The actor who played Tinky Winky in BBC children's TV series Teletubbies died aged 52 of hypothermia after collapsing on the streets of Liverpool, a friend confirmed today.

Simon Shelton Barnes, a father-of-three from Ampthill in Bedfordshire, had trained as a ballet dancer and choreographer before taking on the role as the purple Teletubby who carried a "magic bag" in the show from 1998 to 2001 according to DailyMail.

Today, his flatmate Judith Tynan, who is the cousin of his ex-wife Emma Robbins and lived with him on the Wirral for the final year of his life, paid tribute to the "charming and handsome" actor.

She told MailOnline: "I'm very floored at losing him, he was just the best company. He was just the best person to live with and we got on terribly well.

"I'm gobsmacked at losing him. He was charming and handsome and delicate and so lovely to be around. He wasn't difficult, he was pleasurable and a delicate man."

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She said the Teletubbies was his "piece de resistance" and they "laughed a lot about it because it was silly and he used to tell me that costume weighed 60lb [27kg]".

"It was a big to-do to wear it because it was just a big thing, but it made him - it made his life and put him on the map," Tynan said.

"It was a very good time in his life and he was privileged to have been part of that success, I think. I think it worked for him.

"If you're famous everybody knows your face - but they didn't know his face, but he had a big time of it, and it worked. And he had a good living from it.

"I used to say to him every morning, 'Goodness Simon, how do you look so good? He was just a very good looking chap. He was a great flatmate'."

She insisted that she and Barnes were not a couple but just "very, very good friends. Everybody used to think we were a couple, but we weren't."

Merseyside Police confirmed to MailOnline today that officers were called after man died in the Mann Island area of Liverpool last Wednesday.

Yesterday, John Simmit, who was Dipsy in the show and is now a stand-up comedian, tweeted: 'What a week! RIP Simon Shelton aka Tinky Winky: remembering the many good times. Rest easy.

"Lots of messaging between cast and crew as we became a tight bunch over six years on location. We'll give him an appropriate send off in a couple of weeks."

His post was retweeted by Po actress Pui Fan Lee, who now presents the CBeebies programme Show Me, Show Me.

Barnes, whose character was known for carrying a red bag, was the brother-in-law of Poldark actor Robert Daws and uncle of Inbetweeners star Emily Atack.

Atack, who played Charlotte Hinchcliffe in the E4 comedy, said: "My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly."

She wrote in an Instagram post that he was the "kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet", adding: "Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever."

Simmit, Pui and Barnes appeared in the Teletubbies - whose characters had the catchphrase "Eh Oh!" - alongside Nikky Smedley, who played Laa Laa.

Barnes was initially reluctant to take on the role that led to him being sent fan mail from adults as well as children and feeling like a member of The Beatles.

He once said: "I started my career as a ballet dancer and had just started working as a choreographer. I thought it was a bit of a risky move but it certainly paid off.

"We used to receive a lot of fan mail from kids and parents. I suppose we were a bit like the Beatles or the Take That of children's television."

Also paying tribute to him was singer Paul McCartney's brother Mike McGear, who is a second cousin of Barnes' former wife, actress Emma Robbins.

The Teletubbies, (L-R) Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po attend photocall to promote new tour at Westfield on September 10, 2009 in London, England. Photo / Getty
The Teletubbies, (L-R) Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po attend photocall to promote new tour at Westfield on September 10, 2009 in London, England. Photo / Getty

McGear wrote on Facebook: "So sad to hear about Si. He was a lovely lad and will be dancing along Uncle Bill's bar, knocking Mum and Dad, Milly and Ginny, Mike and Betts drinks off, as we talk! Love to you and kids from me and mine."

And Barnes' son Henry said: "I lost my lovely dad on Wednesday, he was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything.

"I always used to be embarrassed as a child that he was a dancer and an actor but now I couldn't be more proud.

"He is in a better place now and I know he wouldn't want me to be sad, so I'm going to live my life the way he would want me to."

His daughter Lydia Barnes added: "I love you so much Dad... always have, always will. The most beautiful man in the world. Forever in my heart."

And the CBeebies parenting Twitter feed tweeted: "Very sad to hear Teletubbies actor Simon Shelton who played Tinky Winky has passed away! Tubby hugs."

Barnes was not the original Tinky Winky in Teletubbies, although he did play the character on the BBC Two show between 1998 and 2001.

His predecessor Dave Thompson, who is now a comedian, was allegedly sacked by producers Ragdoll for "misinterpreting" the role and implying the Teletubby was gay.

Barnes said the sexuality of the character was a question he was frequently asked because of Tinky Winky's penchant for handbags.