Violent deaths in the top three soaps: Emmerdale

Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale are of course famous for their dramatic storylines that often end in someone’s death, so we thought we might take a look at some of the more grisly endings that soap characters have met over the years. For that reason, we’re not including deaths by natural causes… just in case you read this and think, ‘they missed that one out!’

We’ll kick off with Emmerdale and in fact, the very first episode of the show, which aired on October 16th, 1972, featured the funeral of Annie Sugden’s husband, Jacob, albeit that his end was from drinking himself into his box.

However, one of the best multi-death disasters ever shown on UK soap was the plane crash in Emmerdale – or Beckindale as the village was known then – in December, 1993.

It resulted in the deaths of Mark Hughes, Elizabeth Pollard, Archie Brooks and Leonard Kempinski. After the crash, Chris Tate was left confined to a wheelchair.

Mark Hughes was the brother of Rachel, who was once married to Chris Tate, and the son of Kate who married Joe Sugden. Mark moved into Emmerdale with his mother and sister in 1988. In 1989, he ran away to Germany to be with his dad, but only got as far as Hull… as you do. In 1992, instead of going to university as his family wanted him to do, Mark took a job as a handyman at the holiday village. He died when the plane crashed onto the village and was identified by the 1930’s watch that Annie Sugden had given him.

Elizabeth Pollard was – fairly obviously – married to Eric, however, what she didn’t know when she married him was that he was already married to a woman called Eileen. When Elizabeth died as a result of the plane crash, her son Michael believed Eric had used the opportunity of the crash to cover up that he’d murdered her because she was about to reveal to police that Eric was dealing in stolen cheques. There was no proof so no charges were brought.

Poor Archie – political activist and all round good egg – was last seen by his friend Nick standing in a field on a hillside when aviation fuel rained down on him followed by a huge fireball. The assumption is that he was pretty much vapourised but as no body was ever recovered, there’s always been speculation that Archie might turn up again one day!

Leonard Kempinski was killed by a piece of flying wing in the plane crash. He was in a car along with Joe Sugden and his new wife Annie, heading for the airport. Leonard died instantly and Annie was left in a coma. Leonard had met Annie while she was on holiday in Spain; he was a friend of Amos Brearly’s. He came to Beckindale in 1992 and stayed for Christmas after asking Annie to marry him.

Here’s a link to the first part of that amazing episode of Emmerdale which attracted more than 18 million viewers

There’ve been plenty of other nasty ends in Emmerdale though…

Other than Jacob Sugden, one of the earliest deaths was that of Sharon Crossthwaite in January 1973. She was the daughter of Annie Sugden’s second cousin Beryl. It was a very shocking storyline at the time for poor 17 year old Sharon was raped and murdered. A character called Jim Latimer was caught and convicted of her murder.

Next to snark it in ‘73 was a character called ‘Trash’ who committed suicide by jumping out of a window and breaking his neck in February.

Then, in July of ’73, Peggy Skilbeck died of a brain haemorrhage three months after giving birth to twins. Now, I know I said these would all be violent deaths but her death was very shocking to viewers at the time, so I thought we should include it. She was Annie and Jacob Sugden’s daughter and was buried in the graveyard next to her father. Peggy was married to Matt Skilbeck who worked on the farm.

The next deaths came in 1976 when, at just 3 years old, Peggy and Matt’s twins died in a car crash with their aunt with whom they’d been staying since the death of their mother. The car collided with a train at a level crossing.

Incidentally, the character of Peggy spoke the first ever line Emmerdale Farm; speaking to her husband, she said, “Matt, who’s she?” Peggy was wondering who the blonde was who was riding a horse and watching the cortège on the way to Jacob Sugden’s funeral. It was, in fact, Henry Wilks’ daughter Marian.

In June 1977, a character called Jim Gimbel shot himself after becoming depressed and living rough. February 1981 saw the demise of Enoch Tully, whose tractor flipped over and squished him flat as a cow pat.

Then in January 1986, a character called Harry Mowlem was murdered and Matt Skilbeck was accused of killing him but it turned out to be Harry’s business partner, Derek Warner, who’d done the deed.

Next to meet a gruesome end on August 26th 1986, was Pat Sugden, wife of Jack, who bit the dust after swerving to avoid a sheep on the road then plunging down a cliff. In August 1989, Pat’s son Jackie – who was married to Kathy – accidentally shot himself dead while hunting a fox for a £10 bet.

Before Jackie was fatally stupid, in November ’88, timber consultant Steven Fuller was killed by a falling tree. He’d had a brief affair with Dolly Skilbeck – Matt’s second wife – and she felt guilty about him so she arranged his funeral.

Next, in November 1988, Dennis Rigg, Joe Sugden’s unpopular business partner, died after being gored by a bull. Dangerous places to be, farmyards.

In August 1990, Rachel Hughes – remember her from earlier? – was having an affair with a bloke called Pete Whiteley. He was married to Lynn and she was expecting their first child. Anyway, one night, rather the worse for wear, Pete was walking home drunk and Kate, Rachel’s mum, hit him with her car and he died. Lynn gave birth to their baby on the day of Peter’s funeral. Awwwwwwwww.

