In a major twist for EastEnders fans, Cindy Beale (played by Michelle Collins) returned to the BBC soap for the first time in 25 years earlier this year.


The episode on Wednesday 21st June 2023 saw it confirm the fan theory that Cindy was actually Rose Knight, the wife of new Queen Vic landlord George Knight (Colin Salmon) and the mother of his daughters Gina (Francesca Henry) and Anna (Molly Rainford).

But there's plenty more drama on the way, especially as she's been concealing her identity - and the fact she's been alive - for the past quarter century.

Starting the week beginning 28th August 2023, Cindy is finally back on Albert Square for good, prompting confrontation galore and a whole heap of new drama.

So, who exactly is Cindy Beale? has you covered.

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Who is Cindy Beale in EastEnders?

EastEnders actress Michelle Collins in 1996.
EastEnders actress Michelle Collins in 1996. TV Times/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Cindy Beale, maiden name Williams, was the first wife of Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt) and the mother of his children Lucy Beale (most recently Hetti Bywater) and Peter Beale (now played by Thomas Law).

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 Willliams Jr. (most recently Mimi Keene) after her mother.

From her life as Rose Sawyer, Cindy became the mother of Gina Knight (Francesca Henry) and Anna Knight (Molly Rainford) through her marriage to George Knight (Colin Salmon).

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.

How is Cindy Beale alive in EastEnders?

Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale for EastEnders.
Michelle Collins has returned to the role of Cindy Beale after 25 years. BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

The million-pound question: How is Cindy Beale still alive in EastEnders?

Viewers were told she died in childbirth during her prison stint back in 1998... but as TV fans know all too well: if you don't see the body, don't assume they're really gone.

Well, all was answered in EastEnders' Thursday 22nd June 2023 episode, as viewers picked up Cindy and Ian's renewed love story in France.

Accompanied by son Peter Beale and his own son Louie, the pair were living the dream in France. Swimming in their own pool, a massive forest to explore, and a beautiful market nearby where Ian could flog his dodgy baguettes, things couldn't look more idyllic.

But the real truth is that Cindy had to go into witness protection to escape her vengeful cellmate - the gangster Jackie Ford - after Cindy testified against her.

Being advised by DCI Mary Nicholls (Penny Layden), Cindy adopted the identity of "Rose Sawyer", and would be released from prison, but could never go back to Walford and had to forget the idea of seeing her kids again - to protect herself and them.

Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders wearing a denim top
Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders, living her life in France. BBC

As "Rose", Cindy went on to start a new life and fell in love with former professional boxer and bar owner George Knight (Colin Salmon) and the pair would go on to wed and share two children together, Anna (Molly Rainford) and Gina (Francesca Henry).

Their marriage would eventually fall apart in 2014 amid a furious argument and "Rose" fled their life in Marbella. Spain.

The exact date of her reunion with Ian hasn't been established, but we know he found out Cindy was still alive in 2022 - and they were living together at the time of Dot's funeral when Ian made a mysterious call to his "love" (who turned out to be Cindy!).

In June, Cindy learned from DCI Nicholls that Jackie Ford was dead and her time in witness protection was over. However, Ian discovered that the Knights were now in Walford and hid this fact from Cindy for fear of losing her, and instead was adamant they should remain in France.

Cindy and Ian have now returned to EastEnders permanently after Cindy journeyed to Walford to retrieve her son Peter (Thomas Law) - who was aware he now had half-sisters living in Walford - and experienced confrontations with former mother-in-law Kathy Cotton (Gillian Taylforth) and then George himself.

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What happened to Cindy Beale in EastEnders?

Michelle Collins as Cindy Williams in EastEnders in 1989.
Michelle Collins as Cindy Williams in EastEnders in 1989. BBC

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

Despite an on-off romance with Simon, Cindy later entered into a relationship with his budding entrepreneur stepbrother 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 and then pursued a romance with Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), Cindy stayed with Ian and they got engaged and married (albeit after a tumultuous wedding day) 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 all leaving Walford together in late 1990 for a new life in Devon.

