Tributes have been paid to actor Simon Shelton after the Teletubbies star died aged 52.

Shelton, who played purple Teletubby Tinky Winky on the hit kids show, died on January 17 in the UK. He was best known for his role in the CBBC show but he also starred in 1990s kids game show Incredible Games.

Shelton took over the role of Tinky Winky in 1997 after original actor Dave Thompson was sacked. The show, which airs on Nick Jr in the U.S., has been a global success, having been sold in 120 countries. Created by Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport, the show originally ran between 1997 and 2001 but was remade in 2014 with 60 new episodes.

Ragdoll Productions, which produced the original, said in a statement: “We will always remember Simon Shelton. He was such a joy to work with, which was clear from the fun and energy that came through the screen, in all of his performances as Tinky Winky.”

The news was revealed by Shelton’s niece actress, Emily Atack, who has starred in shows including The Inbetweeners, in a post on Instagram. She said: “My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly. The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet. Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever.”

He is survived by his wife and three children.