Paul Daniels
Debbie McGee paid an emotional tribute to her husband Paul Daniels, who died on 17 MarchFrazer Harrison/Getty Images

Paul Daniels' wife Debbie McGee has paid tribute to the much-loved magician, as she revealed that his final days were "full of love, laughter and ice-cream." Daniels passed away aged 77 on the morning of 17 March. He had been suffering from an inoperable brain tumour.

He spent his last days at their Thameside home in Berkshire eating "lots of" Magnum ice-cream in the sunshine and watching quiz shows. McGee, his wife of 28 years said that while she had struggled with his diagnosis, she had vowed to make his final days "the best time possible".

Speaking to the BBC in her first interview after his death, she said that she cried "the whole night" when they first discovered that he was terminally ill, but she pledged to enjoy every moment of the time they had left together.

"I said to myself: 'OK, what would he do in this situation?' And I said: 'OK, let's go and find out from the doctors what we're going to do', and then 'whatever time he's got left I'm going to make it the best time possible'.

"And that's what I did – he never saw me cry. I smiled, I put my make up on and did my hair every day. I got him home and I looked after him for about ten days on my own. So we sat out here because the weather's been a lot like this. His favourite ice cream was Magnum – we had a lot of Magnums sitting out here.

"We went in and watched Bradley Walsh on The Chase every day at 5pm because Paul and I love Bradley, and that made us laugh every day."

She described how in his final moments the TV personality was smiling, cracking jokes and singing, before he quietly slipped away with his devoted wife by his side. "Even minutes before he slipped into that sleep he was smiling at me and joking and singing Beatles songs," she said.

Her comments follow a moving tribute from his son Gary, who posted a photo of a magician's rabbit with a tear falling from its eye. He wrote: "It is with incredible sadness that I can confirm that Dad, @ThePaulDaniels, passed away over night."

A statement from Paul's publicist said: "One of our most beloved entertainers, Paul Daniels, has passed away at the age of 77. Debbie and the family would like to thank everyone for their support and asks that their privacy be respected at this sad time."

Debbie and Paul first met in 1979 during rehearsals for Daniels' summer season show in Great Yarmouth. Despite a 20 year age gap, the pair tied the knot in 1988. The 57-year-old said their lives had been "full of laughter" and they had a "fairytale marriage".

"We always joked with each other and laughed every day – but when I first met him the thing that really, really attracted me to him was I'd worked with quite a lot of top performers and when I started working with Paul we had other acts on the live show – he would say 'come and look at them'.

"He loved people with talent – he was really unselfish and would always say well if there's somebody on my show that's good, the audience will go home and say 'did you see that fantastic act on The Paul Daniels Show?'"

Daniels's 24-year-old nephew James Phelan, who also became a magician, praised his uncle for inspiring a whole generation of magicians. "There is so much inspiration that I have drawn from his career – and it's not just me personally, he has inspired a whole generation of magicians," he told Sky News. "It makes it very difficult for us to be too sad when there is such a celebration of love and joy from all directions."

Friend and celebrities have paid their emotional tributes to the TV star. Keith Chegwin wrote: "We've lost a magic man."

Derren Brown described him as "A legend who revolutionised magic & inspired a generation of entertainers."

Magician Scott Penrose told MailOnline: "'You'll never see another magician like him quite frankly. If you cast your mind back to the height of his career he was getting 20 million viewers watching his show. You'll never see a magician attaining a record like that.

"He was a great all-round performer – he was an entertaining magician in so far as he was very funny, but he was a very talented magician as well. He was a great thinker of magic. He was an inspiration to not just my generation of magicians but probably the ones before and the generation after.

"He inspired so many. He was just a great all-round magician and everybody just loved him. He was amazing. The magic world has lost a friend, and I've lost a friend."

Magician Dynamo also praised Daniels, saying he had taken "so much inspiration" from his acts and that he was "devastated" by the news.

While his family had struggled to cope with his illness Daniels himself was sanguine in the face of his own mortality. In a 2013 interview, Daniels said: "Death isn't scary. It's just like going to sleep. It doesn't bother me because when your time's up, it's up."