EastEnders airs major shock return for Dot Branning’s funeral – sending fans wild

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of Dot Cotton's funeral in Eastenders on BBC1. Picture date: Friday December 2, 2022. See PA story SHOWBIZ Eastenders. Photo credit should read: Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

EASTENDERS has aired a major shock return for Dot Branning’s funeral – sending fans wild in the process.

The BBC soap paid an emotional tribute to the legendary character – who passed away off screen a few weeks ago – following June Brown’s death in April aged 95.

EastEnders has aired a major shock return for Dot Branning’s funeral – sending fans wild in the process

Ian made a shock return during the episode

Ian made a fleeting return during the tribute episode

The episode featured a number of former characters returning to Albert Square to pay their respects to Dot, including Lauren Branning, Lofty Holloway, Mary Smith and Colin Russell.

Also at the church was Disa O’Brien, who shared a moment with Kathy Beale next to the hearse.

But as Dot’s coffin was carried into the church, the Walford residents didn’t realise that another person who adored Dot was watching from a distance.

Viewers saw the shoulder of a man dressed in black, before the camera turned around and revealed Ian Beale stood behind the bushes.

EastEnders fans were shocked to see Adam Woodyatt back in the role, after he left the show in January 2021 and has spoken a number of times about having no plans to return.

His comeback was only fleeting though, as he tearfully said: “Goodbye Dot, I’ll miss you.”

Ian’s phone then rang in his pocket and he quickly answered saying: “Hello love, yeah, I’m coming home.”

He was then seen walking off down the path away from the church as well as his family and friends, who had no idea he had been there at all.

EastEnders fans immediately took to Twitter to react to Ian’s brief return.

One wrote: “Wow brilliant to see Ian Beale make a cameo for dots funeral #EastEnders.”

Another added: “Glad to see Ian back. #EastEnders.”

A third tweeted: “IAN?????? I definitely did NOT expect that!!! ?#EastEnders.”

A number of former characters returned including Colin Russell and Mary Smith