When Mandy Dingle (Lisa Riley) returned to Emmerdale after almost 20 years in 2019 she brought a grown-up son with her - or so we thought. It soon emerged Vinny Dingle (Bradley Johnson) was not actually a Dingle at all and kind-hearted Mandy raised him after her ex Paul Ashdale, his dad, did a runner when the lad was a toddler.
Now fans will finally get to meet the aforementioned father when he comes to the village in search of his long-lost son, and we're promised a juicy backstory to explain his absence.
"Paul left when Vinny was four years old," explains Reece Dinsdale, who's playing the estranged parent, and who soap fans will know from his stint on Coronation Street as Joe McIntyre, Gail's ill-fated fourth husband (2008-2010). "There is a reason why he abandoned him, but we won't know it straight away. You'll have to wait a bit to find out!"
Mandy is unexpectedly reunited with her old flame on Wednesday 15th April when she hitches a lift to Sam and Lydia's wedding, following a disastrous hen night that her stranded on a roadside, and is shocked to see the driver is Vinny's father.
"His first line is 'I've come for my son, for Vinny'," continues Dinsdale. "So we're in no doubt about who he is and what he wants. He knows where Mandy's family lived so he's tracked her down, and has no agenda other than wanting to see Vinny again and to make amends for leaving. What you see is what you get with Paul, he is back to make up for all those lost years. His intention is to be a good dad."
For reasons that will become clear later down the line, Mandy is far from happy to see Paul and is so desperate to keep him and Vinny apart she lies that his boy no longer lives locally.
"They certainly don't get off on the best footing. Straight away she lies Vinny isn't there and tells him to go away as she does not want to see him again. It's not the warmest welcome!"
Thought disappointed, Paul appears to accept Mandy's story and drives off, leaving her relieved. However, later when the chaotic Dingle clan gather for a family photo outside the Woolpack at the wedding reception, Paul is secretly parked up nearby having followed Mandy. Spying her from his car with the man who must be his grown-up son, he realises he's been lied to and plots his next move…
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"Mandy simply doesn't want Paul anywhere near Vinny," comments Riley. "She thought he'd gone forever. She confides in Lydia, who tries to make her see that maybe Paul has changed. But Mandy keeps insisting no one knows him like she does. There's a sense she's protecting herself, as well as Vinny, from this man. This storyline will bring out her vulnerable side."
With new signing Dinsdale sticking around for a while it can't be too long before Vinny is confronted with the father who deserted him - or before viewers know exactly why he did it in the first place…