James Thornton to leave Emmerdale on a high
Emmerdale's James Thornton is to hang up his overalls, after confirming he will leave the soap next year.
The actor - married to Gavin And Stacey star Joanna Page - joined the ITV1 series in July 2009 as farmer John Barton, part of the new farming dynasty, who took over Butler's Farm from the Sugdens.
Thornton, 36, said it was the right time to move on.
Viewers have seen John being left heartbroken after discovering his beloved wife Moira's (Natalie J Robb) affair with rival Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley).
And he is set to be a key suspect in the forthcoming Judgment Day storyline in which Cain is left fighting for his life, following a brutal attack on December 8.
Thornton said: "I have had a fantastic time playing John for the past three years, but it's the longest I have ever played one part and the time now feels right to move on.
"I have decided to leave on a high with a big exit storyline in 2012, which I'm really excited about.
"I will miss all my colleagues at Emmerdale and have many very fond memories of my time in the Dales."
Producer Stuart Blackburn said: "James has created a truly memorable character in John and he will be greatly missed but his decision to leave has enabled us to play a hugely gripping and dramatic storyline which will be a highlight in Emmerdale in the coming months."
The Judgment Day whodunnit storyline will leave viewers guessing the attacker's identity until the new year.