Sunday night, Emmerdale actress Kitty McGeever died at the age of 44, spokeswoman of the show said.
- Kitty McGeever who became the first blind actress to have a starring role in a British soap.
- In 2009, she played the character of Lizzie Lakely for four years after joining Emmerdale.
“It is with much sadness that Emmerdale confirms actress Kitty McGeever, who played the character of Lizzie Lakely, passed away last night, surrounded by her loving family,” a spokesman for the show said. “Kitty was a great talent and a true inspiration to all who worked with her. The cast and crew are devastated at her passing and she will be missed tremendously and remembered fondly by all of us,” she added.
Kitty McGeever (born Catherine Mitchell in Bramley, Leeds) was an English actress, the first blind actress to be cast in a British soap opera.
From April 2009 to March 2013 she played the fictional character Lizzie Lakely in Emmerdale.
McGeever grew up in Liversedge and Farsley, West Yorkshire and changed her name from Catherine Mitchell to Kitty McGeever as there was already an actress with the same name.
She trained at RADA, and became diabetic at age 19.
McGeever became pregnant in 2001, but developed pre-eclampsia. Her son Felix was born two months early; he spent some time in a special care baby unit. At the age of four months, he suddenly became very ill, having problems with his heart and lungs.
During her son’s illness, McGeever also became ill due to the stress – her kidneys stopped working, she had heart trouble, and diabetic retinopathy caused her to begin to lose her sight. Laser treatment was ineffective; five months later she was blind at the age of 32. Her son Felix died in January 2003, aged fifteen months.
She was given a kidney transplant in a successful 12-hour operation. Following her recovery, she contacted her agent in 2008 and suggested that she was ready to begin performing again, and would consider television.
She was spotted by production staff from the soap Emmerdale when she was appearing in a one-woman stage show where she talked about her life as a blind woman. They approached her with a view to creating an authentic blind character for Emmerdale, to be played by McGeever, who would also develop the part. She first appeared as former criminal Lizzie Lakely in Emmerdale on 28 April 2009, at the age of 38; Lakely is the first permanent blind character in a British soap. She is given her scripts as sound recordings, and has two government-sponsored assistants to guide her around the studios; they also guide her through the sets during rehearsals, and ensure continuity between recordings.
On 5 January 2010, McGeever appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme In Touch, when she talked to Peter White about losing her sight. She revealed that she has a number of gadgets to assist her, including a CD storage system where audible labels can be recorded, a colour detector to assist with choosing a coordinating outfit, and a pair of long-armed oven gloves.
In February 2013 it was reported that McGeever had been hospitalized, and awaiting a heart transplant. Her sister, Emmerdale scriptwriter Caroline Mitchell denied that she was awaiting a heart transplant, but stated that she was on the transplant register.IMAGE/Getty images