Then there came the deaths during the plane crash – detailed above – and the next gory end came when Vic Windsor died on Christmas Day 1998 after a fight with Billy Hopwood when Billy carried out an armed raid at the Emmerdale post office. Before that though, and ironically enough, Viv’s first husband Reg Dawson was shot after HE tried to carry out an armed raid at the post office as well!

Shirley Foster also died during the Reg-robbery story. She was the love of Alan Turner’s life at the time and had helped him to cope with the aftermath of the plane crash and refurbished the badly damaged Woolpack with him.

They’d been married in February of that year, but their happiness wasn’t to last long; Shirley was shot dead after Reg arrived in the village with a gang of masked robbers. They made their getaway with Viv and Shirley as hostages and Alan Turner was injured by a stray bullet.

Reg and the raiders – sounds like a pop group doesn’t it – barricaded themselves in at Home Farm, but when one of the raiders became scared, Reg shot him. He was about to kill Viv too but Shirley stepped in and died in her place. Police marksmen stormed the house and shot Reg dead.

After that, Joe Sugden moved to Spain where he died in a car crash, so he’s not strictly speaking a gory death in Emmerdale per se, but even still, it’s worth a mention. The next Emmerdale resident in situ to meet his demise was Luke McAllister in 1995. He too died in a car crash after being jilted by one of the many Dingle girls, Tina. She was in the car with him but she lived.

In 1996, Jed Connell was shot by Nick – Kathy’s brother – because he was poaching and Nick was a gamekeeper. That said, Nick hadn’t meant to kill him but nonetheless was imprisoned for the death.

On Boxing Day of that year, Dave Glover met his end while rescuing Kim Tate’s baby from a burning house. He’d been married to Kathy for just over a month when he died but he’d been having an on/off affair with Kim for over a year and there was some question as to whether the baby was his.

Kim was in part responsible for Frank Tate’s death in May 1997 and you can read about that in our special, The Most Dangerous Women in Soapland!

Dave Glover’s sister, Linda Fowler, died not that long after her brother in October 1997. She was in a car driven by a man called Alex Oakwell who’d been trying to snort cocaine at the time. He fled the scene and left poor Linda to die.

After that, in May 1999, Rachel – ex-wife of Chris, sister of deceased Mark – died at the hands of a psychopath who she’d been dating called Graham Clark. He’d murdered his first wife, unbeknownst to Rachel, and by the time she discovered he was a screaming loon, it was too late and he pushed her off a cliff.

By November of 1999, the grim reaper was waiting to collect another Emmerdale resident and this time, it was Zoe Tate’s long lost brother Liam, who showed up, kidnapped Chris – out of jealousy born of sibling rivalry – and was then shot by Zoe as she launched a rescue mission to free Chris.

February 2000 saw the end of nasty nutter Graham Clark; the bloke who’d killed Rachel. He kidnapped Kathy and took her on a less then pleasant ride in his car and over a cliff. Marlon and Pollard manage to rescue her just in the knickers of time or she’d have died too.

In May of that year, lorry driver Pete Collins died at the wheel when he lost control of his truck and it ploughed into a bus carrying many of the villagers. Four days later, on 24th March, and having been seriously injured in the accident, Butch Dingle died just hours before he was supposed to marry Emily.

Then in November 2000, Sarah Sugden died in a barn fire which was started by her adopted son Andy. Sarah was in the barn hiding with her lover Richie. Death was then in waiting again until in September 2001, local headmistress Miss Strickland was run down by a bunch of local kids who’d stolen a car and were joyriding.

The next death wasn’t until November 2002 when local copper – and lover of Cain Dingle – Angie Reynolds died while pursuing Cain after he carried out a robbery. Cain was still in love with Angie, and despite the fact that they were no longer involved romantically, he pulled her from the wreckage of the van she was in and cradled her as she died.

Christmas Day 2002 saw the next icky demise as Louise shoved violent lover Ray Mullan down the stairs at Mill Cottage. Next to go was Chris Tate who poisoned himself to death but set it up to look like Charity Dingle had killed him. He found out he had a brain tumour and didn’t have long to live anyway so decided to take revenge on the woman he’d taken in and loved but who’d deceived and lied to him.

Then it was Tricia’s turn to josh it in the great storm of New Year 2004. Poor Tricia and her husband Marlon had been going through some tough times but loved each other dearly and just as they were about to be reconciled, the pub fell on her. Marlon eventually agreed to turn off her life support and on 8th January, she slipped quietly away to soon appear on I’m A Celebrity…

Max King was the next to have an untimely death and in October 2005, he died instantly when the Land Rover he was in went off the road and through a brick wall before exploding.

Then the 500th anniversary episode of the show saw the King’s new housing development blow up, killing Terry’s wife – and Bob’s daughter – Dawn, on 14th July 2006. She was inside one of the houses when they went boom.

Next to die – violently – was Tom King on Christmas day, 2006. He was pushed out of a window by his son Carl.

So, is 2008 going to go by without a nasty, violent death?

The year’s not out yet and if I lived in Emmerdale, I’d avoid cliffs, cars and stairs, just to be on the safe side!

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