ACTOR Maurice Colbourne, best known for the role of Tom Howard in the

television drama series Howards' Way, has died, aged 49. It is thought

that the cause of his death was a heart attack.

He died on Friday night in his wife's arms at his family's French

holiday home at Dinan, near Rennes, shortly after a sailing trip. He had

been preparing to do some work on the house when his wife Jeany, 35,

found he had collapsed with chest pains. She tried in vain to save him,

said his agent Susan Angel.

Actress Jan Harvey, who plays his wife in the series, said on behalf

of the cast: ''We are devastated by his death. He was a caring and

compassionate man and we will all miss him dreadfully.''

Mr Colbourne had been expected in Guernsey on Tuesday to complete

filming for the latest series, due to be screened in the autumn.

Howards' Way producer Gerard Glaister said: ''He was a first-class actor

and contributed in no small way to the success of Howards' Way.''

Mr Colbourne's TV breakthrough came with the BBC series Gangsters. He

also appeared in The Day of the Triffids, Shoestring, Dr Who, the Onedin

Line, and Take Three Women. Miss Angel said he had been due to appear in

pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Bath, this year.

His passions were horse racing and fishing, and he liked being at sea.

As a youth he left home to go to sea, but was dissuaded by a Liverpool

bus conductor who pointed out a gang of out-of-work seamen.

A BBC spokesman said most of the new series of Howards' Way had

already been shot, but it was too early to say how the programme might

develop following Mr Colbourne's death.