Walking Dead fans have become accustomed to seeing some of their favourite (and sometimes, not-so-favourite) characters depart in an untimely fashion, but the latest star to leave is a big one (spoilers ahead, obviously).

It's been announced that Andrew Lincoln, who has played the show's lynchpin Rick Grimes for eight years and remains the leading character in many respects, will leave the show after Season 9.

Lincoln has been a cast member since the very first episode, so his loss is sure to be a big blow to both viewers and the momentum of the series. Reports suggest that AMC has offered Norman Reedus (Daryl) 'substantial compensation' to stay on and take over the leading role.

Lincoln, meanwhile, will depart after six episodes of the next season - while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is set to return after re-negotiating her own contract for six episodes. He hasn't commented on the news as yet.