EastEnders‘ Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden) is in the thick of the action with the recent assault on dad Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) fuelling his dark side and widening the rift between father and son like never before.
The eldest offspring of Walford’s hardest man has been shaped by his violent, troubled past leading to him attempting to finish his dad off once and for all as he lay in a coma after being attacked by Stacey Fowler (Lacey Turner), a crime for which Ben is busy stitching up arch-rival and future brother-in-law Keanu Taylor (Danny Walters) who he feels has usurped his position as the apple of Phil’s eye.
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It’s certainly worth reminding ourselves the events that turned young Ben from sensitive, ballet-loving kid to an embittered, twisted and very angry young man…
Evil stepmum Stella’s abuse
Ben was forced to live with a dad he barely knew aged 10 when his mum Kathy Beale and stepfather Gavin Sullivan were killed in a car crash in South Africa where he’d lived for most of his life. (Except they’d faked their deaths in an insurance scam, but that’s a whole other story…) Quiet, shy and with a love of dancing, he was far from the footie-loving bruiser son Phil had hoped for and the pair struggled to connect. Phil hooked up with posh solicitor Stella Crawford thinking she’d be a stable influence on Ben and basically bring him up, only she turned out to be an abusive psycho who terrorised her future stepson and made his life a misery. She jumped from a roof on her and Phil’s wedding day when her evil deeds were exposed but it left scars on the youngster.
Bashing Jordan Johnson with a wrench
Desperate to Be More Phil and prove himself as a proper Mitchell tough guy to earn his dad’s approval, Ben’s anger issues exploded as Stella’s abuse, his mother’s ‘death’ and his dad’s disinterest manifested itself in a violent streak. As well as pressing red-hot spoons on little sister Louise (as Stella had done to him) in 2010 he assaulted schoolmate Jordan Johnson with a wrench during a fight and he was sent to young offenders for his outburst.
Stalking Phil for his past crimes
Released and recast (from Charlie Jones to Joshua Pascoe) in December 2010, Ben’s first experience behind bars literally changed him forever, and not just because he had a new face. Added to Ben’s issues was his sexuality struggle – fearful of a negative reaction from homophobic Phil when he realised he was gay, the teen had a fumble with distant cousin Lola Pearce that resulted in daughter Lexi. In a twisted bid for attention, Ben anonymously stalked and blackmailed Phil by digging up evidence on his past, including the accidental murder of a homeless man as a result of an insurance job that saw him torch the car lot for Frank Butcher. Not surprisingly this didn’t exactly bond them and Ben was pushed away even more.
Killing Heather Trott with a picture frame
Temper, temper – Ben clashed with kindly Hev, best mate of his dad’s then-partner Shirley Carter, when he thought she had betrayed him during the stalking debacle when the police realised the mini-Mitchell had lied to drop his dad in it. Their fight got physical when Ben lashed out and whacked her over the bonce with a picture frame. Realising he was to blame for his disturbed son’s state of mind, Phil covered up the crime (along with Jay) but the truth eventually emerged and Ben was sent down again, this time for manslaughter.
Losing lover Paul Coker in a homophobic attack
Another stint inside, another recast, and the defining chapter for Harry Reid’s iteration of the character was making peace with being gay and finding love with Paul Coker – only for his fella to lose his life in a homophobic beating in 2016. Ben has never got over Paul’s death, and slid into self-loathing, doing the dirty on Phil again by stealing cash from his risky heist with Aidan Maguire and fleeing to France in 2017, before returning just over a year later with Lola and Lexi planning to fleece his father.
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