Actress was busy being a mum

When EastEnders star Patsy Palmer left in 1999, she thought it would be for good.

But her character Bianca Jackson returned with co-star Sid Owen as Ricky Butcher in 2008 and ratings soared.

‘I honestly thought I’d never go back,’ says Patsy, 37.

‘My kids were babies when I said I wouldn’t return and then I couldn’t imagine going back full time, but now they’re school age.’

Patsy has been happily married to second husband Richard Merkell for 10 years and is mum to Charley, 18, Fenton, 9, and Emelia, 8.

Shooting her first scenes again in Albert Square made her anxious.

‘I was sitting there and I got this wave of panic,’ she tells Woman’s Own. ‘I thought “the kids”. Then I remembered they were at school, so even if I was home they wouldn’t be there.

‘Their dad looks after them while I’m at work.’

Kate Lucey