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Emmerdale star Emma Atkins has surprised fans with the news that she is taking a break from the soap – because she’s heavily pregnant.

The actress plays Charity Tate, who was imprisoned for two years in last night’s episode for perverting the course of justice, and Emma revealed in a video on the ITV show’s website that the reason for her break was that she is pregnant.

It is thought that her baby is due in the spring.

Emma said: “So you’ve all just witnessed the big finale of Charity finally being brought to justice. I have a mixture of emotions going round because obviously I’m leaving for a while, so I need to tell you all about that really.”

She added: “I hope some of you will be pleased with the outcome. I know I certainly am, it’s only right that Charity is brought to justice and goes to prison for two years. But don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll be out on good behaviour if she plays her cards right.”

Then Emma revealed the real reason for her exit, saying: “But I am leaving, probably for about a year because I’m leaving to have a baby which is really exciting.

“I will miss Emmerdale so much, but it’s a new journey in my own life which I’m taking on now. I’ll miss everyone and I can’t wait to come back, hopefully within a year. So don’t worry, she’s still going to be around. Take care.”

Co-star Charley Webb, who plays Charity’s daughter Debbie, tweeted: “Finally-everyone knows Emma is leaving to have a baby. Can’t wait to be an ‘Aunty’ again. Emmerdale will miss ‘Charity’ but she’ll be back!”