If you're a fan of EastEnders then it is unlikely you missed the shocking news that Cindy Beale is returning to the soap.

Like her or loathe her, Cindy made a huge impact during her stint on the BBC One soap from 1989 to 1998 and left an everlasting mark on the Beale family, particularly her former husband Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt).

Now, Cindy is set to make a comeback alongside Ian in a special episode later this year but much of the story is under wraps despite reports suggesting the pair have reconciled and are living abroad!

So, just who is Cindy Beale and what is her story in EastEnders?

Who is Cindy Beale in EastEnders?

Cindy Beale, maiden name Williams, was the first wife of Ian Beale and the mother of his children Lucy Beale (most recently Hetti Bywater) and Peter Beale (most recently Dayle Hudson).

From a relationship with Ian’s step-brother Simon Wicks (Nick Berry), Cindy conceived her eldest child, Steven Beale (most recently Aaron Sidwell).

Cindy later entered into a relationship with a man named Nick Holland (Dominic Taylor) and conceived her youngest child who was named Cindy (most recently Mimi Keene) after her mother.

Through her children, Cindy is the grandmother of Cindy Jr.’s daughter Beth Williams, Peter’s son Louie Beale, and Steven’s daughter Abi Branning Jr.

What happened to Cindy Beale in EastEnders?

The Fowler and Beale families in EastEnders.
The Fowler and Beale families in EastEnders. Photographed by Don Smith. Radio Times Archive

Cindy Williams first appeared in EastEnders in 1986 as a market trader and a love interest for Ian’s step-brother, womanising barman Simon Wicks.

Despite an on-off romance with Simon, Cindy later entered into a relationship with his budding entrepreneur brother Ian and the pair later got engaged.

However, Cindy displayed her selfish streak and went on to have an illicit sexual encounter with Simon where she conceived her eldest child Steven.

After Simon refused to be with her, Cindy stayed with Ian and they got engaged and married before she gave birth to Steven.

Yet, when the truth of Steven’s true paternity was revealed, Ian grew erratic, suicidal and vengeful and tried to ruin Simon’s life, culminating in Simon, Cindy and Steven leaving Walford in early 1990.

In 1992, Ian learned that Simon had abandoned Cindy and Steven and persuaded her to return to Walford with him and they reunited, going on to get engaged and marry, with Cindy giving birth to twins Lucy Beale and Peter Beale, while Ian raised Steven as his own son.

Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders in 1998.
Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders in 1998. YouTube/BBC

Despite their new family unit, Cindy grew more unhappy with married life and pursued multiple affairs, first with a lifeguard named Matt (Toby Walton) and then with Ian’s half-brother, the womaniser David Wicks (Michael French).

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Ian, suspecting Cindy of an affair, hired a private investigator to prove it and he did. Afterwards, Ian swore to fight Cindy for custody of their children.

Amid Ian and Cindy’s bitter feud, David abandoned Cindy and she decided to take drastic action by hiring a hitman named John Valecue (Steve Weston) to kill Ian.

Despite attempting to call off the hit, Cindy was too late and Ian was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in front of her.

Ian survived but the police suspected that Cindy was responsible for the hit, causing her to flee the country with the help of David and friend Barry Evans (Shaun Williamson) in 1996.

However, when her allies failed to retrieve Lucy for her, a distraught Cindy was forced to flee the country with only Steven and Peter.

In 1997, Ian’s private investigator tracks Cindy down to Italy and Ian heads there with his step-father Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and his brother Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) to retrieve his sons. Once there, Ian duped Cindy into the idea of reconciliation so she could be reunited with Lucy. As Cindy played along with it, she began to grow suspicious and called the police.

However, Cindy was too late as Phil and Grant abducted Steven and Peter and soon return to the UK with Ian, leaving Cindy alone.

Later in the year, Cindy returned to Walford with her boyfriend Nick Holland and fought Ian for custody of their children. Ultimately, Cindy won the custody battle but when she arrived to take the children away, she was arrested for conspiracy to murder after hitman Valecue - then in prison - was persuaded to give information on Cindy’s hit on Ian.

