Dennis Waterman said in a statement, “I am so sad to hear of George’s death. His family must be devastated, and I am absolutely certain that anybody who ever knew him, will feel the same.
“I’m so grateful to have been a friend of this wonderful man. We worked together for many years and my boast is that we laughed all day, every day.
“He was an amazing man, a wonderful actor and besotted with his family. I had the privilege of spending Tuesday afternoon with him and Penny and, although very frail, his wit was as evident as ever. Farewell old friend.”
Dennis Waterman, 67, revealed that the pair remained great friends until his death. He last saw Cole and his wife Penny on Tuesday when he visited the couple at their home.
Denis continued, “I popped down on Tuesday afternoon. Penny greeted me at the front door and said ‘This is going to come as a shock to you. He’s very, very frail.’ It was a bit of a shock he was looking so very frail.
“Penny asked if he would like a drink. He said, ‘I’d like a bottle of whisky, but I know you won’t give me that.’”
He said he was grateful to have seen Cole so close to his death: “I was unbelievably lucky to say I would pop down on Tuesday.”
Waterman added, “George always said there was nothing of Arthur Daley in him – that was slightly untrue, he made a few quid here and there when he was in the RAF, if you know what I mean.
“He loved horse racing; that was his big hobby, crosswords and his family. George was quite difficult to get out of his house, that was where he was happiest.”
Cole and Waterman met on the Minder set in 1981 and both have acknowledged that they didn’t hit it off immediately.
Cole once said, “We circled round each other for three or four days.”
And Waterman admitted today, “When I was first told he was going to do Minder my first thought was ‘he’s too posh’, but then I heard he was born in Tooting.”
But he added, “Whenever I talk about Minder I guiltily have to say when me and George worked together we laughed all day long.
“When we first met we had three days of seeing how the other bloke worked and saw how similar we were and we got on like a house on fire.
“He was just a wonderful, smashing, lovely man.”