EASTENDERS actress Anna Karen and her co-star Barbara Windsor enjoyed an incredible five-decade long friendship.
Nothing proved it more than when Barbara – who tragically passed away in 2020 – left her close friend a lump sum of money in her will.
It was tragically announced today that Anna had died following a horrific fire at her home in Windsor Road, Ilford, on Tuesday night.
The star – who was 85 – enjoyed a close friendship with late pal Babs, who passed away aged 83 after a battle with Alzhiemer’s 14 months ago.
The pair had been pals for many decades, with the Peggy Mitchell star first acting alongside the Aunt Sal actress in the 1960s.
As a testament to their friendship, when Barbara passed away in 2020, she left a small lump sum of £1,000 to Anna in her will.
It was the same amount of money that the Carry On star had donated to a number of charities including NSPCC, Breast Care and Help The Aged.
Anna, who was best known for her role in the 1970s show On The Buses, was pronounced dead at the scene after a deadly fire last night.
Firefighters fought the blaze on the ground floor of the terraced house for an hour, but were unable to save the actress.
The star had an impressive TV and film career, which started with a role of a schoolgirl in Carry On Camping alongside lifelong friend Barbara.
The friends had met at a nightclub in the 1960s, with Babs telling The Mirror that Anna had originally been “a stripper”.
“We met in the Swinging Sixties when I was singing in a nightclub in London’s Bond Street and Anna was on the bill as a stripper,” she said.
“She was giving it her all – a real tassels on the nipples act. I was working on Carry On Camping and Anna had a small part in it too.”
Ironically, their first scene together saw them having a fight, in the iconic Carry On scene which saw Barbara’s bikini top fly off.
Read our Anna Karen blog for the latest updates on her death
“We ended up screaming with laughter the whole way through. She had no airs and graces and we became solid friends,” Babs concluded.
It was Barbara who encouraged Anna to audition for her role in Wild, Wild Women, where she went on to play Maude in six episodes.
They were reunited in 1996 when they were cast as sisters in EastEnders – with Anna playing Peggy Mitchell’s sister Aunt Sal.
Anna said at the time: “It’s great to be back on the box and a real treat to be working alongside my old mate.”
The actress appeared in 57 episodes of the BBC One soap – with her final scene airing in January 2017.
Last night, Anna died in a blaze at her home in Ilford, east London.
Three fire engines and around 20 firefighters rushed to the blaze in Ilford, London, at 10.20pm last night. Despite their best efforts, Anna died at the scene.
Anna’s agent Shane Collins, who also represented her best friend Barbara Windsor, said: “It is very sad news.
“But I’m happy that Anna will now be with her best mate Barbara and her beloved husband Terry Duggan.
“Anna was a great lady and a really nice person. She was a fantastic client to look after. I can’t tell you how much I liked her.
“She went through a hard time after she broke her hip a few years ago but came back to work again and appeared in EastEnders with a stick.
“Over the last couple of years she has been at home with friends popping by and her neighbours looking out for her.”
Tributes have since been paid to the actress with Cheryl Baker, singer in 80s pop band Bucks Fizz ,saying: “I have just heard the awful news that my fabulous mate, Anna Karen has died in a house fire.
“What an horrific way to die, I can’t bear to think about it. I adored her – She was an absolute treasure, both on and off the screen.”