Betts won the competition with her play On the Third Day, which was subsequently produced by Sonia Friedman at the West End's New Ambassadors Theatre.
Her daughter Lucy, youth theatre director, said: "She was always interested in theatre and writing. She wrote and produced her own play at school at the age of 14 in Bedford. She was in youth theatre in Croydon all the way through the 70s, which introduced her to so many inspirations like Shakespeare, Pinter and Beckett - the ones that opened her eyes to the possibilities. She had moved around a lot when she was young and joining the youth theatre grounded her."
Betts, who died from septicaemia, beat off 2,000 entrants to win the competition, which was launched to 'highlight the complexities of bringing a first time playwright’s first play directly into the commercial West End'. A lecturer in English at Chichester University and mother of three children, prior to entering the competition Betts had never had her work produced.
Sonia Friedman told Whatsonstage.com: "I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Kate Betts, a lovely, sensitive writer with enormous potential. Everyone working on the Channel 4 programme The Play's The Thing admired her greatly - she was an intelligent, gentle, and generous person, with a great sense of humour and a big heart, and we all enjoyed working with her. Kate was a real fighter, having battled a very serious illness before we worked together and I always admired her determination and strength. I am told she never stopped writing, which along with her family, as far as I am aware, was the most important thing to her."
Her winning entry On the Third Day is set in modern London where Claire (played in the West End by Maxine Peake) catches the eye of a stranger in a bar, an encounter that leads to a reunion with her estranged brother. Although not considered a commercial success, closing after six weeks, most critics ruled that Betts showed strong potential.
Speaking in 2006, Betts said: “It was an honour to have my play chosen as the winning entry for The Play's the Thing, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Sonia Friedman, Steven Pimlott, Robert Delamere and with a cast and technical team that were so completely devoted to and enthusiastic about On the Third Day. I have learned a lot from these professionals, and this valuable experience will not only help me with my future writing but will, I hope, encourage, inform and stimulate other new writers out there who are passionate about writing for the theatre.”
She is survived by husband David and children Lucy, Tom and Rob.