One of Emmerdale‘s legendary original characters will die off screen when news of matriarch Annie Sugden’s passing reaches her family next week, as the soap pays tribute to the late Sheila Mercier who passed away last year.
Victoria Barton (Isabel Hodgins) receives word of her grandmother’s passing and is devastated at the loss of the iconic family’s indomitable matriarch. No-nonsense battle-axe Annie ruled the Sugden roost from the soap’s first ever episode in 1972, and remained a cast regular until Mercier’s retirement from full-time acting in 1994.
Annie moved to Spain and ended up marrying old flame Amos Brearly (her third husband after being twice widowed) but made occasional visits back to the village, the last being in 2009 for the funeral of her son Jack Sugden, written into scripts to acknowledge the death of actor Clive Hornby the year before.
In real life, much-loved Mercier died in December 2019 aged 100, following a career that spanned across eight decades, from her first stage credit in 1936 to her last Emmerdale appearance.
Despite not being on screen for many years, Annie’s presence was always felt. Any significant event in the Sugden family warranted a phone call to the head of the clan to keep her in the loop, and as recently as November 2019, pregnant Vic went to stay with her grandma in the aftermath of big brother Robert Sugden being sent to prison for killing her rapist, Lee Posner.
Annie almost made it to Robert and Aaron Dingle’s wedding in 2017, were it for the fact the invitation came too late for her to organise travelling back to the UK.
As Vic gets the tragic call confirming Annie has died, she is on the verge of romance with Lee’s brother, cute chef Luke Posner. After many false starts there is still an undeniable attraction between the pair, despite the obvious baggage.
Marlon Dingle and Bob Hope attempt to do a bit of match-making until they hear of Victoria’s upsetting call, at which point they offer comfort to their friend as the village remembers one of its most beloved residents.
But could this mean new mum Vic needs Luke’s support more than ever? Could tragedy push the pair together and lead to them finally becoming a couple?