In 1992, Ian learned that Simon had abandoned Cindy and Steven and persuaded her to return to Walford with him and they reunited - to the fury of his family, especially mum Kathy.

Ian and Cindy went on to get engaged and marry, with Cindy giving birth to twins Lucy Beale and Peter Beale in late 1993, as 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 and Simon's half-brother, the womaniser David Wicks (Michael French).

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 so 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 for a new life abroad.

In 1997, Ian’s private investigator Ros Thorne (Clare Grogan) tracked Cindy down to Italy and Ian headed there with his step-father Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Phil's 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 eventually called the police.

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

Later in the year, a vengeful 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 about 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, Simon and David's mother 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?

Hetti Bywater as Lucy Beale in EastEnders in 2014.
Hetti Bywater as Lucy Beale in EastEnders in 2014. YouTube/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 played by Clay Milner Russell).

Ian later was married twice to Jane Collins (Laurie Brett) and then most recently to his longtime friend Sharon from whom he later pursued an annulment.

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

In 2006, Ian was informed that his mother Kathy 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 Steven was revealed to be the perpetrator. Steven kept Ian a prisoner for a time but a family confrontation ended in Steven accidentally shooting Jane and leaving her unable to conceive.

Aaron Sidwell as Steven Beale in EastEnders in 2008.
Aaron Sidwell as Steven Beale in EastEnders in 2008. BBC

Steven was sent to receive private mental health treatment but upon his return struggled with his sexuality and then engineered troubled Lucy's disappearance to bring him closer to the Beale family again. The truth was eventually exposed after Steven tried to kill Pat to hide his actions. Ian then banished Steven from Walford.

In 2013, Cindy Williams Jr. came to life in Walford to live with her half-siblings Peter (then played by Ben Hardy) and Lucy (then played by Hetti Bywater), with Cindy Jr. becoming a ward of Ian's and later experiencing a teen pregnancy.

At Easter in 2014, a troubled Lucy was murdered by a head wound and her body was dumped on Walford Common, prompting devastation for the Beale clan and speculation as to who killed her for almost a year.

In 2015, the perpetrator was revealed to be Lucy's young half-brother Bobby (then played by Eliot Carrington) and it was covered up by his adopted mother Jane, who moved her body to Walford Common. The Beale family then decided to keep this a secret, prompting Peter to leave for New Zealand with his pregnant partner Lauren Brannigan (Jacqueline Jossa).

EastEnders Kathy Beale
Gillian Taylforth returned as Kathy Beale in 2015 after "dying" in 2006. 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 abusive 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 the Beale clan, Cindy Jr. left for Germany with her boyfriend Liam Butcher (James Forde) after trying to tell Bobby the truth about Lucy's death. Cindy Jr.'s daughter Beth Williams now resides with her biological father TJ Spraggan (George Sargeant) in Milton Keynes.

In 2016, Bobby confessed to killing Lucy after violently attacking Jane and was sent to prison, to the upset of his parents. However, Ian and Jane escaped justice for covering up his actions.

That same year, Steven returned to Albert Square and mended his relationship with Ian, despite controversially returning in a relationship with Lauren and acting as a stepfather to hers and Peter's son, Louie Beale.

In 2017, after further months of scheming and personal drama. 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 illicit relationship with Lauren's sister, Abi Branning (Lorna Fitzgerald).

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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 killing 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 by Max.

In 2020, Peter (then played by Dayle Hudson) returned to Walford and experienced a difficult relationship with Bobby, while turning to womanising and proving himself as a businessman.

In 2021, Ian fled Albert Square himself after he was almost killed by his then-wife Sharon and her ex-husband Phil in revenge for Ian's involvement in the accidental death of Sharon’s son Dennis Rickman Jr. (Bleu Landau) in a River Thames boat disaster the previous year. 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 once again 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.

In December 2022, Ian was seen secretly watching over the funeral of his good friend Dot Branning (June Brown) 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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EastEnders airs Mondays to Thursdays at 7:30pm on BBC One and from 6am on BBC iPlayer. Visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.

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