Sarah Parkinson, the wife of comedian Paul Merton, has died aged 41.

Sarah, who was a writer and producer, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February last year and was living an active life at home near Rye until her condition worsened a few weeks ago.

She died on Tuesday morning with her husband by her bedside.

The Have I Got News For You star had been with Ms Parkinson for a number of years before they married in June.

In a statement issued by his agent, Mandy Ward last night, Mr Merton said: "After her initial devastating diagnosis of cancer in February 2002, Sarah successfully lived with the disease for the next 19 months.

"She refused chemotherapy because she knew it would finish her off. Instead, she boosted her immune system with a mixture of nutritional therapy, yoga, meditation, positive thinking and laughter.

"Consequently, she led a full and active life right up to the last couple of weeks when her condition suddenly worsened.

"She faced the situation with courage and died serenely and without pain in the early hours of Tuesday morning."

At Ms Parkinson's request, her funeral would be a private family service, he said.