Tributes have been paid to the actress who played Aveline in the Liverpool sitcom Bread, who has died from a suspected heart attack.

Gilly Coman, 54, starred in the hit show for five series before leaving in 1989 to have a baby.

Gilly (pictured right) retired from acting in 2000 to bring up her three sons and youngest child Jessica, living in Wirral, Merseyside, with her photographer husband Phil.

As well as success in Bread – whose cast included Jean Boht as Ma Boswell and future film director Peter Howitt as her cool brother, Joey – Gilly appeared in Coronation Street, Boys from the Blackstuff, Brookside and Emmerdale Farm.

She also appeared in Ronnie Barker’s Open All Hours and Inspector Morse.

On Friday, her friend Jane Joseph, director of St Helens Theatre Royal, said: “She was a fantastic actress, the original Aveline.

“As far as I am concerned she was a person to look up to. She made her own way in the acting community and really carved her career out.

“Everybody used to say she created the role of Aveline, and the other actress was really just stepping into her shoes.”

Jane went on: “She gave up her career for her children. I tried to get her to come back a few months ago because I had a part for her that would have been perfect.

“She thought about it but said no. She wanted to wait until her youngest had done her GCSEs.

“We were waiting for her to come back. This is an untimely death.”