Emmerdale: Actress Elizabeth Estensen leaving ITV soap after 22 years

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Image source, ITV
Image caption, Elizabeth Estensen: "Emmerdale will always remain special to me"

Emmerdale's Elizabeth Estensen, who has spent 22 years playing the ITV soap's matriarch Diane Sugden, is retiring from the hugely popular show.

The actress, whose character was the landlady of The Woolpack for 17 years, said she would "miss everyone dearly".

Fans of the show saw Diana Sugden being ripped off by her conman lover, stabbed and held at gunpoint, as well as having cancer treatment.

Estensen has filmed her last scenes but will be on screen for a few weeks.

She said: "For the past 22 years I have loved playing Diane Sugden - she's kind, reliable and fiercely loyal. However, I now feel the time has come to say goodbye.

"Emmerdale will always remain special to me. I've been treated with respect and kindness and I've had the very best friends and colleagues, both past and present. I'll miss everyone dearly."

John Whiston, head of continuing drama and of ITV in the North, called the actress "the natural heart and centre of the Sugden family".

He added: "It's a role she has made so totally her own, bringing compassion, humour and credibility to her portrayal of Diane. Whenever she's on screen, as a viewer, you just let out a contented sigh and say to yourself, 'The Queen is on her throne and all is well with the world.'"

He added that actors don't "get to stay in a soap that long" unless they are "truly professional" and a really, really lovely person".

"Liz is both," he said.

The actress also appeared on ITV's Coronation Street from 1996 to 1998 as well as BBC comedy The Liver Birds from 1975 to 1979.

And she played the character T Bag in the ITV children's shows about a witch-like character and her assistant T Shirt, during the late 1980s.

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