BBC EastEnders fans in tears at poignant nod to Anna Karen at Aunt Sal’s funeral

EastEnders aired some sad scenes as the Mitchells said goodbye to Aunt Sal in heartbreaking funeral scenes. Aunt Sal was played by Anna Karen, who tragically died in a house fire in 2022

Anna Karen as Aunt Sal

EastEnders fans were emotional as the BBC soap aired a poignant nod to Anna Karen at Aunt Sal’s funeral.

The BBC scriptwriters had dropped in various references to Anna Karen’s work as they aired the sad funeral for Aunt Sal, who died offscreen recently. Anna – who played Aunt Sal between 1996 and 2017 – sadly died in a house fire in London back in 2022, and as with many of the big characters, EastEnders aired a special send-off for Aunt Sal but also to remember Anna’s life too.

As the soap aired some emotional scenes tonight, fans couldn’t help but notice a string of references to Anna’s work outside the soap, which most famously included her role as Olive Rudge in the ITV sitcom On The Buses.

As they all decided how best to get to the funeral, Sam said she had ordered them a taxi to travel to the church, much to Phil’s protests. The poignant nod to Anna’s career came when Sam asked how they’d get there otherwise and joked “On the buses”.

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There were also several references to her other roles, when her husband mentioned “so, carry on..” in reference to the Carry On films in which she starred, whilst Ben pointed out the sandwich man – the name of the 1966 movie she started her career in – whilst Jay also referenced The Rag Trade, again something Anna had starred in throughout her glittering career.

One fan wrote: “It was great, horrible how she died in real life,” whilst a second added: “I loved the little On The Buses reference, it was a very sweet nod to the lovely Anna Karen. I’m sure many people were delighted to hear Sam’s joke!!”

Aunt Sal’s elusive husband, Harold Martin, has often been spoken about but has never been seen until tonight, where he is played by David Sterne. Speaking about the storyline, Executive Producer Chris Clenshaw, said: “Everyone at EastEnders was truly saddened to learn of Anna Karen’s passing, and it was imperative that we gave Aunt Sal the send-off she deserved. I’m delighted to welcome David Sterne to the guest role of Aunt Sal’s elusive husband, Harold Martin, as the Mitchell family gathers together to say goodbye.”

David Sterne added of joining the show for the special role: “I loved playing Harold as I felt like the storyline was really important in the context of the show and everyone was so wonderful and welcoming. The writing was brilliant so he was a joy to play.”

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