Who is Cindy Beale in EastEnders and where has she been?

Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders
Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders. (Image credit: BBC)

Cindy Beale’s return to EastEnders has been one of the most hotly anticipated comebacks in soap history and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

After weeks of speculation we now know that Cindy is also Rose, the mysterious ex-wife of Queen Vic landlord George Knight and mum to his daughters, Gina and Anna.

The legendary character, played by Michelle Collins, was killed off 25 years ago after supposedly dying during childbirth in prison. But EastEnders has a habit of bringing former residents back to life and it’s time for Cindy to wreak havoc in Albert Square once more.

Her previous form would indicate fans are in for a treat. During the mid-90s, Cindy was at the centre of some of the show’s most explosive storylines — including hiring a hitman to try and bump off her long-suffering husband, Ian.

But just who is Cindy Beale? And where on earth has she been all these years?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

Who is Cindy Beale?

Cindy Beale is a former resident of Albert Square and the ex-wife of Ian Beale. She's the mother of Steven Beale, who died in 2017, twins Peter and Lucy (who was murdered by Bobby back in 2015) and Cindy Williams Jr.

She made her first appearance in Walford back on May 10, 1988, selling hats on her mum's market stall. Cindy was only written into the soap for 11 episodes as a brief fling for barman Simon 'Wicksy' Wicks, but her character quickly captured people's attention.

After getting caught up in a love triangle with Simon and Donna Ludlow, Cindy soon grew tired of Wicksy's womanising ways and turned her attention towards his stepbrother, Ian Beale.

Initially, Cindy's relationship with Ian was just a sneaky ploy to make Simon jealous, but by February 1989 the couple had announced their engagement.

But any hopes of a happy ever after were soon to be dashed...

Michelle Collins and Adam Woodyatt as Cindy and Ian Beale in EastEnders

Cindy and Ian have always had a rocky relationship.  (Image credit: BBC)

Who was Cindy Beale married to?

Cindy was famously married to Walford businessman Ian Beale, but the union was far from harmonious.

Shortly after getting engaged, Cindy bedded her ex-Simon, resulting in her becoming pregnant with her son, Steven.  Simon had no intention of playing happy families so Cindy went ahead with the wedding to Ian, allowing him to believe the baby was his.

The truth came out after Steven's birth and Cindy fled the Square with him and Simon, leaving Ian completely heartbroken.

Fast forward two years, Ian discovered Simon had abandoned Cindy and their son and persuaded her to return to Walford so he could raise Steven as his own.

The couple reconciled, and in 1993 welcomed twins Lucy and Peter into the world.

The monotony of married life and motherhood wasn't to Cindy's liking though, and it wasn't long before her head was turned...

Michelle Collins and Adam Woodyatt as Cindy and Ian Beale in EastEnders

Cindy and Ian's marriage didn't last long... (Image credit: BBC)

Why did Cindy Beale plot to murder her husband?

Cindy was never cut out to be a housewife and ended up straying with a hunky lifeguard called Matt.

Their fling was short-lived, but she then fell hook, line and sinker for smooth-talking car salesman, David Wicks, the half-brother of her former lover Simon.

Fans couldn't get enough of Cindy and David's secret affair, which carried on for a year before they were caught out after Ian paid a private investigator to follow them. 

With Ian threatening to get custody of the kids and David losing interest, desperate Cindy hired a hitman to kill her husband. She changed her mind, but it was too late — Ian was shot in front of Cindy and left fighting for his life.

As the police closed in, Cindy fled to Italy with Steven and Peter, but was forced to leave Lucy behind. David made a promise to join them later, but that never happened.

In 1997, Ian's private investigator tracked Cindy down to Italy. Grant and Phil Mitchell snatched Steven and Peter and brought them back home. Cindy soon followed with her new boyfriend Nick Holland and successfully fought Ian for custody.

But just moments after collecting her kids, Cindy was arrested for conspiracy to murder after Ian's associates forced the hitman to confess.

Michelle Collins and Adam Woodyatt as Cindy and Ian Beale in EastEnders

Cindy has six children but sadly Steven and Lucy have both died.  (Image credit: BBC)

How did Cindy Beale die?

Following her arrest, Cindy was held on remand in prison. She was also pregnant at the time, with Nick's baby.

After realising Cindy's wicked ways, Nick left her to rot in jail, penniless and unable to afford a lawyer.

Then on November 5, 1998, Ian received news that Cindy had died in childbirth. Her baby girl survived and was given the name Cindy by Ian in honour of her late mum.

Raised by Cindy's sister Gina, Cindy Williams Jr, ended up being fostered by Ian. Last played by actress Mimi Keene, Cindy Jr became a teen mum when she gave birth to baby Beth in 2014. 

She left Walford the following year to live with Liam Butcher in Germany.

Michelle Collins as Cindy Beale in EastEnders

She's back! We now know that Cindy has been alive all this time.  (Image credit: BBC)

Where has Cindy Beale been for 25 years?

Cindy's character was killed off in 1998, but her death occurred off-screen and neither the viewers nor Ian saw a body, which in the world of soaps makes it plausible that she didn't actually perish in prison. 

Cindy assumed the new identity of Rose and went on to marry former boxer, George Knight. We know the couple set up home in Spain and welcomed daughters, Gina and Anna.

All along George has been adamant that he has no idea why Rose walked out on him and their girls and claims to have had no contact with her.

But as suspected, George hasn't been entirely truthful and still has a direct line to his ex after he was seen calling her phone.

So now we know Cindy is very much alive and in the extended episode of EastEnders on Thursday, June 22 we discovered that Cindy has been living under the name Rose Knight after going into witness protection back in 1998 when she gave the police information on her prison cellmate. 

We now know that Cindy and Ian are once again a couple and have been living in France with their son, Peter. But what we don't know is how the trio got back in touch once again. 

It was revealed at a recent press event that the scenes set in France were filmed in May 2023, but Adam Woodyatt, Michelle Collins and Thomas Law have now returned to the EastEnders studios and are back filming on the iconic Walford set. 

It has been confirmed that Ian, Cindy and Peter will be back on our screens 'later this summer'. 

All will be revealed in EastEnders on Thursday, June 22 in a special extended episode at 7.30 pm. 

Laura Morgan
Freelance writer

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.