Tamzin Outhwaite has quit EastEnders and soap bosses are planning an explosive exit for her character.
The 48-year-old actress returned to Albert Square as Mel Owen in 2018 but has decided to leave to “pursue other challenges”.
Outhwaite told Metro: "When [then executive producer] John [Yorke] asked me to return to EastEnders back in 2017, I jumped at the chance to play Mel once more but it was only supposed to be for a year.
"That year quickly passed and I agreed to stay on for another, but now the time feels right to once again pursue other challenges.
"I will of course miss so many people here at EastEnders, and I will forever have good memories of my time at the show, but I am also excited to experience new roles outside of Walford."
And Mel’s shock exit from Walford could be imminent, as it is expected to coincide with the return of her on-screen killer son Hunter (played by Charlie Winter).
Current executive producer Jon Sen added: "We are extremely grateful to Tamzin for reviving the character of Mel Owen back in 2017, allowing EastEnders fans the chance to see one of Walford’s most popular characters take centre stage once more.
"Tamzin is an incredible talent who has set our screens on fire with her wonderful performances in some of our most iconic storylines. We wish her the best of luck for the future."
Mel first appeared in EastEnders in 1998 and left in 2002 to live in Portugal. She returned in 2018 as part of a plot which saw her double-cross Sharon Mitchell in order to retrieve some stolen money. Earlier this year her son Hunter murdered his father Ray in order to save her and then fled the Square.
The news comes as the BBC soap is suffering a severe dip in ratings.
Viewing figures for the show dropped to an all-time low of just just 2.4 million one day in June. This was blamed on an unadvertised schedule change due to the Women’s Football World Cup.
EastEnders was watched by a record 30 million on Christmas Day in 1986 when Dirty Den told wife Angie he was leaving her for good.