When is Shirley coming back to EastEnders? Everything you need to know

Shirley Carter wearing a black leather jacket
When is Shirley coming back to EastEnders? (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

The Queen Vic hasn't been the same without fierce matriarch Shirley Carter (Linda Henry) pulling pints behind the bar and making savage remarks to her Walford enemies.

The EastEnders legend has been sorely missed by fans since she left the Square nearly a year ago following her son Mick Carter's (Danny Dyer) devastating Christmas exit.

A lot has gone on since Shirley's departure, including the arrival of the Knight family and her rapist son Dean Wicks (Matt Di Angelo) also returned to the Square after seven years.

And after Dean issued a worrying update about Shirley, it's left us all wondering — when is Shirley coming back to EastEnders?

When is Shirley coming back to EastEnders?

Shirley temporarily left Walford after the presumed death of her son Mick on Christmas Day.

Heartbroken Shirley was grieving the loss of Mick after he disappeared at sea and left the Square to stay with her daughter Carly Wicks (Kellie Shirley) to get away from the painful memories of Walford.

Shirley then closed the pub and thanked Denise Fox (Diane Parish) for calling Carly, before leaving with bulldog Lady Di in tow.

Shirley made a brief appearance in the soap earlier this year when Carly sent a photo of Shirley to Linda Carter (Kellie Bright). But Linda was left traumatised when she saw Shirley's son and her rapist Dean Wicks (Matt Di Angelo) in the picture, realising that Shirley had reunited with Dean.

However, when Dean returned to Walford and confronted Linda, he revealed some concerning news about Shirley. Not only had Dean reunited with Shirley, but he managed to convince her that he wasn't a rapist.

Dean then claimed that Shirley had a mental breakdown after the loss of Mick and her sister Tina Carter (Luisa Bradshaw-White) and had been placed in a psychiatric institution, unable to speak. 

Dean Wicks in front of Beale's Eels.

Dean Wicks dropped a bombshell about his mum Shirley. (Image credit: BBC)

He also blamed Shirley's spiralling mental health on Linda stopping contact with her and that her breakdown caused Carly to cut Shirley off again.

Linda asked Dean if Shirley was coming back to Walford and he alleged that now she knows the truth about Linda, she wouldn't go within a hundred miles of her after he convinced Shirley that he didn't rape Linda.

Linda refused to believe that Shirley would turn against her unless Dean had been manipulating her.

Given the twisted villain's lying past, it's possible that he may be lying about Shirley's current situation in order to terrorise Linda.

Since the news, it has not yet been confirmed when Shirley will be coming back to EastEnders, but we'll potentially see her return later this year.

EastEnders executive producer Chris Clenshaw teased to Radio Times that Shirley will be back in the future, but didn't say when: "So, Linda Henry is currently taking a break from the show.

"But you know, when she walked off with Lady Di last year, in the wake of Mick’s disappearance, it won't have been the last you see of her. I can say that for sure."

Shirley Carter and Mick Carter

Shirley left Walford after losing her beloved son Mick Carter on Christmas Day. (Image credit: BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron)

Where is Shirley in EastEnders?

Shirley went to live with her daughter Carly and had reunited with her son Dean, who she previously disowned for sexually assaulting Linda and attempting to rape Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons).

Dean has since claimed that Shirley is now in a psychiatric unit after a breakdown. However, whether that is her true whereabouts remains to be seen.

Carly Wicks leaning against a brick wall wearing a green t-shirt with a bike on it.

Shirley was staying with her daughter Carly Wicks. (Image credit: BBC)

What happened to Shirley in EastEnders?

Shirley was left distraught after having to accept that Mick had died in a presumed drowning and blamed herself for the tragic ordeal.

After going on a vodka binge, she was found by her friends Jean Slater (Gillian Wright) and Denise who tried to reassure her that it wasn't her fault. But despite their comforting words, Shirley decided to leave Walford and gave Denise the keys to look after the pub.

She then left the Square to go and stay with Carly, taking the family dog Lady Di with her.

According to Dean's claims, Shirley's mental health plummeted following Mick's death and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, leading to Carly cutting contact with Shirley once again.

EastEnders airs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7.30 pm on BBC One — see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also catch up on episodes on BBC iPlayer now. 

Grace Morris
Staff Writer

Grace was a digital writer with WhatToWatch.com, and she now writes for our sister site TechRadar. She graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in 2020 with a degree in Writing and Film Studies, which only made her love for creative writing, film and TV grow stronger.

You'll usually find her watching the drama unfold in the latest reality series or much-loved UK soaps (usually with chocolate by her side!). She's an expert in EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and everything reality-related from Selling Sunset and Married At First Sight UK to 90 Day Fiancé UK. Plus Netflix megahit Virgin River!

Grace also likes to explore new places with her friends and family and, of course, watch and read about the latest films and TV series.