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06/02/2016 03:59 GMT | Updated 07/02/2016 06:59 GMT

'EastEnders' Shabnam Masood Actress Rakhee Thakrar Makes Shock, Emotional Exit From BBC1 Soap

‘EastEnders’ fans were left stunned on Friday night (5 February) when Shabnam Masood bid farewell to Albert Square.

Rakhee Thakrar’s character has been at the centre of a number of huge, emotional storylines during the last 12 months but in the most recent episode of the soap, viewers saw her character leave for good.

Watch Shabnam's exit here (story continues below)...

After deciding that she needed a fresh start following her marriage breakdown, Shabnam resolved to leave, but she was surprised when Shirley Carter suggested that she should take her daughter Jade.

The duo then left, as Kush made a final plea to his wife.

Speaking to Digital Spy, Rakhee has spoken fondly of her time on the soap, telling the website: “My experience on this show has been really special, and I'm so grateful for having the chance to have played Shabs, she's a real gift.

"[She's] a complicated character, who I've loved getting to know. Now, I feel like it's the time to try different projects and new people to play.

“It was a hard decision as I really love this character and this show. I can't thank Dom [Treadwell-Collins, executive producer] enough for trusting me with Shabnam and particularly her story.​"

In recent months, Shabnam has become a fan favourite, and Rakhee won praise, and an NTA nomination for her portrayal of the character’s difficult and sensitive stillbirth storyline.

More recently, viewers saw Shabnam struggle when she discovered her husband is also the father of her best friend Stacey Branning’s baby, and she was dealt another blow when it was revealed that she is unlikely to ever be able to have more children.

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