michael leader
Michael Leader of EastEnders has passed away BBC

EastEnders actor Michael Leader has died after appearing on the soap for 31 years. Celebrities including Danny Dyer and Bonnie Langford have lead the tributes via social media as the BBC have confirmed that Leader passed away on Monday (22 August).

Leader has been a part of the show since the very first episode in February 1985 as Albert Square's resident milkman. EastEnders released a statement after the news broke. It read: "We were terribly saddened to hear that our dear friend and colleague Michael Leader passed away on Monday. Michael has been on the show since the very first episode and will be sorely missed by the EastEnders family, past and present."

His co-stars have flooded Twitter with emotional tributes to the star, with Danny Dyer – who plays Mick Carter – writing: "R.I.P Michael my old son. R.I.P." before multiple heart emojis.

Robert Kazinsky (Sean Slater) shortly followed suit, writing: "Sorry to see you go Michael, you were always a class act." While Langford, who plays Carmel Kazemi, added: "Our lovely Michael. A true gentleman & 'old pro'. I'll miss you xx."

Co-star Danielle Harold said: "R.I.P Michael Such a lovely man and a true gentlemen." While Johnny actor Ted Reilly commented: "R.I.P Michael Such a lovely man and a true gentlemen."

Leader only spoke his first line on the soap after 16 years, having dropped a drunk Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace) home to her father Charlie after giving her a lift on his milk float. He asked Charlie: "Is this yours, squire?"

The actor also experienced success many moons away from Walford, having starred in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977 – reportedly as the 'unidentified head-bumping stormtrooper' who infamously hit his head on a doorway to the amusement of fans.

Read the tributes to Michael Leader below.