Ant, Dec and Ben Shephard lead tributes to Britain’s Got Talent star Ian Royce after his death

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ANT and Dec have led the tributes to Britain’s Got Talent’s warm-up star Ian Royce following his sad death.

The funnyman’s family took to his official Twitter page this evening to confirm that he’d passed away at the age of 51.

Ian Royce has sadly passed away

Ant and Dec have worked with Ian on the ITV series for several years, and called him a “legendary character” in a touching tribute.

Replying to the tweet, the Geordie duo wrote: “So sorry to hear this news Roxanne, he was a legendary character and will not be forgotten.

“He was always so proud of you too. You are in our thoughts and prayers xx”.

Good Morning Britain’s Ben Shephard also paid his respects, writing: “Roxanne I’m so so sorry to hear this – I had too many wonderful hilarious times with him, he was one of the best at what he did, a great mate and gave the BEST hugs ever.

Ant and Dec led the tributes

Ben Shephard also paid his respects

“Sending you all loads of love. Xx”

Rylan Clark-Neal added: “Sending love to all the family xx”

Myleene Klass was also touched by the news, remembering Ian as she wrote: “I’m so sorry to hear this news Roxanne.

“He was extremely kind, loving and supportive to me and my girls. I will raise a glass tonight to this extraordinarily talented, kindhearted, loyal man.”

Celebs are mourning the BGT favourite

In a social media statement, Ian’s family wrote earlier today: “It is with our greatest regret that we have to tell you all that Ian has passed away today from severe pneumonia and multiple organ failure.

“He was in no pain and was surrounded by friends and family. He put up a good fight but is in a better place now.”

Ian had last tweeted just one week ago and appeared in high spirits as he challenged Ashley Banjo to a dance off after it was confirmed he’d be stepping in for injured Simon Cowell on the BGT judging panel.

He wrote to his 68,000 followers on 24th August: “@AshleyBanjo to sit in for @SimonCowell…

Ian’s death was announced earlier this evening
He was a Britain’s Got Talent icon

“Amazing choice…

“Get well soon @SimonCowell and go @AshleyBanjo …. Dance off??”

Last year, the hype-man bravely admitted that he was battling alcoholism, with a friend creating a GoFundMe page to raise £20,000 for him to check into rehab facility The Priory.

In a video, Ian, who had admitted considering taking his own life in the fundraising bio, said: “Please, please, please give me some hope.”

Ant and Dec each donated £2,500, with Simon Cowell and Robbie Williams also among the donors.

Ian battled alcoholism

Ian confirmed he’d be completing a 28-day programme in October last year, writing: “To rehab I do go… Thank you so much to everyone for your help…

“Pucker up @PrioryGroup I’m on my way.”

He also thanked his celebrity friends for their support – claiming that they had “saved his life”.

He wrote at the time: “I am so grateful to so many for saving my life….. Thank you so much everyone and my amazing girlfriend xx @SimonCowell @antanddec @robbiewilliams @ollyofficial thank you for a light…..”

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