By TOM GARDNER
Hoax: British comedian Rowan Atkinson is the latest celebrity to be the victim of a hoax about their death
An internet hoax about the death of British actor Rowan Atkinson became the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter today.
Rumours about the apparent demise of the Mr Bean star spread around the globe within hours of a ‘joke’ tweet from a so called 'internet troll' on the microblogging site.
The hoax even briefly fooled internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, which displayed Mr Atkinson’s date of death as 26 Febrary, 2012 on his entry page.
Tens of thousands of people latched onto the #RIP Rowan Atkinson hash-tag to express their condolences.
'Joke': Twitter user Michael Robert Meras claimed he started the world wide internet rumours with a joke tweet
The top world wide trending subject was apparently sparked by a single post from a twitter user based in the Philippines.
Michael Robert Meras posted the message to his 753 followers: ‘Fresh news from Britain, Rowan Sebastian Atkinson (A.K.A. Mr. Bean) passed away this evening.’
Within a few hours the rumours had spread around the globe and ignited an internet frenzy.
Just two hours later, Michael Robert Meras posted another comment saying: ‘OMG! I started the tween RIP Rowan Atkinson, it was just a joke...’
An hour later he added: ‘Shutting down now. Sorry guys, RIP Rowan Atkins was just a joke. Sorry for the matter, I never thought it would be that viral.’
Error: Rowan Atkinson's Wikipedia entry briefly showed both his birthday and a date of his death. The mistake was quickly corrected
Mr Atkinson is not the first global star to be the subject of a death hoax.
Owen Wilson, Charlie Sheen, Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy are among a growing list of stars to have been killed off in cyberspace.
They were all said to have been tragically killed in snowboarding accidents, according to rumours which have circulated around the internet in recent years.
Morgan Freeman and former popstar Aaron Carter have also been the subject of online death rumours.
Hollywood actor Wilson, 42, was reported to have died in a skiing accident in a dubiously posted article titled 'Global Associated News'.
The report claimed Wilson had snowboarded into a tree and died in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Alive and well: Mr Atkinson, seen meeting the Queen at a reception to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the year Charles Dickens was born, at Buckingham Palace, earlier this month, is said to be in fine health