Tragedy reunited the Branning family when Abi passed away...

Abi Branning’s life support machine was switched off in tonight’s tearful episode of EastEnders, and Tanya (Jo Joyner), Cora (Ann Mitchell) and Rainie (Tanya Franks) all made a return to the BBC 1 soap, and joined Max, Lauren and Jack at Abi’s bedside.

Abi had been declared “brain stem dead” following her horror plunge from The Vic on Christmas Day. Though Max had previously insisted on taking his daughter to America for experimental treatment, he finally agreed to allow doctors to switch off the machine keeping her alive, and asked them to do it at 8.32pm – the time Abi was born.

As Cora arrived with Rainie, she passed on a message from Tanya that she wanted him to leave, who carried out his ex wife’s wishes. But when the time came, Tanya asked for Max to be present.

Back on the square, Jay had earlier found out from Lauren that Abi would pass away that evening, and spread the word amongst her friends. Later at The Vic, Linda Carter then rang the famous bell three times, and the pub fell silent as the regulars remembered their young neighbour and friend.

Over at the hospital, meanwhile, the doctor removed Abi’s breathing tube, and the former vet’s receptionist finally slipped away.

But while EastEnders star Lorna Fitzgerald has left EastEnders after playing Abi for over 10 years, her on screen aunt Rainie is returning to Walford.

Following her brief reappearance in tonight’s episode, Rainie will be back later this Spring.

“It’s like never having been away,” said Tanya Franks who plays the troublesome character. “I love working with everyone at EastEnders. With executive consultant John Yorke at the helm at the moment, the show is in good hands and I’m excited to explore the next chapter in Rainie’s journey.”

Rainie was previously last seen on screen in 2015 for the special flashback episode of EastEnders, which revealed what really happened the day Lucy Beale died.

EastEnders continues Monday 22nd January at 8:00pm on BBC 1