ONLY Fools and Horses star John Challis, best known for playing Boycie, has died at the age of 79 after a long battle with cancer.

He was best-known for his portrayal of the second-hand car dealer in the well-loved sitcom with Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

He cancelled a 30-date speaking tour earlier this month after only one appearance due to ill health.

In a statement to the PA news agency, the family of Challis said: "It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news.

"Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

"He will always be loved for being 'Boycie' and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

"Please respect the privacy of John's family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John's life - when everyone will be welcome to come along."

John Challis's family said donations in his memory can be made to his chosen animal charities Cuan Wildlife Rescue, Tusk or the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

Their statement added: "As Boycie would have said... you know it makes sense!"