The actor Dennis Waterman – who starred in the TV shows Minder, The Sweeney and New Tricks – has died at the age of 74.

Waterman, best known for his role as the bodyguard Terry McCann in ITV’s Minder, had a showbiz career that spanned 60 years.

He first found fame playing the tough cop George Carter in The Sweeney and then starred as Gerry Standing, a retired police officer brought back as part of a cold case unit, in the BBC’s New Tricks.

A statement from Waterman’s family said: “We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Dennis passed away very peacefully in hospital in Spain, on Sunday afternoon

with [his wife] Pam by his side. The family kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”

Waterman also had TV roles in ITV’s Where The Heart Is and the BBC’s The Canterbury Tales and Moses Jones.

He was also known for singing the theme songs to many of his shows, and was caricatured by David Walliams in Little Britain.

Walliams’s co-star Matt Lucas was among those to pay tribute. “I grew up watching Dennis Waterman’s iconic performances in The Sweeney and Minder,” he tweeted.

“His guest appearance in our Little Britain Live show at Hammersmith Apollo – in which he hilariously duetted with David’s absurd impersonation of him