Emmerdale has aired the death of Ashley Thomas after 20 years in the show. The much-loved character passed away peacefully at home having contracted pneumonia, and had been battling vascular dementia for the last few years.
Knowing Ashley would not recover, the family had made the decision to bring him home from hospital so he could spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones. Tonight’s emotional episode saw many of the villagers gather round his bedside sharing memories of the former vicar, who had been at the heart of the community for two decades.
Alone with Laurel when the guests departed, Ashley woke up for the first time in days and shared a moment of lucidity with his wife. In a heartfelt, intimate exchange sure to go down as one of the most moving scenes in Emmerdale history, Ashley smiled as he gripped her hand and the couple fixed their gaze on each other, with Laurel laughing through her tears as Ashley recognised his wife.
Through Ashley’s point of view we saw him survey the family photographs on the mantelpiece, before he finally slipped away.
Next week’s episodes focus on the aftermath of Ashley’s death and Charlotte Bellamy, who plays Laurel, reveals her character will be consumed with grief. “She’s feeling numb about the whole thing because she just wasn’t prepared. She wasn’t ready for him to be taken so abruptly, but are you ever really ready to lose someone?”
Undertakers take Ashley’s body away on Monday, and Thursday’s double bill sees the village turn out for the funeral, which Bellamy promises will be a fitting send-off.
“There’s a big turn-out, which is no surprise because he was such a central part of the village. The service is beautiful, a real celebration of Ashley’s life.”
But there are times when Laurel struggles to hold it together, and by next Friday’s episode her grief turns to frustration and she takes her anger out on her dad Doug.
It’s certainly going to be a long road ahead for Laurel, and off-screen Bellamy is adapting to life without her co-star John Middleton, who has played Ashley since 1996.
“John has been such a huge part of my life in Emmerdale and I miss him. As in any soap, the machine carries on, but I do feel a little bit lost at times.
“I’d never seen a leaving do with so many people in attendance as John’s – and that’s a testament to how much he is loved and respected by everyone on the show.”
Emmerdale continues weeknights on ITV at 7pm.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Emmerdale below.
And visit our dedicated Emmerdale page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.