An anguished Laurel is numb with grief as she says goodbye to Ashley at his funeral. Emmerdale’s Charlotte Bellamy tells the sad story…

Laurel Thomas watched husband Ashley preside over many a Christening, wedding and funeral in the village church. Now she has to sit in the congregation and listen as friends and family say goodbye to the much-loved former vicar.

“She’s numb at Ashley’s funeral,” Charlotte Bellamy told Soaplife. “She’s trying to keep everything together at the moment. She wasn’t ready to lose Ashley so soon.”

Who’s supporting Laurel through this?
“Her dad, Doug Potts [Duncan Preston], is always there for her. She couldn’t get through this without him. Of course, he knew things would end this way, which is why he was so against Laurel marrying Ashley again.”

What’s the funeral like?
“There’s a good turn-out, which is no surprise because Ashley was a central figure in the village. It’s a beautiful service, a real celebration of Ashley’s life. But Laurel is too numb to take any of it in. It’s definitely a service Ashley would approve of.”

Where does Laurel go from here?
“I have no idea. She’s battered and bruised. Who knows what her next journey will be? Laurel’s a mother, so her top priority is to look after the people she needs to. Her main focus now will be baby daughter Dotty and Ashley’s dad, Sandy [Freddie Jones].”

What was it like saying farewell to Ashley actor John Middleton?
“We gave him a really good send-off. I’ve never been to a leaving do packed with so many people. It was extraordinary.”

Will you miss working with John?
“Yes. But the soap machine carries on and, before you know it, you’re thinking about another story. It does feel very strange at the moment because we worked together so closely on the show.”

What did you think of the dementia storyline that led to Ashley’s death?
“I felt really honoured to be part of it and I liked the fact that our producer, Iain MacLeod, pushed the boundaries of soap. John was amazing. He always plays the truth and, with him, less is always more. For me, it’s the end of a long road.”

Do you ever take your work home?
“I can’t… I’m a mum! The other week, my husband was away and I had three kids at home. I go into mum mode as soon as I step in the door. I just get on with life.”

Do your kids watch Emmerdale?
“No, they’d rather watch Ant and Dec! They don’t watch Emmerdale and they’re not bothered by it, which is how it should be.”

Emmerdale, ITV