Actor Anthony Bate, best known for his role in the BBC's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a familiar face of TV drama during his five decade career, has died at the age of 84.

Bate played Oliver Lacon in the John Le Carre cold war thriller, and in the dramatisation of Smiley's People.

The actor - known to his friends as Tony - had roles in countless TV programmes including 60s' TV hits such as The Avengers, The Saint and The Champions.

He died this morning.

His agent Roger Charteris said the actor had been taken ill on Thursday and would be "greatly missed".

Bate's roles also included a memorable performance as Kim Philby in the BBC's 1977 drama about the Cambridge spy ring, Philby, Burgess and Maclean - alongside names such as Derek Jacobi and Arthur Lowe.

Other programmes in which he appeared included A Touch of Frost, Prime Suspect, Midsomer Murders and Poirot, and he often specialised in "bad guy" roles.

Stourbridge-born Bate moved with his family as a teenager to the Isle of Wight on VE Day in 1945. He served in the bar at his family's North Bank Hotel in Seaview, mixing cocktails. His future wife Diana persuaded him to join a local amateur drama society and he went on to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama, making his professional debut in 1953, and marrying the following year.

The couple, who have two sons and two grandchildren, moved back to the Isle of Wight last year to live in Bembridge.