• British TV comic and actress Aherne dies aged 52

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    LONDON: British television star Caroline Aherne, who became a household name after starring in comedy hits “The Royle Family,” “The Mrs Merton Show” and “The Fast Show,” has died of cancer aged 52, her publicist announced Saturday.

    “Caroline Aherne has sadly passed away, after a brave battle with cancer,” said publicist Neil Reading.

    “The Bafta award-winning writer and comedy actor died earlier today at her home in Timperley, Greater Manchester. She was 52.”

    Little Britain star David Walliams was among many paying tribute, calling her a “true comedy genius”, adding her work was “equally funny & touching.”

    BBC chief Tony Hall said the organisation was “deeply saddened” by the news.

    “She was a brilliant, award-winning comedy writer and performer, much loved by audiences – especially for The Royle Family and Mrs Merton and for her wonderful voicing of many shows,” he added.

    Aherne revealed previous battles with cancer in 2014, saying: “I’ve had cancer and my brother’s had cancer and we know how it affects people.”

    Both her and her brother were born with cancer of the retina. “My mum told us that only special people get cancer. I must be very special because I’ve had it in my lungs and my bladder as well,” she said.

    Aherne first hit the screens as a sharp-talking checkout girl in sketch program “The Fast Show”, but became famous for her elderly agony aunt alter-ego Mrs Merton, who delivered subtle but deadly criticism to celebrities from behind a gentle exterior.

    Her talents as a writer came to the fore during her work on sit-com “The Royle Family,” set almost exclusively in the living room of a working-class northern English family.

    She played the family’s feckless chain-smoking daughter Denise, whose idea of Christmas dinner included a Cup-a-Soup starter, Walls Vienneta dessert and a turkey defrosted in the bath.

    Aherne endured a complicated personal life, once dating New Order bassist Peter Hook, and battled recurring ill health, depression and alcoholism. AFP

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