TRIBUTES have been paid to comedy actress Bella Emberg who has died, aged 80. 

The British actress was best known for her character Blunder Woman, the comic sidekick of hapless superhero Cooperman in the 1980's television programme The Russ Abbot Show.

She was also a sponsor of the Ferne Animal Sanctuary in Chard for more than 30 years and opened their Jubilee celebrations in 1999. 

In a post on social media, a spokesman for the Ferne Animal Sanctuary, paid tribute to the star and described her as 'a kind, funny and generous lady'. 

The post said: "Very sad to hear about the passing of Bella, a long-time supporter and sponsor of the sanctuary for over 30 years.

"She opened our Jubilee celebrations at Ferne in 1999.

"Travelling from her home in London, she refused to take even a penny for expenses.

"A kind, funny generous lady who loved all animals. She will be greatly missed. RIP Bella."

A number of comedians and TV personalities including Russ Abbott, Les Dennis, Paul Chuckle and Cheryl Fergison have paid tribute to the veteran actress. 

In a statement issued to the Press Association, Abbot, 70, said: "It is with a heavy heart that I heard the news about Bella. She was my leading lady throughout most of my career.

"She was not only a great sport but a huge comedy talent. A genuinely funny woman, but most of all a woman of immense warmth and generosity. I count myself very lucky to have worked alongside her.

"She really was a one off. RIP Bella."

Les Dennis, who appeared on The Russ Abbot Show, shared a photo of himself with Emberg on Twitter, saying he was "so sad" to lose a "funny, lovely friend".

Paul Chuckle, real name Paul Elliott, who performed in pantomime with Emberg remembered her as "the funniest fairy ever", while EastEnders star Fergsion said she was a "lovable and always an inspiration".

During a television career spanning six decades, Emberg appeared in several hit programmes including The Benny Hill Show, Doctor Who and Z Cars.

However it was her turn as Blunderwoman, the comic sidekick of Abbot's Cooperman in the 1980s, that she will be best remembered.

In a June 2017 interview with the Daily Mirror she said the role was a boost for her career, but the success of her character became a burden.

She said: "Blunderwoman saved my career - and I still view her as a complete blessing.

"After it ended in 1996 I couldn't get work. I went for jobs and they'd say: 'We'd love to hire you but you're too well known with Russ'."

Despite her years, Emberg continued to perform, most recently filming scenes for In The Long Run, a Sky One comedy created by Idris Elba, before Christmas.

One of the series' producers, Charlie Hanson, said Emberg was a "lovely and funny woman" and a "brilliant" actress.