Leah Bracknell, who played much-loved Emmerdale lesbian character, dies after battle with lung cancer

Leah Bracknell

Leah Bracknell, who played a much-loved lesbian Emmerdale character for 16 years, has passed away at the age of 55 from lung cancer.

Bracknell, known to friends and family as Ali, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2016. 

The actress played Zoe Tate, a lesbian character who battled with schizophrenia, and she used her role to raise awareness of issues faced by the LGBT+ community, as well as those suffering with mental health problems.

She left the show in 2005, and afterwards worked as a yoga instructor.

According to the BBC, a statement on behalf of her family announced “with the deepest sadness” that Bracknell died last month.

It continued: “Leah had an energy and enthusiasm for life, a kind heart and much love to give to those around her.

“Leah continued to embrace life and faced her illness with positivity.”

Leah Bracknell on Emmerdale set

Actress Leah Bracknell on set during filming of British television soap opera Emmerdale in 1989. (Tim Roney/Getty)

Leah Bracknell said before she dies that cancer had “rekindled [her] passion for life”.

Bracknell chronicled her battle with cancer on her blog Something Beginning with C.

On the blog she wrote: “I chose to cultivate a relationship with my disease.  To ask it: why are you here? And what have you to teach me?

“I discovered that when I ceased regarding cancer as my enemy and looked beyond the fear, it gave me the opportunity to embark on a profound personal healing journey, emotionally and spiritually that has transformed my whole outlook on life.”

She continued: “Having cancer has restored a deep appreciation and gratitude for my existence.

“It has been an awakening. Cancer has been my greatest challenge, but also my greatest teacher, one that has rekindled my passion for life.

“It has taught me that a life well-lived is the best medicine, that we can all be the alchemists of our own ‘healing’, whatever the outcome, and that life is not merely about existing or surviving, but thriving with a capital T.”