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Hi-de-Hi yellow coat Linda Regan feared being recognized in cocaine drug bust

Ever since she first put on her yellow coat nearly 40 years ago Linda Regan has got used to being recognized in public – along with shouts of “hi-de-hi!”.

But recently she hoped there would be no fans of the sitcom at London’s Canary Wharf Tube station – as she was pounced on by police dogs who had sniffed cocaine hidden in her shoes.

Alas, someone did spot her, leaving the actress, who played lovestruck April in the hit 80s holiday camp comedy, floundering to explain it was all for research.

Linda, 72, now an acclaimed author of crime novels, recalls: “I’d asked the Met police if I could shadow the dog team, and they agreed but said, ‘we’re going to be training the dogs, would you mind have some cocaine in your heel?’

All of Linda’s books follow police inspectors as they solve gross crimes and are set in South London, where she grew up


Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

“So I’m walking through Canary Wharf station, one of the dogs smelt the drugs and came leaping up to me barking like a lunatic.

“Then somebody got off the Tube and started shouting, ‘She’s on telly! Look, she’s just been done for drugs!’ I’m going, ‘no, no, no, tell them, tell them’. It was quite funny really.”

Linda, who has appeared in everything from Carry On films to Birds of a Feather and The Bill, says her outings with police have helped her construct her meticulously researched plots.

Her eight books follow inspectors as they solve gross crimes and are set in South London, where she grew up.

In her latest novel, The Burning Question, DCI Paul Banham and DI Alison Grainger investigate after women are burned to death in their houses.

For Linda, who grew up surrounded by showbiz because of her variety agent dad, becoming an author has come as more of a surprise than her on-screen success.

She says: “I was born in Brixton on a very shabby road, but when things started looking up my mother sent me and my sister off to a very strict Catholic convent school. I hate school.

Linda, 72, now an acclaimed author of crime novels


Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

[Left to right] Julie-Christian Young as Babs, Laura Jackson as Dawn and Linda Regan as April from sitcom Hi-De-Hi

“I was dyslexic and could only write backwards. I lost all my confidence. My teachers would tell me to write my name on the blackboard and I could only go l, in.

“They’d say, ‘go and stand in the corner with your hands behind you back until you learn to write!’. I’d be thinking, ‘how can you learn to write with your hands behind your back?’

“I do wish some of them were alive to see me. While my Catholic mother loved them, my dad hated them.

“He called them all dreadful names. When he sadly died and we went to see his grave he’d been buried next to this mountain of the nuns from my school! I wonder if they’re underground still fighting.”

Linda was expelled for playing truant and became a stand-up comedian before joining the Worcester Repertory Company. She starred in sex comedies in the 1970s, including two Carry On films.

She recalls: “If someone offers you a very large check when your car is falling to bits you take the job.

Linda Regan was recently pounced on by police dogs who’d sniffed cocaine hidden in her shoes, after asking to shadow the team as research for a book


Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

“My dad loved the Carry Ons. But my mother was upset when I showed my boobs. She kept saying we couldn’t let Aunty May, who was deeply Catholic, go to the cinema.

“My daddy didn’t care though, he just said, ‘how much did you get?’”

Linda joined Hi-de-Hi! in 1984 at the height of its success with audiences of over 20 million.

She remembers: “On the first day there was a massive crowd. When I put on my yellow coat it was like a swarm of bees, and quite frightened me.

“Everywhere you went people would shout ‘hi-de-hi!’ It’s lovely people really loved the show.”

The attention increased after, aged 39, she married actor Brian Murphy, best known as henpecked husband George Roper in sitcom George and Mildred.

Whatever enjoyment she had being spotted was shattered when, in 2004, she was kidnapped at knifepoint as she was parking her car in Crystal Palace, South London.

But Linda managed to jump out of the car at a junction.

Linda is married to Brian Murphy, best known as the henpecked husband George Roper from the popular sitcom Man About the House


Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror)

Months later, she tested positive for stomach cancer, which she believes was caused by the stress.

She said: “The doctor told Brian I wouldn’t see it through the night. It was horrible.

“I can remember being brought round after passing out from pressure on my heart. But I’m now completely cancer free. After that every day is a good day.”

She also believes the experience pushed her towards writing thrillers.

“I was having much darker thoughts. Then I said to myself, ‘get a grip, you can use the emotion of fear’.”

Her first novel, Behind You, nearly didn’t make it out of the recycling bin where she threw it.

Unbeknown to her, Brian saved it and entered it into a competition, which she won.

Linda modeling in Lurashells ‘Aquarius’ chair during an Earls Court exhibit in 1970


Alamy Stock Photo)

Linda believes she was also inspired by the ghost of Enid Blyton, who owned the house in Bromley, South London, where she lived.

She says: “When we sold the house I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to write. She was a very dark writer, and she really wasn’t that nice.

“I also had training with crime writer Colin Dexter, who I adored.”

Linda now spends most of her time at the home she shares with Brian, 88, both of whom appear to be age-defying. “We’ve a great time together,” she says.

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“We’re always joking about. We listen and bring the best out of each other.

“I’ve told him if he doesn’t live to be 150 I’ll kill him! He’s in great nick, he does pilates, goes to the gym and swims.”

But she’s been saddened by the deaths of many of her showbiz friends, including her Carry On co-star Barbara Windsor and EastEnders legend June Brown.

Linda Regan’s novel The Burning Question

Linda Regan’s novel Soho Killer

She says: “John Challis too, he was one of the nicest actors.

“But I broke my heart over Bobby Ball, nobody made me laugh more than him. And Anna Karen was one of my dearest friends.

“I can’t bear to hear the phone ringing in case it’s anybody else.”

  • The Burning Question is published by Headline Accent on May 12, £9.99.

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