The Only Fools And Horses star John Challis has died “peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer”, his family have said.
Challis was best-known for his portrayal of the unscrupulous second-hand car dealer Boycie in the sitcom, alongside Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. He cancelled a 30-date speaking tour earlier this month after only one appearance due to ill health.
“It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news,” read a statement from his family. “Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.
“He will always be loved for being ‘Boycie’ and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.”
Challis played Terrance Aubrey Boyce in Only Fools And Horses from 1981 to 2003, as well as in the Boycie-focused spin-off show The Green Green Grass.
He recently became an honorary citizen of Serbia, where the BBC sitcom remains hugely popular. Challis made the documentary Boycie In Belgrade, exploring why the show was so beloved in the Balkan country.
Boycie, a cigar-smoking businessman with a mocking laugh, regularly butted heads with Jason’s Del Boy. Sue Holderness, who played Boycie’s wife, Marlene, in the sitcom, paid tribute to Challis as her “beloved friend”.
She said in a statement: “Marlene without Boycie – it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. RIP darling John. I will miss you every day.”
Challis was also known for playing Monty Staines in the ITV sitcom Benidorm.
His family requested that instead of flowers, donations were made to his favoured animal charities: Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.