It's a very sad day indeed for soap fans, with news that Richard Thorp, aka Alan Turner, has died at the age of 81. He worked on the soap for over 30 years, and was the longest serving member of the cast. Thorp had been filming until recently, and it's understood that his character will actually appear in tomorrow night's episode.

"On behalf of the cast, crew and production team at Emmerdale, we are extremely sad to hear of Richard's death." a statement from the Emmerdale team read. "A pillar of the show, he will be greatly missed around the Emmerdale studios but will forever live on in all the wonderful memories we all have of him. Richard was a true professional and a complete gentleman. His charm, wit and effortless grace will be sorely missed."

Emmerdale producer Kate Oates was the first to break the news to the press, and spoke of her sadness at his passing. "Richard's death is a sad loss to Emmerdale, of which he was at the heart for so many wonderful years", she said. "Richard had a brilliant sense of humour and he will be missed by every single member of our production whose lives he touched."

His fellow cast members have been paying tribute to him since the news broke. 'Devastating news to hear about the legend #RichardThorp a legend and a true gentlemen, he will be missed dearly! A friend to everyone...' tweeted former star Danny Miller. Meanwhile Adam Thomas, who plays Adam Barton, took to Twitter too: 'Wow so lucky I got to work with such a gentlemen... always smiling on set telling me jokes haha u will be missed big man RIP x.'

Thorp is survived by his four children. RIP.