Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman has died aged 69 after suffering from cancer REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Veteran British actor Alan Rickman has died aged 69 after suffering from cancer, his family have confirmed. The actor, who played iconic roles such as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Professor Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, passed away at his London home.

The Golden Globe-, Emmy- and SAG-winning actor also had notable roles as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well as in multiple TV and stage appearances.

In a statement, his family said: "The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends."

Last April, Rickman revealed he had married his partner Rima Horton after being together for 50 years. The pair had met they were 18 and 19 at the Latymer Upper School and had lived together in London since 1977. He told Germany's Bild Newspaper: "We are married. Just recently. It was great, because no one was there. After the wedding in New York we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch."

Stephen Fry was one of the first fellow actors to pay tributes to Rickman. He said via Twitter: "What desperately sad news about Alan Rickman. A man of such talent, wicked charm & stunning screen and stage presence. He'll be sorely missed."

JK Rowling, author of the much loved Harry Potter books, added: There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman's death. He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man. My thoughts are with Rima and the rest of Alan's family. We have all lost a great talent. They have lost part of their hearts.

The much-loved star was born in Acton, West London in 1946. He was known for his distinctive thespian voice, which made him ideal for playing villains. He had his breakthrough playing the role of Le Vicompte in the theatre version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, for which he also nominated for a Tony award.

Despite being mostly known as a film actor, especially to a younger audience because of his role in the Harry Potter films, Rickman was also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in both modern and classical theatre productions. He directed the award-winning play My Name is Rachel Corrie in 2005.

His next film roles are due to be the voice of the Blue Caterpillar in the film Alice Through the Looking Glass, a sequel to the Tim Burton's 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, set to be released in the US in May and Eye In The Sky, in which he appears alongside Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul.