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Emmerdale's Elizabeth Estensen announces retirement

Emmerdale's Elizabeth Estensen announces retirement
© ITV
Elizabeth Estensen announces her retirement after 22 years playing Diane Sugden on Emmerdale.

Elizabeth Estensen has announced that she is to leave Emmerdale after deciding to retire.

The 72-year-old has played Diane Sugden on the ITV soap since 1999, during which time the character has been widowed, survived a gun hostage situation and battled cancer twice.

In upcoming episodes, Diane decides that the time is right to leave the village and packs her bags to go live in sunnier climes.

"For the past 22 years I have loved playing Diane Sugden - she's kind, reliable and fiercely loyal. However, I now feel the time has come to say goodbye," Estensen said.

"Emmerdale will always remain special to me. I've been treated with respect and kindness and I've had the very best friends and colleagues, both past and present. I'll miss everyone dearly."

John Whiston, MD of continuing drama at ITV, added: "For 22 years, Liz has shone through the screen and into our living rooms as the natural heart and centre of the Sugden family.

"It's a role she has made so totally her own, bringing compassion, humour and credibility to her portrayal of Diane.

"Whenever she's on screen, as a viewer, you just let out a contented sigh and say to yourself 'The Queen is on her throne and all is well with the world'.

"And off screen, you don't get to stay in a soap that long unless you are a truly professional actor and really, really lovely person. Liz is both."

Estensen has already filmed her final scenes, which are due to air in a few weeks.

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