It’s the storyline fans of Emmerdale have been dreading: the death of Ashley Thomas.
And in a teaser for the latest episode of the ITV soap, it seems that his final decline is starting.
Stills from the show see Ashley [John Middleton] collapse to the ground while enjoying himself at a social event at his care home.
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Dancing with pal Bob Hope [Tony Audenshaw], the much loved character begins to feel weak and is soon falling to the ground, coughing into his hanky.
As Bob helps him out, Ashley starts to regurgitate blood in shocking and fraught scenes.
This prompts Bob to scream out for help, as other residents at the home stare on in horror.
It’s no secret that the character of Ashley is set to leave the soap – and will die from his declining demtentia.
And it seems that this is where things will begin to end for the former vicar.
His wife Laurel’s reaction is bound to touch viewers, who are already dreading the impending soap death.
Loyal viewers have watched the character battle degenerative vascular dementia, commonly caused by problems in the blood supply to the brain, following his shock diagnosis in 2015.
Ashley’s illness took another devastating turn at the end of last month, after he once again forgot heartbroken wife Laurel’s name – before handing her his wedding ring.
But after Laurel attempted to give the ring back to her husband when he passed it to new friend Maggie.Laurel, who has been wrestling with her conscience after placing Ashley in care, later attempted to retrieve the item – only to get a slap in the face.
Returning the Beckindale following another difficult meeting with her husband, she unloaded her emotional baggage on close friend Marlon Dingle, telling him: ‘It was terrible, when I got there he didn’t even want to talk to me but then it seemed to get better and I know I sound like a terrible person but there’s this woman, Maggie.
‘And I know he doesn’t remember anything and it’s not his fault and he doesn’t know what he’s doing but he kept holding her hand and he didn’t really want me there.
‘I didn’t know what to do, I just felt so jealous. I ran, I didn’t even say goodbye and all the staff saw.’
The intimate disclosure led to a potentially intimate moment as Laurel leaned in to kiss Marlon – only for Ashley’s father Sandy to walk in at the pivotal moment.Fans later praised factory worker Laurel, played by actress Charlotte Bellamy, for the manner in which she has handled Ashley’s illness.Referencing the emotional storyline, one wrote: ‘I’m heartbroken for Laurel.’Another added: ‘The #Ashley story in Emmerdale is so hard to watch.’Sympathizing with the long-running character’s plight, a third added: ‘Poor Laurel, she has lost her husband in more ways than one.’Others heaped praise on actor John Middleton for his accurately harrowing portrayal of a dementia sufferer, with one commenting: ‘John Middleton deserves an Oscar for his part as the dementia sufferer Ashley Thomas, it is heartbreaking to watch his decline.’Another added: ‘Watching Ashley and Laurel is so heartbreaking.’Middleton, who joined the soap as resident vicar Ashley in 1996, confirmed his departure from the soap in December.’I’m incredibly sad about leaving,’ he told The Sun. ‘I’m somewhat institutionalised but at the same time I’m very excited.
‘We’re living through a golden age of television drama and I’m excited to go out into it.’Reflecting on Ashley’s degenerative illness, he added: ‘It’s an everyday that most people don’t see because it’s hidden.
‘We want to portray something people can identify with and think to themselves, “We’re not alone.”‘
The end is nigh: Dementia sufferer Ashley collapses at his care home and starts to cough up blood… as viewers brace themselves for his final Emmerdale scenes b-error
The beginning of the end: Stills from the show see Ashley [John Middleton] collapse to the ground while enjoying himself at a social event at his care home
Devastating: Loyal viewers as dementia sufferer Ashley gave his wedding ring to new friend Maggie during Monday evening’s episode of Emmerdale
Emotional scenes: Ashley’s illness took another devastating turn on Monday after he once again forgot heartbroken wife Laurel’s name – before handing her his wedding ring
Referencing the emotional storyline, one wrote ‘I’m heartbroken for Laurel’
Harrowing: Another viewer found Ashley’s decline hard to watch
Unfortunate: But after Laurel attempted to give the ring back to her husband when he passed it to new friend Maggie
In agreement: Many admitted the latest scenes were heartbreaking
Drama: Laurel, who has been wrestling with her conscience after placing Ashley in care, later attempted to retrieve the item – only to get a slap in the face
Powerful: Some fans heaped praise on actor John Middleton for his accurately harrowing portrayal of a dementia sufferer
Heart-wrenching: Laurel has been struggling to cope with her husband’s degenerative illness
Job well done: Fans later praised factory worker Laurel, played by actress Charlotte Bellamy, for the manner in which she has handled Ashley’s illness