EastEnders stars pay tribute to Anna Karen after tragic death

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EastEnders stars Rita Simons and Jake Wood have paid tribute to their former castmate Anna Karen, who tragically died in a house fire on Tuesday.

Karen was pronounced dead at the age of 85 after the London Fire Brigade responded to a house fire at her home. Although the cause of the fire is under investigation, Metropolitan Police officers are not treating the blaze as suspicious.

She rose to fame as Olive in sitcom On the Buses, which ran from 1969 to 1973, before landing the recurring role of Aunt Sal, the older sister of Barbara Windsor's formidable publican Peggy Mitchell, on the BBC soap between 1996 and 2017.

Paying tribute to Karen, Simons, who starred as Roxy Mitchell, tweeted on Wednesday, "I just heard the awful news about the wonderful Anna Karen. Horrific and awful and so so sad. She was one of the best. Sleep well lovely Anna. Sending all my love to her family and friends."

Wood, who played Max Branning, added, "So sad to hear of the passing of Anna Karen. Loved working with her, so funny and full of character RIP."

Danniella Westbrook, who became one of the soap's most recognisable stars in the '90s by playing Sam Mitchell, tweeted, "I'm devastated at the lost off lovely Anna, my condolences to her family. May she Rest In Peace (sic)."

An official statement from EastEnders representatives to Digital Spy reads, "We are deeply saddened to hear that Anna Karen has passed away.

"Anna created a sharp, quick witted and extremely popular character in Aunt Sal that the audience will never forget, just as those who worked with her at EastEnders will never forget her warmth, kindness fun and good humour. Our love and thoughts are with Anna's family and friends."

Windsor's widower, Scott Mitchell, also paid tribute to the actress, telling The Sun she was one of his late wife's "lifelong friends".

Karen reprised her role as Olive in the '70s series The Rag Trade and also appeared in the films Carry On Camping and Carry On Loving.