts and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Chrissie Watts in the first ever live EastEnders episode to mark its 25th anniversary (Adam Pensotti/BBC/PA)

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.

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