It’s a sad day for the kids of Degrassi, as it was reported that Neil Hope, the actor that played the lovably troubled Derek ‘Wheels’ Wheeler on the cult Canadian television series, passed away in 2007. What’s even more unfortunate is that his family and friends were unaware of his death until just last month, almost 5 years after it happened.

Making Hope’s death public this past week, police confirmed that Hope died of natural causes in Hamilton, Ontario on November 25, 2007. He was 35 at the time of his passing.

While Hope’s brother and sister have said that they heard rumors of his passing 3 years ago, they simple brushed it off, as there had been no official confirmation. After not hearing from Hope for a significant length of time, the family contacted the Hamilton Police.

Acknowledging that there was record of someone similar to Hope’s description that died in 2007, the police told the family that the names and birth date didn’t match up. It wasn’t until January 2012 that the police confirmed to the family that the person in question was, in fact, Hope.

Weeks after Hope’s family became aware of his passing, his former Degrassi co-stars were told of the news.

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Degrassi creator Linda Schuyler and Degrassi: The Next Generation producer Stephen Stohn released a statement about Hope’s death:

Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team, who are like a family to us, and indeed to the lives of many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played.

Taking to Twitter, Stohn continued:

We have respected the privacy of the family by not saying anything until now, but our entire team is very emotional about his passing

Hope’s former co-star Stefan Brogren, who continues to reprise the role of his original ‘Degrassi’ character Archibald ‘Snake’ Simpson on Degrassi: The Next Generation, briefly mentioned his passing on Twitter:

Sad day for Degrassi. Rip Neil.

Hope was initially buried in March 2008, though the location of the grave is being kept private.

Former Degrassi co-star Amanda Stepto, who played Christine ‘Spike’ Nelson on the series, is organizing a private ceremony to remember Hope. Hope’s family is also planning their own memorial. 

Screen Rant would like to extended our condolences to Mr. Hope’s family and friends in their time of grieving.

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R.I.P. Neil Hope: September 24, 1972 – November 25, 2007

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Source: CBC