Helen McCrory’s friends only learned of cancer battle days before star’s death

a little girl smiling at the camera © Provided by Evening Standard

Helen McCrory’s cancer battle was kept secret from her friends until just days before her death, it has emerged.

Husband and actor Damian Lewis announced on April 16 that his wife had died “surrounded by a wave of love” and peacefully at home.

Friends of the couple have revealed they only learned of Ms McCrory’s diagnosis shortly before the news was announced, while others were “sworn to secrecy.”

Actor David Harewood, who starred with Mr Lewis in Homeland, said his former co-star texted him about the diagnosis “a couple of days” before she died.

In an interview with The Mirror, Mr Harewood said: “Damian got in touch a couple of days before the news broke, he let us all know. It was all very, very upsetting.

“Nobody knew. None of us knew what she was battling.

“It was shocking and unbelievably sad. Damian did such a tremendous job in publicly handling all that.”

The TV star described Ms McCrory as “an incredible, wonderful woman” before adding: “My heart goes out to him and to their two young children.”

Ms McCrory’s friend Carrie Cracknell previously said those who did know about the star’s diagnosis “were sworn to secrecy”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Ms Cracknell said: “Helen wanted to be very private about her illness. Very few people knew. We were sworn to secrecy.

“She faced up to cancer with a level of bravery and humour that was extraordinary,” Ms Cracknell said.

Ms McCrory, who was awarded the OBE for services to drama in 2017, was probably best known for playing the fearsome matriarch Polly in crime drama Peaky Blinders but also had a critically acclaimed stage career winning plaudits for National Theatre roles in productions of Medea and Terence Rattigan’s post war drama The Deep Blue Sea.

Mr Lewis and Ms McCrory married in 2007, and share two children, Manon, 14, and Gulliver, 13.

The Samaritans offer support and advice to people feeling suicidal or vulnerable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their website is https://www.samaritans.org, email address jo@samaritans.org or call free on 116 123

Helen McCrory’s friends only learned of cancer battle days before star’s death