In the aftermath, Ian won custody of the children and Cindy was charged and held on remand while pregnant with Nick’s daughter.

Realising that Cindy did try to have Ian killed, Nick abandoned her and their unborn child to Cindy’s fate in prison.

In November 1998, Pat Butcher (Pam St. Clement) informed Ian that Cindy went into labour and gave birth to a daughter but died from the resulting complications.

Ian later attended Cindy’s funeral and met her baby daughter who he named Cindy in memory of her. The child later went to live with Cindy’s childless sister, Gina Williams (Nicola Cowper).

What has happened since Cindy Beale’s exit from EastEnders?

EastEnders Kathy Beale
Gillian Taylforth returned as Kathy Beale in 2014 after "dying" in 2006. BBC

In the years since Cindy's apparent death, Ian went on to marry multiple times, first to Melanie Healy (Tamzin Outhwaite), then to Laura Dunn (Hannah Waterman) with whom he had a son named Bobby Beale (now Clay Milner Russell), then twice to Jane Collins (Laurie Brett), and then most recently to his longtime friend Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) from whom he later pursued an annulment.

Cindy’s eldest son Steven discovered his true paternity and left Walford to live with his father Simon in New Zealand in 2002.

In 2006, Ian was told his mother Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) had died in a car crash in South Africa alongside her husband Gavin, leaving him distraught.

In 2007, Ian was stalked and threatened by messages from “Cindy” apparently from beyond the grave, but an unhinged returning Steven was revealed to be the perpetrator.

In 2014, Cindy’s daughter Lucy was murdered by a head wound and her body was dumped on Walford Common. In 2015, the perpetrator was revealed to be her young half-brother Bobby Beale and it was covered up by his adopted mother Jane.

Hetti Bywater as Lucy Beale in EastEnders in 2014.
Hetti Bywater as Lucy Beale in EastEnders in 2014. YouTube/BBC

Also in 2015, Ian's mother Kathy was revealed to have faked her own death in South Africa due to the influence of her evil husband Gavin Sullivan (Paul Nicholas). Kathy later returned to Walford and has remained at the centre of the Beale family ever since.

In 2015, after spending two years living in Walford with her half-siblings, Cindy Jr left for Germany with her boyfriend Liam Butcher (James Forde) after discovering the truth about Lucy’s death. Cindy Jr’s daughter Beth Williams resides with her biological father TJ Spraggan (George Sargeant) in Milton Keynes.

In 2016, Bobby confessed to killing Lucy and was sent to prison, to the upset of his parents.

In 2017, Cindy’s son Steven was killed as a result of injuries sustained in a confrontation with Max Branning (Jake Wood) during a fire at the Beales’ restaurant, later dying in hospital after learning he would be a father from his relationship with Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald).

Aaron Sidwell as Steven Beale in EastEnders in 2017.
Aaron Sidwell as Steven Beale in EastEnders in 2017. YouTube/BBC

Abi herself died the following year after falling from the roof of the Queen Vic pub but her unborn child was saved and was named Abi in her mother’s memory. After various spells in the custody of different guardians, Abi Jr. was later taken abroad by her maternal grandfather Max with whom she now resides.

In 2019, Bobby was released from prison for the murder of Lucy and was accepted back home by his conflicted father Ian, who had been left by his wife Jane in 2017 after she was blackmailed into leaving Walford.

In 2021, Ian fled Albert Square himself after he was almost killed by his wife Sharon and her ex-husband Phil in revenge for Ian accidentally causing the death of Sharon’s son Dennis (Bleu Landau) in a Thames boat disaster. Ian later arranged the annulment of his marriage to Sharon and left her the Queen Vic pub.

Adam Woodyatt as Ian Beale in EastEnders.
Adam Woodyatt as Ian Beale in EastEnders. BBC

Finally, in 2022, Peter Beale left Walford for the final time after falling out with the rest of the Beale family and later went to New Zealand to see his baby son Louie and former girlfriend Lauren Branning (Jacqueline Jossa).

Ian was seen secretly watching over the funeral of his good friend Dot Branning (June Brown) in December last year and made a mysterious call to someone he referred to as “love” and said he would be home soon before departing.

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