Bill and Vanya were estranged for many years but had reconciled before her death
For decades she was bitterly estranged from her father, the Street’s Ken Barlow, after he walked out on her mother actress Anna Cropper in 1969.
But with the help of her brother – Homeland star Linus Roache – Bill, 85, and his eldest daughter had recently been reconciled.
The ITV soap star has been left heartbroken after learning that within hours of being taken ill with a mystery disorder she had died.
Bill, who has been given an indefinite leave of absence from Coronation Street, has visited Toby to help plan her funeral.
It is the star’s third tragedy after the death of second wife Sara Mottram, 58, in 2009 and their 18-month-old daughter Edwina, in 1983, from pneumonia.
Vanya was born to Bill’s first wife in 1960 but they fell out when he left her mum
Bill is utterly heartbroken. No father should have to go through the loss of a child, let alone two.
Bill’s representatives yesterday said he will be making no comment about his “private loss”. But a source said: “Bill is utterly heartbroken. No father should have to go through the loss of a child, let alone two.
“ITV are giving him all the time he needs but he’s understandably very upset. After hearing the news on Friday he’s been told to take as long as required. There’s no word just yet on when he’ll return.”
Yesterday Toby said Vanya’s deadly condition had taken them all by surprise.
He said: “I’m not holding up brilliantly. It was a shock to me, it was quite sudden. It was a blood disorder that made her organs fail, basically. It was liver failure. I loved her and I’m completely devastated.
“Bill’s been down all weekend and we’ve been arranging her funeral. She was close with him before she died.”
He added: “I’m heartbroken. The family is heartbroken. We’ve all lost someone we deeply loved and we’re trying to get over it.”
A neighbour of the couple in Chichester, West Sussex, said Toby visited them after Vanya’s death and hinted that she may have been battling sepsis.
He added: “She was a bit of a recluse. I saw Toby more than her, he is a very nice guy but a quiet man. Toby told us the news on Saturday. He was very distraught. He suggested to me it might have been sepsis. All I know is that he struggled to her to go and see the doctor as she would not go.”
Another neighbour said he was “sorry” to learn of her death, adding: “She was a very nice lady who kept herself to herself. I didn’t see her much but when I did she would say hello and was very pleasant.
“She was lovely and I’m very sorry to hear of her passing, best wishes to her family.”
In recent years Vanya (behind Bill) reconciled with her father and supported him during his trial
Bill and Anna Cropper married in 1961 and they had Linus in February 1964. Vanya arrived three years later. Following their divorce in 1974 Vanya and Linus mostly stayed with their mother while Bill divided his time between London and Manchester.
The actor, who has played Ken Barlow in the soap for more than 50 years, and Vanya fell out. In 1999 Bill was declared bankrupt and Vanya, then 32, was interviewed about her father’s financial woes – only to reveal they had not spoken for 20 years.
Vanya said: “I don’t feel sorry for him at all about this bankruptcy business after he walked out on us. I’m sure as ever he’ll manage to land on his feet again and be OK. I’ve lost count of the years since we last spoke. I’m not bothered what happens to him. We have nothing to do with each other after what went on in the past.”
Opening up about their rift, Bill explained: “She has drifted off in another direction. She is there but unapproachable. I never wanted to be a bad husband or a bad father but sometimes things go wrong.”
In 2012 the actor said he began drinking following his divorce from Anna after she discovered his infidelity.
He added: “I regret it deeply. I had the opportunity, but that doesn’t mean I should do it. I had rehearsals up in Manchester from Monday to Friday. The opportunity was there.”
Bill and Vanya were eventually reconciled and although she never attended Preston Crown Court, she supported him via Facebook when he was cleared of rape and sex abuse charges in 2014.
She wrote: “My beautiful family, wonderful father and a very happy and truthful day.”
One of Vanya’s final social media posts on Facebook was placed on New Year’s Eve, wishing her and her friends a “healthy and happy” 2018.
She wrote: “I hope 2018 brings happiness, health and joy! 2017 has been a very up and down year for many of us but hope next year will be a happy one!!”
Actor Linus Roache is Bill’s eldest son
STAR’S JOY AND AGONY
Bill Roache’s private life has been a soap opera of joy – and heartache.
Born in 1932 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and in five years rose to the rank of captain. But he suffered a training accident with a mortar platoon that left him with permanently damaged hearing.
In 1960 he was spotted by Coronation Street creator Tony Warren. He won a lifetime achievement award at the British Soap Awards in 2000 and the following year he was made an MBE for services to TV drama.
In 2013 he was accused of rape and sex assault but was cleared the following year.