Derek Acorah has died at the age of 69 after a “very brief illness”, his heartbroken wife Gwen has confirmed.
Throughout his career as a self-styled medium, Derek was forced to defend his claims that he could speak to the dead.
He found himself the subject of fierce criticism in 2012 when he claimed the missing schoolgirl Madeleine McCann was “in the spirit world” and was forced to apologise to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann.
He claimed he had been “misquoted” by the Sun, which ran the original interview in which he was quoted as saying: “I know her parents are convinced Maddie is alive and I’m really sorry – but the little one has been over in the spirit world for some time.”
He had added: “I don’t think she will be there long before she reincarnates.
“When children pass over who haven’t had full lives I believe they choose the time to come back in the same form again – as another little girl.”
During his denial, Derek said he would fly out to the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz, where the three-year-old girl had gone missing, to see if “the spirits” could help track her down.
“I am willing to go over to Portugal to help search for Madeleine. I will go to the place where she went missing and see what I can pick up,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I would ask the world of spirits in the area what happened and anything I found out I would pass over to police to help with their investigation.”
“I hope and believe Madeleine is alive.”
When asked why it had taken him five years to offer his services to the Portuguese missing persons team, Derek said he hadn’t wanted to get in the way of other mediums.
“It was in my mind to go over and search for Madeleine when she first disappeared but there were already four mediums over there,” he insisted.
“I was surplus to requirements and I’m not going to be getting in another medium’s ground.”
Acorah was also the subject of a fakery claim during the filming of a 2005 Most Haunted episode at Bodmin Gaol.
The show’s resident sceptic Ciaran O’Keeffe had left the name of a notorious South African jailer, Kreed Kafer, on a piece of paper and had spoken of his identity within Derek’s earshot.
When the cameras started rolling, Derek claimed to be possessed by Kreed – but Ciaran later revealed the man was totally made up and his name was an anagram of ‘Derek Faker’.
Even Derek’s Most Haunted co-star Yvette Fielding slammed his ‘possession’, saying in 2010: “When we started filming, Derek decided to get possessed by this fake person. The name is actually an anagram of Derek Faker.
“We tell people everything is real, then it turns out he was a fake, so he had to go.”
Her comments sparked a war of words between them, with Derek lashing back and calling Yvette “egotistical” and “big-headed”.
“She decided when I left the show that she didn’t want to talk to me any more. There was no need for it and it was very sad,” he added.
Derek found himself in hot water when he was accused of drunkenly rowing with his wife and shouting at a mum with a baby on a flight from Spain.
But he denied the reports, insisting “that’s not what Derek Acorah is about”.
“Yes, I was on a flight from Alicante. I had come back from our home in Spain to get back for a Michael Jackson TV seance. I could not believe that the newspaper said that I was drunk,” he said at the time.
“If I had been unruly, does it not stand to reason that the airline would have pulled me up or ensured the police would be there on the ground when I landed? But that did not happen.
“I did have alcohol on that early evening flight, two glasses of red wine with our meal. That will not make anyone tipsy, drunk or unruly.”
Derek was convicted of careless driving in 2014 after running his car through a roundabout and crashing into another driver at speed.
He failed to provide a breath test to police and was banned from the roads for two years.