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Emmerdale legend Paula Tilbrook dies at the age of 89

Emmerdale star Paula Tilbrook
(Image credit:

Paula played village favourite Betty Eagleton...

Emmerdale star Paula Tilbrook, who played iconic villager Betty Eagleton for 21 years, has died at the age of 89.

The actress actually passed away last December, but the news was officially announced today with an obituary posted on The Stage website.

Emmerdale cast

Paula joined Emmerdale as iconic Betty in 1994 (Picture: PA) (Image credit: PA)

A fond farewell to Betty 

Paula is best known to soap fans as gossip-loving, straight-taking Betty, who arrived in Emmerdale in 1994.

Betty soon found herself at the centre of many Emmerdale storylines and was the former lover of Seth Armstrong.

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The pair eventually went to stay in Australia, but Betty got homesick and returned home without Seth.

The pair were due to be reunited in 2005, but sadly Seth died of a heart attack on the plane journey back to the UK.

Eli, in a lighter moment, persuades Betty (Paula Tilbrook) to go swinging

Betty was a firm favourite during her time on Emmerdale (Picture: ITV)

Paula was a firm favourite in Emmerdale for more than 20 years before retiring from the soap in 2015.

The last time Betty was mentioned in Emmerdale was back in February this year when the character called Laurel to tell her Sandy Thomas had died.

A soap legend 

Paula also appeared in Coronation Street in 1973 as Estelle Plimpton, and reappeared on the cobbles as Olive Taylor-Brown in 1978 and 1980.

Paula later starred in Last of the Summer Wine and Open All Hours.

Her film credits include Yanks and Alan Bennett's A Private Function.

Emmerdale, Laurel Thomas, Arthur Thomas

The last time Betty was mentioned on Emmerdale was February this year when she called Laurel from Australia to tell her Sandy had died (Picture: ITV) (Image credit: ITV)

Her family announced her passing with a statement made via Emmerdale today...

"The family of Paula Tilbrook are sad to confirm the peaceful passing of their beloved Paula.

She died of natural causes a few months ago at home with her loved ones beside her. The family respectfully requests privacy at this difficult time."

Emmerdale will temporarily air a reduced schedule of three episodes a week.

Watch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7pm on ITV.

Claire Crick
Claire Crick

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.