Coward passed away on Sunday (12Feb17) after a battle with terminal cancer, it was revealed on The Archers website on Monday.

Coward was best known for playing Caroline Sterling, owner of the Grey Gables Hotel and Health Club, in the long-running BBC Radio 4 drama. She made her first appearance in 1977 and The Archers editor, Huw Kennair-Jones, has issued a statement paying tribute to Coward.

"Everyone in The Archers family is very sad today," he said. "Even when she was navigating the tribulations of Caroline Sterling's love life, Sara's deft wit and clever characterisation meant Caroline was never solely defined by her relationships but always as a fully rounded, intriguing woman of substance... We will all miss her both professionally and personally."

Coward was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the autumn (16) after finding a lump on her neck and swelling in her right arm shortly after she had recovered from breast cancer. She was living in a palliative care home in Leamington Spa, England when she spoke to the Radio Times in January and said she would "prefer it to be over quickly" and for someone else to play her character.

Coward, who last appeared on The Archers in September (16), also enjoyed parts in TV series Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse, and Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, and on the stage in productions such as Cabaret, A Month In The Country, The Importance Of Being Earnest, and MACbeth. She also narrated documentaries and lent her voice to other radio plays.