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Maidstone-born artist Tony Hart's death was reported on social media after it actually happened six years ago

Maidstone-born artist Tony Hart hit the headlines at the weekend when his death was reported on social media - six years after it happened.

The County Town even has a memorial to the artist, who was born in Hastings Road in 1925, at the Hazlitt Arts Centre, which was unveiled in February 2009.

He had died the previous month and there had been a campaign for the town to have a tribute to him.

Artist Tony Hart with Mike FitzGerald, the then Mayor, at Maidstone Museum in 2006
Artist Tony Hart with Mike FitzGerald, the then Mayor, at Maidstone Museum in 2006

But at the weekend, one wrong report on social media led to a national flurry of condolences to the illustrator and TV presenter, who studied at the Maidstone College of Art, which later became UCA.

His name became a heavily discussed topic on Sunday and Monday as a wave of people spread the news of his demise in the mistaken belief that it was news.

Mr Hart’s TV sidekick, the loveable orange plasticine figure, Morph, was even forced to intervene, tweeting: “Over the past 24 hrs, many people on Twitter have reported that Tony Hart has recently died. Tony sadly died in 2009.”

Morph's tweet about his friend
Morph's tweet about his friend

The confusion also made headlines itself, with The Guardian writing: “Reports of Tony Hart’s second death are greatly exaggerated.”

Although it is not known how the story started, it is thought someone posted a link on Facebook to a story about his death, without noticing the date on it.

Mike FitzGerald, who was Mayor at the time that Mr Hart paid his last visit to the town in 2006, said: "He was a really lovely guy.

"He wasn't a well man when he came to the town that time, but he was a lovely man. People in Maidstone would know when he died as the KM reported on it!"

Mr Hart presented BBC programmes including Vision On and Hart Beat. In 1984 his programme Take Hart won a BAFTA and he received a Lifetime Achievement award in 1998.

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