Bill Ward is to leave 'Emmerdale'.

Bill Ward

Bill Ward

The 49-year-old actor's character, farmer James Barton, is to be killed off in one of the soap's most dramatic ever storylines, which will air later this year.

A source said: "Everyone has been teasing Bill on set about leaving the Dales as it's now the second time he's been knocked off an ITV soap. He's starting to wonder if it's something personal.

"The storyline is one of the channel's big priorities for the year and they have been desperately trying to keep it under wraps."

News of Bill's departures comes just weeks after it was revealed Kelvin Fletcher had quit the Yorkshire-based show after 20 years of playing Andy Sugden.

And Sophie Powles, who portrays Holly Barton, is also set to depart the programme.

The source added to The Sun newspaper: "It's the third name in quick succession that is going out the exit door.

"Losing Andy Sugden, one of the show's most popular characters ever, was a massive blow. Sophie, having only just come back after a long break, was a shame too.

"And now James is going. 'Emmerdale' fans shouldn't get too attached to their favourites as you never know who's going to go next."

Bill has starred in more than 270 'Emmerdale' episodes since joining the soap in October 2013.

He was introduced by then-boss Kate Oates who has since left to join 'Corrie'.

During his time in Emmerdale, James has discovered his nephew Adam (Adam Thomas), the son of his late brother John (James Thornton), was in fact his son.

He has also been in a failed relationship with Chas Dingle (Lucy Pargeter).

Bill is no stranger to the soap exit door having previously portrayed builder Charlie Stubbs in 'Coronation Street' for four years.