EASTENDERS fans were devastated when it was announced characters Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell had been killed off.
The sisters, played by Samantha Womack and Rita Simons, died in an emotional episode on New Year's Day 2017.
Who were Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders?
Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell arrived on Albert Square in 2007.
Introduced by show producer Diederick Santer, they were the cousins of Phil and Grant Mitchell.
Much hype was made about their arrival and the pair soon took over duties as temporary barmaids for the Queen Vic.
Ronnie then took over the Walford nightclub with her boyfriend Jack Branning, who she eventually went on to marry – before dying on her wedding day.
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During their time on the show, the pair were involved in explosive storylines.
These included baby swapping, affairs, child abuse, mental illness and drug use.
How and when did Ronnie and Roxy die on EastEnders?
The sisters met a watery end on New Year’s Day 2017.
The emotional episode started with joy as it appeared Ronnie was finally about to get her happy ending as she prepared to tie the knot to Jack Branning – but it didn’t take long before the big day took a turn for the worse.
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After a drunk Roxy decided to take a swim, she soon found herself in trouble.
Ronnie jumped into the pool to save her but the dress weighed her down and the pair met their untimely deaths by drowning together.
Three months later, Eastenders boss Sean O'Connor revealed the reason why the pair had to die, instead of just leaving Walford.
He said: “[Ronnie and Roxy] were not the sort of characters that would leave in the back of a taxi.
“We wanted to give them an operatic ending.”
Why did Samantha Womack and Rita Simons leave EastEnders?
Both Samantha and Rita left EastEnders to pursue other projects, but they have differing views on whether their exit came at the right time.
Samantha quit first back in August, with Rita revealing she was leaving a few days later.
This was Samantha's second exit from the show as she left in 2011, after her baby-swapping storyline saw her suffer verbal abuse in the street, before returning in 2013.
Speaking about her departure, Rita told the Express: "It was mutual, for a start, so you know, I wanted to go. A new boss came in, he wanted us to go, which we were all happy with.
"I had to get out of there, it was weird. I knew I had to get out of there because as an actor I needed to spread my wings."
Samantha, however, thinks that she and Rita were the victims of clashing storyline schemes by feckless EastEnders bosses – who didn't like her fighting to protect Ronnie's "authenticity".
Meanwhile, EastEnders boss Sean O'Connor, who has since been fired, said the girls were written out as their "characters were exhausted".
How did EastEnders fans react to their deaths?
EastEnders fans have mourned the loss of the Mitchell sisters.
After the episode had screened, viewers threatened to boycott the BBC soap when the sisters drowned.
Viewers were also angered that only Ronnie was getting mentioned following the sister's deaths and not Roxy.
One viewer tweeted: “Roxy must have had about three mentions since she died 3 weeks ago.
While another added: “Notice how it was all about Ronnie and Jack. Like has #eastenders completely forgotten that they also killed off Roxy?”
Even Rita, who played Roxy, admitted she doesn’t watch the soap anymore for that very reason.
Taking to her Twitter page, she wrote: “Don’t watch Enders anymore so forgive me if I’m misinformed.
“But from what I hear.. is ANYONE mourning Roxy on the square? Poor cow.”
What was the conspiracy theory about Ronnie and Roxy?
An EastEnders fan theory swept the Internet in September 2017 – that Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell were still alive.
The conspiracy theory claims the women faked their deaths to go and live it up in Ibiza.
After a fan tweeted the sisters could come back from the dead just like Kathy Beale, a Twitter account in Ronnie’s name replied: “That’s true. Kathy faked her death. So did we! Me and Roxy live in Ibiza and live with @AuntBabe_Vic”.
There was further speculation when the sisters appeared to make a chilling visit to Albert Square.
Viewers were rubbing their eyes in disbelief when the deceased blonde sisters appeared in Walford's cafe having a chat.
Fans rushed to Twitter to post a snapshot of the bizarre moment – and even got confirmation from Ronnie herself that she had appeared.
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Both wearing black, the sisters were seen in the foreground as "extras" during a chat between evil tormentors Max Branning and Kathy Beale.
However, the Twitter account attributed to Ronnie Mitchell – which confirmed they'd come "back for a visit" – was just a joke account.
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