Actress Samantha Womack is leaving EastEnders after almost a decade on the popular UK soap in what promises to be a dramatic finale for her character Ronnie Mitchell.

The 43-year-old has played the part since 2007 will depart from Albert Square next year after the BBC soap's boss Sean O'Connor offered her a headline-grabbing exit for her character.

An EastEnders spokesman said: "We can confirm that Samantha Womack will be leaving EastEnders. Samantha has created an iconic character in Ronnie Mitchell, having superbly played out many of EastEnders' biggest moments.

"However, Samantha was recently offered a big storyline which she happily accepted that leads to Ronnie departing Walford. We wish Samantha all the best for the future."

Ronnie Mitchell has been involved in some of the show's biggest dramas, including a murder and her baby swap storyline.

Womack also left the soap once before, in 2011 as a result of a controversial cot death plot, saying she needed a break to "find some peace" before returning in 2013.

A soap insider added: "It was felt that with everything Ronnie has been through over the past nine years it is now time to rest the character.

"The writers are working on an extremely exciting story for Ronnie and when Sean presented the idea to Sam she jumped at the opportunity to do it.

"Sam already has a few projects lined up so she won't be off screen for long."

Samantha Womack went on Twitter to thank fans for their support. She posted: "Thank you SO much for all your kind words about me leaving EE,It's so humbling to know you loved Ronnie as much as I did! Very grateful Xxx"