Samantha Womack to leave EastEnders with dramatic exit for Ronnie Mitchell
Actress Samantha Womack is leaving EastEnders after almost a decade on the soap.
Womack, 43 - who has played Ronnie Mitchell since 2007 - will say goodbye to Albert Square next year.
She is thought to have made the decision after the BBC soap's boss Sean O'Connor offered her a dramatic exit plot.
An EastEnders spokesman said: "We can confirm that Samantha Womack will be leaving EastEnders.
"Samantha has created an iconic character in Ronnie Mitchell, having superbly played out many of EastEnders' biggest moments.
"However, Samantha was recently offered a big storyline which she happily accepted that leads to Ronnie departing Walford.
"We wish Samantha all the best for the future."
The character has been involved in some of Walford's biggest dramas, including a murder and her baby swap storyline.
A soap insider said: "It was felt that with everything Ronnie has been through over the past nine years it is now time to rest the character.
"The writers are working on an extremely exciting story for Ronnie and when Sean presented the idea to Sam she jumped at the opportunity to do it.
"Sam already has a few projects lined up so she won't be off screen for long."
Womack has left the soap before - she departed in 2011 following the controversial cot death plot, saying she needed a break to "find some peace".
She returned to Albert Square in 2013.