EastEnders' long-serving character Ian Beale has returned to the Square to pay his respects to Dot Branning in her emotional funeral scenes.


Played by Adam Woodyatt, Ian originally left in January 2021 as the actor took an extended break from the soap.

In the EastEnders episode aired on December 12th 2022, the fan favourite made an unexpected cameo. Woodyatt hadn't been announced among the returnees for Dot's funeral tribute, but can be seen watching the event from afar and heard talking on the phone with a mysterious person he calls "Love".

Here's all you need to know about the character's soap journey.

Who is Ian Beale in EastEnders?

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

Introduced in 1985, Ian initially made his living as a market stall worker and went on to become a successful businessman.

His sometimes smug demeanour is the reason behind one of the soap's most prominent feuds, that with Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). As for his love life, Ian has been married six times with five different women. His latest marriage was to Phil's ex Sharon, played by Letitia Dean.

His arc wasn't spared some personal tragedy with the loss of his daughter Lucy (Hetti Bywater), who was murdered in 2014. She was revealed to have been killed by Ian's adoptive child, Bobby (now played by Clay Milner Russell). The businessman, together with his ex-wife and Bobby's adoptive mother Jane (Laurie Brett), Phil and Sharon framed Max Branning (Jake Wood) for the crime.

His complicated relationship with Sharon took a dark turn when Ian became indirectly responsible for her son Dennis Jr's (Bleu Landau) death, after locking him in a storage room on a boat that was later crashed by Phil and Keanu Taylor (Danny Walters). At first unaware of Ian's involvement, Sharon found out the truth and planned her revenge against him.

Why did Ian Beale leave EastEnders?

eastenders sharon beale ian beale
Letitia Dean as Sharon and Adam Woodyatt Ian Beale in a scene of EastEnders. BBC

In one his final storylines, Ian was attacked by Phil and later hospitalised. Thinking his end was approaching, he proposed to Sharon, who accepted. And by becoming his wife, Sharon had a chance to get closer to Ian, ultimately trying to poison him.

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Ian discovered her scheming and decided to eat the poisonous dish and let himself die, but Sharon had a change of heart and made him vomit the food.

She later told Phil she wouldn't do his dirty work for him and he would have to kill Ian himself. By the time Phil went to The Vic to confront Ian, the latter had already left — not before sending Sharon an annulment request.

Was his recent cameo a one-off or will Ian Beale be back in EastEnders permanently?

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