Ross Kemp tells of sadness as Dame Barbara Windsor fails to recognise him

Julia Hunt
Ross Kemp and Barbara Windsor at the British Soap Awards, from the BBC Television Centre.

Ross Kemp has told how his EastEnders friend Dame Barbara Windsor failed to recognise him as a result of her struggle with dementia.

The actress, 82 – who is best known for playing Walford’s pub landlady Peggy Mitchell  - was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.

Kemp, who played her son Grant in the BBC soap, has remained close to the actress and her husband Scott Mitchell and explores the condition in his new ITV programme Ross Kemp: Living With Dementia.

Read more: Dame Barbara Windsor asks Boris Johnson to help dementia patients

Speaking to The Sun, Kemp described a visit to see Dame Barbara, saying he was taken aback when she asked him who he was.

The actor, 55, said it has been “deeply upsetting” to see the star’s condition deteriorate following her diagnosis.

He said: “I see her as often as I can – every couple of months before the lockdown – and the deterioration in her condition has been shocking and, to those of us close to her, deeply upsetting.”

The series sees Kemp speaking to Dame Barbara’s husband Mitchell about the illness.

Mitchell told him: “It’s not the Barbara that I knew. It’s not my wife Barbara any more.

“I’m Barbara’s carer, I’m still her friend, you know, I still love the bones off the woman but it’s not the Barbara I knew, and you [did], that I live with.”

The actress is rarely seen in public these days.

Read more: Barbara Windsor makes rare TV appearance

But in January she described Alzheimer’s as “a cruel illness” as she made a rare appearance in a video message.

Barbara Windsor with Ross Kemp, at The Dorchester Hotel, London, for a Variety Club lunch in her honour.

The soap legend was seen in a video played at the first Good Morning Britain 1 Million Minutes Awards.

In the clip, the actress awarded a man the inaugural Dame Barbara Windsor Award - an accolade for someone who has helped people with Alzheimer’s or dementia combat loneliness. 

Addressing the winner, she said: “Volunteers like you are so important in the fight against loneliness, especially for those like us, who know all too well the struggles of a cruel illness.”