Barbara Windsor
Barbara Windsor plays Mitchell matriarch Peggy on the BBC soap.BBC

Barbara Windsor who plays Peggy Mitchell in the BBC One soap series makes a dramatic comeback as she tells her son Phil (played by Steve McFadden) she's dying of cancer. The 78-year-old had told TV bosses that she wanted her character to be killed off after deciding to quit the show.

The actress secretly filmed the scenes in November at Elstree Studios which only a few cast members knew about. Her character Peggy Mitchell breaks the news to her son Phil: "The cancer is back. I'm dying."

Windsor, who was made a Dame in the New Year Honours list said: "Everyone knows I love EastEnders, that will never change. Peggy is a character close to my heart but I made the decision that I need to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all, or she will always be there.

"That is something I need to shut the door on. After thinking long and hard about it, I realised it is time for me and the audience to say our final farewells," she told the Daily Star.

EastEnders' executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins paid tribute to the actress: "Barbara has created one of the greatest-ever characters on British TV.

"So this is the end of an EastEnders era. But it is also an opportunity to send Peggy Mitchell out in style in what will be one of the most heart-breaking, uplifting and epic exits an EastEnders character has ever had."

Windsor first appeared in EastEnders in 1994 and has had many dramatic storylines including battling breast cancer and finding out that her husband Frank was having an affair.

The actress revealed that the character of Peggy Mitchell was based on three people: her own mum, Shirley Reid (wife of co-star Mike Reid) and Violet Kray (the mother of East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie).