EastEnders star Natalie Cassidy is to quit the hit soap opera in order to pursue a wider acting career.

Casidy who has played Sonia Fowler for thirteen years first arrived on Albert Square as a cheeky, trumpet playing girl.

The following years saw her give birth without knowing that she was pregnant, her mother Carol abandoning her, kidnap her adopted child, become engaged to car mechanic Jamie Mitchell, nursing him to death after he was run over by Martin Fowler, the father of the child she gave up for adoption.

In recent years she married her fiancée’s killer, enrolled on a nursing course, dealt with her husband’s psycho stalker and the death of her child’s adoptive parents in a car crash. Most recently, she has begun a lesbian affair with fellow nursing student Naomi.

An insider at the soap told the People: “It was a really tough decision for Natalie but she has decided she wants to try other acting avenues.

“When she broke the news to bosses there was no hint of a row. She has been told that her character won’t be written out so there’s a chance of her returning.”

A show spokesman said: “Natalie is a valued member of the cast and she goes with our best wishes. “The door will be kept open for her return.”

Last month, PinkNews.co.uk reported that 211 emails calls and letters have been received by the EastEnders press office, objecting to the storyline which saw the break up of Sonia’s marriage, fuelled by her first gay kiss with her then friend Naomi.