Dame Judi Dench steps out with a new dancing partner

Dame Judi Dench has struck up a close friendship with a wildlife conservationist.

The 76-year-old star has been spotted out on the town with David Mills, who runs an animal park.

They took to the dance floor at the Waldorf Hotel at a party to celebrate the opening night of the West End comedy Betty Blue Eyes last month.

Earlier that evening the pair were arm in arm as they made their way to watch a performance of the show at the Novello Theatre. A clip of their arrival has been posted on YouTube.

A night on the tiles: Dame Judi dancing with wildlife conservationist David Mills

A night on the tiles: Dame Judi dancing with wildlife conservationist David Mills

The actress, who plays secret service boss M in the James Bond films, is a regular visitor to the British Wildlife Centre, which is run by Mr Mills and is close to her home in Surrey.

There has been speculation that the star is dating for the first time since the death of her husband and fellow actor Michael Williams in 2001.

One theatrical source said: ‘They certainly seem very comfortable with each other.

‘The friendship is being talked about quite openly in theatrical circles.

Judi seems very happy with the relationship and in fact her friends say she is the happiest she has been for several years.’

But another source said: ‘I would be very surprised indeed if there was a new man in her life.’

Dame Judi rarely talks about her private life. She declined to discuss or confirm the relationship when approached by The Mail on Sunday.

Mr Mills confirmed that he and the actress were ‘close friends’ when he was approached at the sanctuary.

But when asked if he would deny being in a relationship, he said: ‘Yes I would. This is very difficult.’

The actress opened the centre’s squirrel sanctuary in 2009. Mr Mills told guests: ‘We are very fortunate to have someone who is a great friend of the centre but also without doubt the greatest actress in the world.’

Dame Judi introduced herself as Mr Mills’s neighbour and the mother of an adopted otter called Minnie at the centre.

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