robbie fowler
Wellard II is sadly no more BBC

EastEnders fans were left devastated after it was revealed in Tuesday night's (4 July) episode that a fan-favourite character had died off screen.

Viewers took to Twitter after Sonia Fowler (Natalie Cassidy) told her grandma Dot Cotton (June Brown) that Robbie Fowler's beloved dog Wellard II was no more.

Dean Gaffney, who plays Robbie, has made a full-time return to the BBC1 soap 14 years after his character left for a new life in India.

The 39-year-old actor was last seen in Albert Square two years ago when he made a brief appearance as part of the farewell plot for his mother Carol.

Robbie has now returned for good as the Albert Square market manager, but his role isn't quite the same without his pet pooch.

While viewers presumed he would be accompanied by Wellard II, who replaced the original Wellard after his onscreen death in 2015, the dog was nowhere to be seen.

Sonia explained to Dot: "Robbie lost Wellard II a while back!"

Fans were displeased to hear of the loss of Wellard II, with one viewer tweeting: "It's not right Robbie being back on the Square without a dog. Bring on Wellard the Third!" Another put: "Oh no, Wellard II died as well."

A third added: "As if they didn't try to make Robbie unlikeable enough, they've now revealed he's careless with his pets. Poor Wellard II #Eastenders".

Robbie and Wellard were inseparable BBC

The Belgian Tervuren first appeared in the soap back on 18 October 1994 and became EastEnders' longest-serving pet before being killed off on 15 August 2008. Though the character is male, he has been played primarily by three female dogs.

He was voted Best Pet at the 2008 Digital Spy Soap Awards and named the UK's favourite soap opera pet in a 2009 Inside Soap poll. In January 2012, the celebrity mutt appeared with Gaffney on Big Brother's Bit on the Side.

EastEnders continues at 7.30pm on BBC1 tonight (5 July).