On The Buses star Anna Karen dies in house fire aged 85

The actress was also known for playing Aunt Sal in Eastenders.

23 February 2022

Anna Karen, the last surviving star of the hit ITV sitcom On The Buses, has died in a house fire at the age of 85.

The actress, who played Olive Rudge in the programme from 1969 to 1973, died in east London on Tuesday night.

Karen was also known for her role as Aunt Sal in Eastenders and appeared in some of the Carry On films.

The Metropolitan Police said the circumstances of the fire on Windsor Road in Ilford do not appear to be suspicious.

Karen’s agent Shane Collins told the PA news agency: “It is a terrible tragedy. I loved Anna. I’ve known her since I was a kid and she’s been the most wonderful lady.

“I’ve been privileged to look after her as her agent for the last few years.”

Mr Collins said Karen, who was born in South Africa, was best friends with the late Dame Barbara Windsor, adding: “It’s just very, very sad.”

An EastEnders spokesperson said: “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.”

Scott Mitchell, husband of the late Dame Barbara said he is “desperately sad and shocked” to hear about Karen’s death.

He said: “Barbara and Anna were lifelong friends and Anna was always what I considered to be Barbara’s only real girlfriend.

“Anna had seen Barbara go through every stage of her life and their late night phone calls together before Barbara’s illness, will always be a fond memory for me of hearing them put the world to rights.

“Anna and I had kept in regular contact since Barbara’s passing and she was a good friend and support to me when things were tough and we spoke a couple of weeks ago.

“It was a fun chat and I thought how upbeat she sounded. We always shared memories and jokes about Barbara.

“Anna was one of three I asked to speak at Barbara’s funeral. I will remember her straight talking, great humour and intelligence. May she rest in peace.”

Stephen Lewis, Doris Hare, Bob Grant and Anna Karen from On The Buses
Anna Karen, right, with from left On The Buses co-stars Stephen Lewis, Doris Hare and Bob Grant (PA)

London Fire Brigade (LFB) said they were called at 10.40pm and the fire was under control by 11.38pm with around 20 firefighters at the scene.

“Sadly, a woman has died following a house fire on Windsor Road in Ilford.

“Part of the ground floor of a mid-terrace house was damaged by fire. Sadly a woman was pronounced dead at the scene,” LFB said.

The Metropolitan Police said formal identification is still to take place, adding: “The cause of the fire is under investigation, though early indications suggest it is not suspicious.”

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.43pm yesterday evening (February 22) to reports of a fire at a residential address on Windsor Road, Ilford.

“We sent a paramedic in a fast-response car and an incident response officer. Sadly, a person died at the scene.”

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