Veteran EastEnders actress June Brown has said she has left her role as much-loved character Dot Cotton after 35 years.
“I’ve left for good,” said the 93-year-old in an interview with podcast Distinct Nostalgia.
She is one of the BBC soap’s longest-running characters and has become a firm favourite with viewers.
Her character Dot has not been in an episode since January. An EastEnders spokesman said the “door remains open”.
Brown joined the show in 1985, the year it was created.
In the last episode she featured in, aired last month, Dot Cotton – or Dot Branning – left a voicemail message for character Sonia Fowler saying she had moved to Ireland.
Asked by interviewer and former co-star Rani Singh whether EastEnders had put her on a retainer, Brown replied: “I don’t want a retainer. I’ve left. I’ve left for good.
“I’ve sent myself to Ireland and that’s where she’ll stay. I’ve left EastEnders.”
One of EastEnders’ best-known stars, Brown was in her late 50s when she joined Albert Square.
Actor Leslie Grantham, who played Dirty Den, suggested her for the role. Until then, Brown’s career had incorporated stage, film and television, with appearances in Coronation Street and Doctor Who.
“I think I got it because they thought I was a punctual actress,” Brown told the podcast, which aired a special episode to celebrate 35 years of EastEnders.
“I’m not really but I became so. In fact I became so punctual I used to be in an hour before I should be.”
She said it “was a very strange feeling” leaving the soap.
“I was feeling rather down the other day,” she said. “I thought, ‘what’s the matter? Why do I feel so sad?’ It’s almost as if I’ve been bereaved.
“I’ve played two people simultaneously for 35 years. Really Dot wasn’t me, but spiritually she probably was.”
Brown took a four-year break from the soap between 1993 and 1997
In 2008, Brown became the first actor in a British soap to carry an entire episode alone, with an emotional monologue dictated to a cassette for her screen husband to listen to in hospital following a stroke.
That same year she was made an MBE for services to drama and charity.
Last year, Brown revealed she was losing her sight after being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration and could no longer recognise her friends.
An EastEnders spokesman said: “We never discuss artists’ contracts, however as far as EastEnders are concerned the door remains open for June, as it always has if the story arises and if June wishes to take part.”