Who was Holly Barton in Emmerdale? When did she die?

Moira is haunted by her daughter's tragic demise from a drug overdose

emmerdale holly barton

Emmerdale‘s Moira Dingle (Natalie J Robb) re-lives the painful loss of daughter Holly Barton from a drugs overdose as the anniversary of her death approaches.

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The memories are compounded by the discovery son Matty (Ash Palmasicano) has started smoking cannabis and that close friend Harriet Finch (Katherine Dow Blyton) is in a relationship with former drug trafficker Will Taylor (Dean Ashton).

Holly’s passing is one of the most dramatic deaths in Emmerdale history, as our quick recap explains:

When did Holly Barton first appear in Emmerdale?

Party-loving schoolgirl Holly, played by Sophie Powles, moved to the village in 2009 with the rest of her family – mum Moira, dad John, brother Adam and sister Hannah, who later transitioned to become Matty. After an ill-fated romantic dalliance with a still-closeted Aaron Dingle, she started dabbling in recreational cocaine use – which eventually led to full-on heroin addiction.

As the Bartons fell apart thanks to Moira’s affair with Cain Dingle, Holly’s dependence on drugs increased to the point where she started stealing, and ultimately herself for sex to fund her habit. Her parents forced her to go cold turkey after she collapsed, but just as she was trying to get clean her dad John was killed in a car crash in February 2012.

Grief caused Holly to relapse and she overdosed again. Ironically it was Cain who found her and saved her life, redeeming himself from being blamed for destroying the Bartons by bedding Moira, indirectly fuelling Holly’s unhappiness.

After getting clean again she moved to London with Hannah in June 2012 to take up a new job as a trainee designer.

When did she die?

Holly returned in March 2016 on the run from a drug dealer, having relapsed once more in the intervening four years. The next six months saw her try and get her life back on track with the help of her beleaguered mum, now married to Cain, and beginning an affair with fellow recovering addict Jai Sharma.

Unfortunately she couldn’t keep the demons at bay, and in September 2016 she was found dead in her sleep following an overdose of heroin.

The character’s death came as a huge bombshell to viewers as it was not publicised prior to transmission, so no one had any idea Powles was leaving the cast. This gave Holly’s sudden exit added shock value, and Robb’s raw performance as grieving Moira earned widespread praise.

Holly’s legacy continued as her drug dealer Simon McManus returned in 2018 when Debbie Dingle paid him to intimidate ex-lover Joe Tate, only for Ross Barton (Holly’s cousin) to end up as the victim of the attack in a case of mistaken identity. Sinister Simon also used acid in the assault, taking things much further than Deb intended.

Cain eventually got hold of Simon and tortured him, delivering a stark threat to leave his family alone after all the trouble he’d caused them.

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