EastEnders viewers were recently went into meltdown as heartthrob Sean Slater returned to Albert Square for a one-off cameo appearance last week.

However, it's not the only return that has left fans in shock since the soap began in 1986.

Who could forget the lovable Lofty Holloway returning briefly in 2019 for the funeral of Dr Clegg? Or fan favourites Sharon Watts and Bianca Butcher coming back to Walford?

There's some characters though that we definitely were not expecting to see back on the streets of Walford again, after supposedly dying in an accident or being killed.

Daily Star takes a look at some of EastEnders most iconic returns – from characters seemingly coming from the dead, to fan favourite villains and cameo appearances.

Dirty Den Watts

Yes, who could forget 'Dirty' Den Watts and his despicable Christmas present to Angie in 1988, when he handed her divorce papers in the Queen Vic Pub.

It wasn't long until he had annoyed someone so much though, that he was shot and left for dead in the Walford Canal.

Presumed dead, everyone on Albert Square was in for the biggest shock of their lives when he walked into the Queen Vic Pub 14 years later.

However, Den was up to his old ways and within 18 months, new wife Chrissie attacked Den and left him for dead.

But is he dead? Or will the future see Dirty Den come back once more?

Kathy Beale

Kathy Beale has been at the heart of many shocking EastEnders' storylines, including her engagement party to Phil Mitchell when brother Grant had revealed that Phil had slept with Sharon.

However, Phil and Kathy were soon reunited and in 1995, had their son Ben Mitchell.

Their marriage broke down a few years later and Kathy began an affair with her previous partner Grant Mitchell, which led to a dramatic storyline between the two brothers.

In 2006, many viewers presumed that Kathy had died after she was supposedly killed in a car crash in South Africa, after moving there with son Ben in 2001.

Less than 10 years later though, she made a return to Albert Square for EastEnders' 30th anniversary.

Her own son didn't even know she was still alive, making her appearance even more shocking for her family, and since then, Kathy has been a constant presence in the soap.

Kat Slater

Kat Slater is a fan favourite character, ever since arriving at Albert Square with the Slater family in 2000.Since then she has become known for memorable moments including revealing that she was Zoe Slater's mum with the lines "You ain't my mother" "Yes I am", a moment which has even been recreated in shows such as Ru Paul's Drag Race UK.

Her relationship with Alfie Moon had viewers gripped to the screen, with the two characters finally confessing their love for another before departing Walford.

Fans were delighted however when Kat came back in 2010 from 2016, but her and Alfie's relationship sadly didn't last.

After leaving again in 2016, Kat returned once more in 2020 and continues to be a presence on Albert Square.

Alfie Moon

Lovable Alfie Moon first arrived on Albert Square in 2002, and soon captured the hearts of not only viewers, but also Kat Slater.

After confessing his love for Kat, they left together in 2005, but Alfie soon returned after he and Kat came back from America in 2010.

Their love wasn't to last though and they divorced in 2013, before Alfie went on to marry Roxy Mitchell.

In 2016, Alfie left Albert Square, but made a couple of cameos in 2018 and has recently told Digital Spy that as he knows Kat is now with Phil, anything could happen, including a return to EastEnders.

He said to Digital Spy: "I think he still owes money to Phil.

"I know Kat and Phil are bumping ugly. They're getting together.

"So who knows, there might be a chance Alfie could turn up and spoil their little party. But you didn't hear that from me!"

Nasty Nick Cotton

'Nasty' Nick Cotton isn't the first soap character to fake their own deaths, and he probably won't be the last, as anything can happen in the world of soap operas.

However, in 2014 he pretended to have died from a drug overdose, only to return to EastEnders and in 2015, actually die.

Actor John Altman, who plays Nick Cotton, made a point of saying that no one actually saw Nick's body when he died in the soap, which could leave the door open for the character to return once more.

He told The Sun: "I mean they could get the right storyline. No one ever saw his dead body, did they?

"We will just leave it at that. There's always open doors and the writers work their magic."

Grant Mitchell

There's love triangles, and then there's the Sharon, Grant and Phil EastEnders love triangle.

Dramatic, heart-breaking and one of the plotlines that had viewers gripped to the screen, it all came to a head in 1999 when Phil found out that Grant had slept with his wife Kathy.

Grant had previously been in a relationship with Sharon, who Phil had an affair with almost a decade earlier in the soap, and Grant slept with Kathy in revenge for Phil's affair.

During a planned heist to get themselves some cash, Phil shot a gun in the car they were driving, and the vehicle ended up plunging into the River Thames.

Phil was rescued, but Grant wasn't, with viewers presuming that he had died.

As always though, the EastEnders writers had a twist up their sleeves, and it was revealed that Grant was living in Rio Di Janeiro with his daughter Courtney, before making a brief return to Albert Square in 2005.

Sean Slater

Soap heartthrob Sean Slater left fans in meltdown when he made an unexpected cameo in EastEnders last week to confront Stacey's wife Eve.

He had originally starred in the soap from 2006-2007, before returning last week after receiving a phone call from mum Jean.

As soon as he turned the corner and told Eve, "I'm your new brother in law", fans swooned and shared their excitement about the character returning.

With so much love for Sean, will EastEnders bosses look to bring the character back permanently? We can only wait and see.

Janine Butcher

Villainous Janine has been a fan favourite since entering the soap as a child in 1989, and has seen her involved in some of EastEnders' biggest plotlines including her rocky relationship with Pat Butcher, framing Alice Branning for the murder of Michael Moon and feuding with Stacey Slater.

After being arrested for Michael Moon's murder in 2014, Janine confessed during the trial about Michael actually trying to kill her, and both she and Alice were found not guilty.

She left Albert Square soon after in 2014 to find her daughter Scarlett, but recently returned earlier this year.

Fans were delighted at Janine's return, with one saying on social media: "Yessss Janine back in #EastEnders gonna cause some carnage!" while a second said: "Omg Janine’s return has me quaking."

EastEnders airs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on BBC One

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