EastEnders‘ Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) will be forced to confront her abusive past as Leo King (Tom Wells), long-lost son of paedophile Tony King, arrives in Walford on a mission to clear his dad’s name.
Convinced his father is innocent, newcomer Leo has tracked down Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer) and revealed he is the secret offspring of the feisty redhead’s ex-partner, who abused stepdaughter Whitney throughout her childhood.
Described as “dark and misguided”, creepy Leo believes his father was innocent and is prepared to do whatever it takes to prove it. As the soap begins a new chapter of one of its most hard-hitting and memorable storylines, here’s a reminder of the ordeal toxic Tony King inflicted upon the family.
When was Tony King first in EastEnders?
Falling on hard times and with a gaggle of kids to look after, Bianca came back to Walford in early 2008 after almost a decade away. Current partner Tony was in prison for assault, and viewers met him when he was released in September of that year.
At first he seemed like a protective, charming family man who would do anything for Bianca’s children Liam, Tiffany and Morgan, along with her 15 year-old stepdaughter Whitney (who’s dad Nathan Dean, another ex of Bianca’s, had died, leaving her in Ms Butcher’s care since she was around 10) – in fact, the reason he’d gone to jail in the first place was for beating up a guy who’d come on too strong to Whit.
The awful truth, however, was that predatory Tony had groomed the vulnerable girl since he got with Bianca when Whitney was just 12 years old, and coerced her into a sexual relationship he convinced her was consensual. This continued in secret throughout her teenage years, and resumed as soon as he was out of prison.
How was his abuse of Whitney revealed?
Convincing confused Whitney they’d run away together when she turned 16 in December 2008, twisted Tony then turned his attention to 14 year-old Lauren Branning and began subtly grooming her. Jealous Whitney told Bianca she and Tony were in love and were preparing to leave Walford, and B realised to her horror her partner was a paedophile who had inflicted abuse on her stepdaughter for years.
When was Tony King’s last appearance in EastEnders?
Bianca called the police and Tony was arrested as he tried to do a runner, leaving Whitney in shock as the extent of how he had manipulated her became clear.
A trial followed in 2009, and Whitney wavered about her statement confirming the abuse after her tormentor made numerous attempts to contact her and persuade her to drop the charges. Bianca persuaded Whit to speak out to prevent Tony from being released and targeting other innocent children, and the brave teen eventually gave evidence that led to a guilty verdict and a 13 year custodial sentence. Tony’s last appearance was in December of the year.
In 2013, Whitney received a note through a former cellmate of Tony’s saying that he always loved her. Deciding to confront him in jail, she was told the shocking news he had taken his own life in his cell.
EastEnders received huge acclaim for tackling such a difficult topic, and the impact on Whitney has been huge and never forgotten. Struggling with yet another failed romance having just jilted Callum Highway for cheating on her with Ben Mitchell, if she’s faced with her dead abuser’s son – who is painting her as a liar – it’s bound to have a devastating effect on her.
Show bosses have promised Leo’s arrival sparks a huge plot set to play out over the next 18 months, putting Whitney at the centre of the drama as her past comes back to haunt her…
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