FOR fans of detective dramas spotting a cameo appearance by Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter was almost as important as monitoring the body count.

Followers of the Oxford-based TV series and its spin-offs Lewis and Endeavour got used to the fleeting on-screen glimpses of the author over the past three decades.

But the 86-year-old from north Oxford will not be appearing in the new series of episodes of Endeavour.

Screenwriter Russell Lewis said that there would be no further cameos from Mr Dexter in 2017, and ITV confirmed Mr Dexter has now 'retired' from making the popular appearances.

Mr Lewis said: "I think he’s allowed, after 30-odd years, to take tea in the pavilion.

"We haven’t got him in the flesh this year. But there’s a big part of the fandom that likes to spot Colin – like spotting Hitchcock.

"He’ll be there in spirit, not in flesh. He’ll be that little bit harder to find than usual."

Endeavour, a prequel to Inspector Morse starring Shaun Evans as the detective in his younger days, has featured numerous cameo appearances from Mr Dexter

The former classics teacher created the Inspector Morse character during a family holiday in 1972.

John Thaw, who died in 2002, first played the detective in 1987 and went on to appear in 33 episodes in 13 years.

The original series was followed by nine series of Lewis, starring Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox, and this was followed by the prequel Endeavour, set in the 1960s.

Mr Dexter has made cameo appearances in a large number of episodes over the past 30 years.

In The Wolvercote Tongue, an episode of Inspector Morse, Mr Dexter enjoyed his longest cameo, appearing in a scene lasting one minute and 25 seconds as Morse and Lewis discussed a case in the pub.

And In Death is Now My Neighbour the author was given a brief speaking part as a bishop saying grace.

In 2008, the author joined Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox for a walk-on part in an episode of Lewis, and said of his cameo roles: "In the finished film I would imagine I will be on screen for a subliminal second.

"If you add all my appearances together I'm sure it would stretch to two or three minutes.

"It's enough time to show your versatility. I've played the high life and the low life, from the Bishop of Oxford to a tramp. I did once have a speaking part as the Bishop of Oxford and that was wonderful."

Mr Whately joked: "His performance as a tramp was probably his finest moment."

Oxford tour guide Nuala Young, who runs Morse tours from the tourist information centre in Broad Street, said: "Colin has a great reverence for Alfred Hitchcock, who had cameo roles in his own movies, so he loved following in his footsteps.

"Colin immensely enjoyed his cameo roles and viewers will miss the fun of looking out for him."

The latest series of Endeavour starts on Sunday on ITV at 8pm.