TRIBUTES have poured in for Phil Butler, renowned magician and comedian, who died at the age of 51.

Phil, who was the first comedian to perform to British troops on the frontline in Afghanistan, died while on a cruise ship in Lisbon.

He is believed to have died in his sleep, but the cause of his death is still unknown.

The artist, who was born and raised in Clacton, has performed in pantomime and on cruise ships, as well as close to home at the West Cliff Theatre, in Clacton, with his quick-witted magic tricks being regularly featured in his shows.

His talent agency, Chris Davis Management, announced the news of his death on Twitter.

The statement read: “It is with huge sadness we have to announce the passing of our friend and client Phil Butler.

“Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

“The world is a poorer place without him.”

Craig Revel Horwood, best known as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, and Jason Manford, who starred in 8 Out of 10 Cats and Live At The Apollo, have both paid tribute to the comedian.

Mr Revel-Horwood said: “My thoughts at this time are with @philbutleruk family and friends. RIP lovely talented man. What a terrible shock.

“We worked together on panto Cinderella and he was a wonderful kind friend.

“We spent Xmas day and New Year together had a truly fabulous time. I’ll miss you terribly.”

Mr Manford also remembered the times he worked alongside Mr Butler.

He said: “Was so sorry to learn of the death of the always very funny and charming Phil Butler.

“Had many memorable gigs with him on the circuit, including a mad weekend of shows at BCM Square in Magaluf.”

Fellow comedian Shaparak Khorsandi added: “Another one of us gone too soon. For 20 years I’ve looked at the running order when I’ve got to a club and gone ‘Oh fab! Phil Butler’s on’.

“Such a laugh on the road.”

Asa Elliott, who appeared in Benidorm from 2010 until 2014, said he was “utterly devastated at the news”.

He tweeted: “One of the funniest people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling my friend.”

Mr Butler will now be repatriated from Lisbon.

The actor was expected to appear in this year’s Panto Robin Hood at Theatre Royal Nottingham in December.