Street star takes an extended break

Photo: ITV

Malcolm Hebden — who plays Norris Cole — is taking an extended break from the soap.

The 78-year-old actor has been a familiar face on the cobbles since 1994.

But he has now been allowed prolonged time off — with ITV producers and the show’s cast unsure when he will return.

A ITV source said: “Malcolm is not getting any younger.

“He booked a bit of time off just before Christmas, but that annual leave has now become longer than first planned.

“Bosses do not know when he will be back.

“It’s easy to cover a period of a few weeks without mentioning Norris on screen but any longer and fans start to question why a character is not there.”

Insiders say there is no deadline for Malcolm’s return.

His absence comes six years after he fell ill on set and was taken to hospital — an incident later confirmed as not serious.

Last week he was the victim of a sick hoax after a US website claimed he had died. The story was widely shared on social media forcing fans to ask his colleagues for clarification.

Sally Ann Matthews, who plays Jenny Bradley, confirmed that the story was false.

Norris — who has worked in newsagents The Kabin since 1999 — has been involved in serious and jovial storylines.

Last year he wore a Batman outfit and scaled scaffolding saying that he was from Grandfathers4Justice, in a bid to stop friend Mary Taylor being denied contact with her grandson.

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