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He's been dying for years, but as Mark exits Albert Square.. OH NO, HE'S STILL ALIVE.

Byline: FIONA CUMMINS Ms Showbiz

BORING EastEnder Mark Fowler hasn't even been given an exciting exit - instead of a poignant death scene, he goes on holiday.

Albert Square's dullest character, who has lived with HIV for years, has just found out his anti-Aids drugs don't work.

So the market trader wants to spare his family the trauma of watching him die, and goes off to travel the world.

But his trip means Mark leaves the BBC soap still alive - and so could always return.

In Mark's last episode - to be shown on February 13 - his mum Pauline, brother Martin and mate Sharon watch him roar off on his bike, dressed in his trademark leather jacket.

Todd Carty, 39, was sacked from his pounds 130,000-a-year role as Mark last year after TV chiefs decided he had become too dull.

Executive producer Louise Berridge said: "We felt the character had run its course."

And while many of us might cheer that Mark's miserable face will no longer haunt the Square, it's a disappointing end for one of the soap's longest-standing cast members.

As one of the most put-upon and unluckiest characters, fans had hoped thrice-wed Mark might meet a more dramatic demise after his 12-year stint.

One of his best moments came when he broke the news that he was HIV positive to parents Pauline and Arthur - Wendy Richard and Bill Treacher.

And Mark has not exactly been lucky in love. All his marriages have ended in disaster.

First, he got hitched to former girlfriend Gill, who died of Aids a day later.

Next was Ruth, who fell pregnant by his Irish cousin Conor, and his third marriage, to Lisa Shaw, was doomed when she dumped him for Phil.

Former Grange Hill star Todd, who lives in North London with his partner Dina Clarkin, was shocked by the sudden decision to axe him from the show.

The father-of-two said at the time: "I've had 12 brilliant years on EastEnders, and they've been fantastic to me.

"I'll deeply miss all the cast and crew and everyone involved.

"I'm looking forward to trying new things, seeing a little more of my children, and finally setting a date for my wedding."

He has since signed a pounds 200,000 deal to appear as PC Gabriel in ITV's The Bill, in late spring.

Todd is just one of a string of EastEnders stars to be axed recently, including Dean Gaffney and Lucy Benjamin.

CAPTION(S):

PICTURE EXCLUSIVE; HEADING OUT: Mark Fowler, alias Todd Carty, rides out of Albert Square to travel the world, leaving mum Pauline, brother Martin and pal Sharon behind; PAST: Mark, Arthur and Pauline
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 4, 2003
Words:442
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