- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 10:00AM
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.
, 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.
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 the Daily Mail: "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."
She said the Teletubbies was his "pièce de résistance" and they "laughed a lot about it because it was silly and he used to tell me that costume weighed 60lbs".
Ms Tynan continued: "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.
"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."
Merseyside Police confirmed to MailOnline today that officers were called to reports that a man had died in the Mann Island area of Liverpool last Wednesday.
Yesterday, John Simmit, who was Dipsy in the show, 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."
The post by Simmit, who is now a stand-up comedian, was retweeted by Po actress Pui Fan Lee, who now presents the CBeebies programme Show Me, Show Me.
Simmit, Pui and Barnes appeared in the show - whose characters had the catchphrase "Eh Oh!"- alongside Nikky Smedley, who played Laa Laa.
Barnes's 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."
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 hand bags.
"People always ask me if Tinky Winky is gay," he said. "But the character is supposed to be a three-year-old so the question is really quite silly."
He also appeared in the BBC children's game show Incredible Games in 1994 and 1995, and was a featured dancer in the 1993 musical drama film Swing Kids.
Teletubbies was watched by one billion children across more than 120 countries in 45 languages. It spawned a number one single, Teletubbies say "Eh-oh!", in 1997.
His family has asked mourners to 'wear bright colours' for his funeral at Bedford Crematorium in a fortnight's time on February 7.
A Merseyside Police spokesman told MailOnline: "We were called to a report that a man had died in the Mann Island area of Liverpool on January 17.
"His death is not being treated as non-suspicious and a file has been prepared for the coroner."
This article was first published on Daily Mail and is republished here with permission.