Sir John Mortimer, author and creator of the character Rumpole of the Bailey, has died at 85 following a long illness.

The former barrister died at 06:30 GMT at his cottage near Henley, Berkshire, said Tony Lacey, his publisher at Penguin.

With him were his second wife Penny and daughters Rosie and Emily.

Educated at Harrow and Brasenose College, Oxford, Sir John was called to the bar in 1948 and combined his legal and literary careers for several years.

He appeared for the defence in the obscene publications trial regarding DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in the 1960s but his work as a barrister proved to be the inspiration for his authorial success.

The character of Horace Rumpole first appeared in a BBC Play for Today in 1975 before gracing numerous novels, short stories and a television series starring Leo McKern.

"It's a great loss for the huge circle of his admirers, fans and friends who will always carry Rumpole and the other wonderful works he wrote, in their hearts," said Alison Hindell, the BBC's head of radio drama.

16/01/2009 12:21:13