Bill Roache is ‘utterly heartbroken’ after the death of his eldest daughter Vanya, who died last week aged 50.
The Coronation Street actor has taken compassionate leave after losing his first-born, who he had with his first wife Anna Cropper, on March 2.
Sadly, it’s the second time he’s been forced to mourn a child, with Bill, 85, losing daughter Edwina to pneumonia aged 18 months in 1983.
And show bosses have reportedly told him to take as much time away from the cobbles as he needs.
“Bill is utterly heartbroken. No father should have to go through the loss of a child, let alone two. ITV are giving him all the time he needs but he’s understandably very upset," a source told The Sun.
“After hearing the news on Friday he’s been told to take as long as required. There’s no word just yet on when he’ll return.”
Vanya, who lived in Chichester, West Sussex, is survived by her fiance Toby.
Paying tribute online, friend Wendy Elisabeth Vick changed her profile picture to one of her late friend, writing, “My beautiful, perfect, wonderful best friend and soulmate. Forever in my heart.”
Vanya supported her father through his rape and sex assault trial in 2014, celebrating his innocence on Facebook.
“My beautiful family, wonderful father and a very happy and truthful day," she wrote.
The star has played Ken Barlow in the soap for more than 50 years, making his first appearance on December 9, 1960. While on screen his love life had been infamously chaotic, Bill enjoyed a long second marriage to Sara Mottram before her sudden death in 2009 aged just 58.
The pair – who had Edwina, daughter Verity and son William after marrying in 1978 – had been chatting in bed at their home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, when she suddenly collapsed and died.
"Sara was bright-eyed, with-it, ahead of the game and she did everything for me. She was one of those people who was going to live to 120 then suddenly, whoosh," he said in 2010.
The tragedies in Bill’s life
The Coronation Street star has weathered numerous heartbreaks in his 85 years, including the devastating death of his 18-month-old daughter in 1983.
He previously described how his late wife Sara let out a piercing scream upon finding Edwina’s lifeless body in her cot.
But as the couple struggled to come to terms with their loss, Bill had a ‘psychic vision’ of their daughter.
"It was like a glory of gold with our little child’s face and with it came a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity. I told Sara and she said she felt stronger," he previously said.
Sadly, after 38 years of marriage he lost Sara too in 2009.
The couple had been sat chatting in bed when she suddenly collapsed and died.
"There was no ailment, no stroke, no heart attack or blood clot, nothing like that," he explained. "There was no structural failure, no disease nothing wrong other than the electrical impulse to the heart stopped and they didn’t know why. She just went."
“There was no ailment, no stroke, no heart attack or blood clot, nothing like that. There was no structural failure, no disease nothing wrong other than the electrical impulse to the heart stopped and they didn’t know why. She just went.
“It was so sudden and in a way I’m grateful for that. There was no illness, no lingering pain. It was a beautiful way to go…just not yet. It was too soon.”
When it comes to his own ageing, he recently revealed he believes he is actually getting younger, insisting the human body is ‘designed to go on for ever.’
“Ken Barlow is me – he’s getting older and I’m getting older with him. Though I’ve now decided I’m actually getting younger," he told the Radio Times.
“A few years ago, I made the decision that I was going to start getting younger. It’s a belief system, really.
“A lot of people think if they’ve got an ache or pain, it must be age. It’s nothing to do with age. Age has no ailments attached to it – your cells renew themselves equally all the time.
"If you’ve got an ailment, it’s probably because you’ve been eating the wrong stuff or living the wrong life.
"The body was actually designed to go on for ever.”
After the death of Sara he joined the Pure Love movement and penned a book about his spiritual beliefs.
The group meets for regular sessions in a “circle of love”, meditating, taking part in alternative reiki healing sessions and discussing the mysteries of the spiritual world at a charge of £5 per person.
Bill’s devotion to spiritualism became so great that it led to the break-up of his last relationship with TV weather girl Emma Jesson, 44, in 2013.
“Bill’s spiritual beliefs became more of a priority last year,” Emma said at the time. “He wants that to be his path now and I accept that, as he needs to be at peace with himself.”
Circle of Love founder Ann Rogers, 71, described the group’s message as simply “one hundred per cent just love”. She added: “It’s not a religion, it’s not a cult. The message is too simple, it’s hard to perceive."
Bill once credited his beliefs with helping him and Sara heal after the shocking death of Edwina in 1984.
It was Sara who found the tot lifeless in her cot, and let out a piercing scream as she realised their baby had gone.
“It was such a shock. I’d never known grief to be such a physical pain. We were both numb to begin with. We couldn’t talk or eat and were surviving on hot chocolate, I couldn’t speak on the phone without crying," Bill said.
“I honestly didn’t know how I was going to cope with the funeral.”
However, he has a ‘psychic vision’ of his daughter, telling him not to worry.
“I can see it now, It was absolutely amazing . It was like a glory of gold with our little child’s face and with it came a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity. I told Sara and she said she felt stronger," he said.
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