EastEnders live week: Kathy comes home to Albert Square despite being dead for a decade

Gillian Taylforth walked into Walford as if that fatal car accident had never happened

As if revealing the true culprit behind Lucy Beale’s murder and packing Dot Cotton off to prison weren’t dramatic enough, last night’s EastEnders also saw the return of a character who has been dead for nearly a decade.

Kathy Sullivan, Ian’s mother who was previously married to Phil Mitchell, tipped up in Walford last night as if she’d never been killed in a car crash all those years ago.

Played by Gillian Taylforth, Kathy was last seen on the show in 2000 and had been a regular fixture on the long-running soap since 1985.

Phil Mitchell played by Steve McFadden, meets Kathy Beale played by Gillian Taylforth

The cafe owner was apparently killed off-screen in a road accident in late February 2006 in a storyline to facilitate the return of her son Ben to his father Phil (Steve McFadden).

But an apparently unchanged Kathy’s reappearance in Albert Square was among the storylines shrouded in secrecy by the BBC for the soap’s 30th birthday week which has seen a series of semi-live episodes and will culminate in a totally live instalment tonight.

And no sooner had she stepped out of a Taxi and into Walford were fans rewarded with a full on showdown between Kathy and her ex-husband Phil. After last night’s double episodes were watched by more than 10 million each the soap became the most-watched television programme of the year so far.

The first of two episodes broadcast last night was watched by 10.84 million with a peak of 11.9 million. While the second episode drew in an audience of 10.3 million and peaked at 11.2 million, according to ratings specialists overnights.tv.

The BBC soap also became the most-tweeted about episode  ever recorded with rapt viewers sending more than a million messages about it on social network Twitter.

The second episode eclipsed the 508,678 messages sent during the first special by more than 10,000, with 519,359 tweets posted as the killer came closer to being unmasked, data from social analytics firm Kantar Social TV UK showed.

More than 30,000 tweets were published on the microblogging site in the minute after after Lucy’s killer was revealed to be her 12-year-old half brother Bobby.

The revelation brought to an end almost a year of speculation about how the 20-year-old Walford woman came to die.

In a confusing twist, young Bobby was not listed as one of the chief suspects publicised by the show in the build-up to the finale.

Internet memes comparing Bobby to the main character in The Omen, as well as a campaign to free Dot, who admitted to the murder of her son Nick, have gone viral overnight.