Emma Chambers died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 53, one friend has claimed.

The Vicar of Dibley actress, who played Alice Tinker on the sitcom, was reported to have died from "natural causes."

But former BBC executive producer Jon Plowman revealed on Radio 4 this morning: "It's no age to have a heart attack, as I understand it."

He added: "Emma was a gifted comic actress who made any part she played look easy. She was adored by the cast and crew."

The shock of Chambers' untimely death has prompted an outpour of tributes from her former colleagues and the public.

Hugh Grant, her onscreen brother in Notting Hill, tweeted: "Emma Chambers was a hilarious and very warm person and of course a brilliant actress. Very sad news."

Her Vicar of Dibley co-star Dawn French also remembered her sense of fun. Alongside a picture of Chambers lying on top of a face-down French, she wrote: "I was regularly humped like this by the unique & beautiful spark that was Emma Chambers. I never minded. I loved her. A lot."

TV presenter Sue Perkins replied: "What a terrible loss. Love to you and all of her family and loved ones xx."

Her agent, John Grant, announced her death yesterday (24 February), stating: "Emma created a wealth of characters and an immense body of work. She brought laughter and joy to many. She will be greatly missed."

Emma Freud, the wife of director Richard Curtis also paid an emotional tribute, calling her a "great comedy performer."

She tweeted: "Our beautiful friend Emma Chambers has died at the age of 53. We're very very sad. She was a great, great comedy performer, and a truly fine actress. And a tender, sweet, funny, unusual, loving human being."

Emma is survived by her husband, fellow actor Ian Dunn, who she married in 1991.