EastEnders fans were shocked to see teen Dennis Rickman drown in a sinking party boat on the Thames last night – while mum Sharon was in hospital giving birth.
The tragic scenes marking the BBC soap’s 35th anniversary came after bosses teased a major character dying.
And it yesterday emerged that actor Bleu Landau, who plays Denny, was given the codename Todd in scripts to try to keep his exit a secret.
Producers called the actor, 15, in last year and gave him the news.
Executive producer Jon Sen said: “When we told him, he acted professionally. He was incredibly excited to be at the heart of such a big week. Everyone is always excited to go out with something so adrenalin-fuelled like this.”
The Walford crew were partying on the Thames after the Queen Vic won a best boozer award.
On Thursday night, fans saw Phil and Ben Mitchell cause the crash while tussling with Keanu Taylor – the father of Sharon’s baby.
Ian Beale, played by Adam Woodyatt, had locked Denny in the bottom of the boat after learning he may have been behind an attack on his son Bobby.
When the evacuation began, he tried to save him.
But his efforts were in vain and the lad was pulled dead from the water.
Sharon, played by Letitia Dean, had gone into labour in Albert Square as the boat went down.
And having banned Denny from joining the party, she had no idea he was in danger. When she was given the news that her boy was dead, she let out a harrowing scream.
Bosses had long teased that a character would be killed off to mark the anniversary of the soap – the opening shot of which in 1985 was the discovery of a dead body.
The scenes on the Thames were shot in January, after all the Christmas lights had been removed.
Shona McGarty, 28, who plays Whitney Dean, said: “It was cinematic and felt like you were doing a really big film.
“I loved it. You feel like you’re all doing something so different, it was very heightened.
“The energy was really high and directors were getting stuck in and doing amazing shots.
“You just feel like you’re making some really good television.”
Next week, the residents of Albert Square will be shown recovering from their ordeal and the shock of Denny’s death – with Mick Carter and wife Linda raising a glass to him in the Queen Vic.
The famous bust of Queen Victoria, which normally sits on the bar, was seen tumbling from the boat into the murky waters of the Thames during the disaster, appearing to sink without trace.
Meanwhile, June Brown, who plays Dot Cotton, did not take part in the 35th anniversary plot after claiming in a podcast she has left the show for good.
But insiders are hoping the 93-year-old will be tempted back to give her much-loved character a proper exit.
One said: “No one wants her to leave like this. It doesn’t feel right.
“Both Dot and June deserve a proper send-off and really we hope she’ll carry on as Dot for many years to come.”
An EastEnders spokesman said: “As far as EastEnders are concerned, the door remains open for June, as it always has if the story arises and if June wishes to take part.”