A MUCH-LOVED comedian, whose sudden death sparked an outpouring of grief, died from natural causes, an inquest has heard.

Phil Butler, who was born and raised in Clacton, died at the age of 51, while entertaining on a cruise ship in Lisbon, Portugal.

Mr Butler was working for P&O cruises, when he was found unresponsive in his cabin on October 17.

At the time, Mr Butler’s ship was docked at Santa Maria Maior.

A post-mortem examination, which was carried out in Portugal, was unable to determine a cause of death.

But an inquest held in Chelmsford has concluded Mr Butler died of a coronary obstruction.

His death was therefore ruled out to be one of natural causes.

On the third day of his cruise, Mr Butler has also complained to a crew member of a pain in his arm, the Essex Coroner has heard.

Mr Butler 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 were regularly featured in his shows.

He was the first comedian to perform to British troops on the frontline in Afghanistan, so his family have decided to launch a fitting tribute.

To honour his memory, fans and friends are invited to support Help for Heroes, a charity helping wounded veterans and their families to recover and get on with their lives.

Using the fundraising page, Mr Butler’s family said: “Phil was the first comedian to entertain the troops on the frontline in Afghanistan.

“He also entertained the troops in Baghdad, Iran and the Falklands.

“He is much loved and will always be remembered.”

The campaign has now raised more than £1,000.

A tribute to Mr Butler was also paid by Jody Gill: “My beautiful friend Butler. Thank you for showing me the true magic in life. I will never forget you.

"You have a very special place in my heart, I'm so lucky to have known you. Sleep easy my friend, you truly were a hero.”

To donate visit philbutler.muchloved.com.