Veteran British actor Ian Richardson, the star of the BBC's House of Cards, has died at the age of 72.

The stage and television screen stalwart died in his sleep unexpectedly at his central London home earlier today, his agent said, adding that he was due to begin filming an episode of Midsomer Murders for ITV1 next week.

Born in Edinburgh in 1934, Richardson is best known for his role as scheming prime ministerial candidate Francis Urquhart in the TV adaptation of Michael Dobbs' novel.

The character's catchphrase "you may think that - I couldn't possibly comment" has been immortalised as part of the lexicography of political doublespeak.

He also played iconic detective Sherlock Holmes in TV versions of Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four in the 1980s, as well as being a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Richardson was most recently seen in the BBC1's Bleak House and also narrated Terry Pratchett's Hogfather during Sky One's Christmas season.

09/02/2007 12:44:17