27 JUNE 2005

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British television has lost one of its most popular presenters after Countdown's Richard Whiteley died on Sunday night. The 61-year-old passed away after undergoing surgery in Leeds General Hospital to replace a faulty heart valve.

Richard was originally admitted to Bradford Royal Infirmary on May 6 when he was diagnosed with pneumonia. After several weeks in an induced coma his condition appeared to stabilise, but doctors then discovered an infection in one of his heart valves and transferred him to Leeds.

News of his death came as a shock to the millions of TV fans who regularly tuned in to watch his daily banter with co-host Carol Vorderman. Prior to falling ill last month he hadn't missed a single recording of the show, which had been running for 23 years. Indeed Richard, who received an OBE from the Queen in April, was the first person to appear on screen when Channel 4 started broadcasting on November 5, 1982.

His long-term partner Kathryn Apanowicz was at his bedside when he passed away. Richard is also survived by his 17-year-old son James.

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During his 23 years as frontman of the show Richard didn't miss a single recording. Two months ago he received an OBE from the Queen
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