Dame Barbara Windsor defends Samantha Womack and Rita Simons over EastEnders exits

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Dame Barbara Windsor is not impressed at the departures of Samantha Womack and Rita Simons from EastEnders, and has branded their being written out a "mistake".

The former EastEnders star, whose on-screen alter-ego Peggy Mitchell died earlier this year, blamed the BBC show's new executive producer for their exits.

Rita Simons, left, and Samantha Womack
Rita Simons, left, and Samantha Womack (Ian West/PA)

Samantha, 43, and Rita, 39, have played sisters Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell, Peggy's nieces, since 2007.

Dame Barbara, 79, said: "It wasn't the girls' choice. It's the new producer's decision.

"I'm sure he'll be good for the show, but that is a mistake. When I heard I was shocked."

Rita Simons, left, and Samantha Womack
Rita Simons, left, and Samantha Womack, as Roxy and Ronnie Mitchell (BBC/Nicky Johnston and Ray Burmiston)

Her comments were aimed at the soap's new boss Sean O'Connor, who was previously reported to have offered Samantha and Rita a dramatic exit plot.

Following Dame Barbara's comments, Samantha tweeted: "Feeling loved and supported by my Auntie P. Love her forever."

Rita also responded, retweeting a post made by a fan of Dame Barbara in character as Peggy.

Last week, Samantha shared a clip entitled "10 years of II Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell" along with the comment: "My heart is breaking watching this."

While there have been rumours that the sisters will drown when their time on the soap comes to an end, it has been confirmed that multiple exit plots are being filmed to keep it under wraps.