Simon Barnes who played Tinky Winky in the Teletubbies dies aged 52

The actor who portrayed Tinky Winky in children’s series Teletubbies, Simon Barnes, has died aged 52.

Barnes, a father of three, died four days after celebrating his birthday.

He described being in the Teletubbies as “a bit like the Beatles or Take That of television.”

The trained ballet dancer and choreographer portrayed Tinky Winky in the hit series.

His character always carried a red magic handbag.

The actor became embroiled in a controversy over the character’s sexual orientation and whether Tinky Winky was a gay icon.

Evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell back in 1999 accused the character of being morally damaging to children.

“He is purple – the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol,” he wrote in the National Liberty Journal in an article called ‘Parents Alert’.

He said that there were “subtle deceptions” in the series and wrote: “As a Christian I feel that role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children.”

“People always ask me if Tinky Winky is gay,” Barnes replied to the controversy.

“But the character is supposed to be a three-year-old so the question is really quite silly.”

Writing on Instagram, Inbetweeners actor Emily Atack, paid tribute to her Uncle Barnes, writing: “My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly. The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet. Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever.”

Barnes played Tinky Winky from 1997 when Dave Thompson stepped down from the role.

Thompson said he was sacked after 70 episodes as the character because his “interpretation of the role was not acceptable”.

The BBC at the time responded to say: “We are not allowed to say. As far as we are concerned they are real.”

The show first aired on BBC2 on 31 March 1997.

And the characters of the show, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Lala and Po had a number one single in December 1997 with the song ‘Eh-oh’.

Sales of Merchandise totalled more than £1 billion around the world.