Eden Taylor-Draper as Belle Dingle (2011)
|Portrayed by||James Mather
Emily Mather (1998–2005)
Eden Taylor-Draper (2005–)
|First appearance||25 December 1998|
|Emmerdale: The Dingles - For Richer for Poorer (2010)|
Emily Mather as Belle Dingle (2005)
Tinkerbelle 'Belle' Dingle is a fictional character from the British soap opera Emmerdale, played by Eden Taylor-Draper. She made her first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 25 December 1998 and was originally played by twins James and Emily Mather, with the latter leaving the role in 2005. It was revealed on 23 January 2014 that Belle will have a life-changing storyline later in the year which will see her murder her best friend, Gemma Andrews (Tendai Rinomhota) after an argument gets out of hand. In March 2014, the character confessed and was charged with murder. In June 2014, the character was charged with manslaughter and later sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
Twins Emily and James Mather were cast as Belle after their mother, Joanne, was told the soap bosses were looking for twins. She explained "My two had just been born so I contacted casting. When they saw Emily and James they liked them straight away and they made their first appearance when they were only 10 days old." The twins were brought in when producers realised that the role would be too demanding for one child to play. Emily and James took it in turns to play Belle and their mother was on set all the time.
Belle Dingle was born on Christmas Day 1998 to Zak (Steve Halliwell) and Lisa Dingle (Jane Cox), who had no idea she was pregnant. Local vet Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt) delivered the baby as he was spending Christmas Day with the Dingles. A young Belle (now played by Eden Taylor-Draper) later goes missing on Christmas Day 2005, after she was left at home under the care of her uncle Shadrach (Andy Devine). Daz Eden (Luke Tittensor) soon paid them a visit, bringing his pet ferret Spike. Although Daz told her not to, Belle let the ferret out of his cage and in a panic, chased him through the fields. As she ran to get Spike, she fell down a mine shaft. Daz dives in to help her, but they turn out to be trapped, and it looks like they will either freeze or drown. When the Dingles discover her disappearance, they are beside themselves with worry. A brave Daz manages to keep Belle afloat for hours, until they are eventually saved by the Dingles and the fire brigade. Belle is overjoyed when her brother Sam (James Hooton) and his fiancée, Alice (Ursula Holden-Gill) have a baby, Samson (then played by Bradley Milnes and Ben Shooter), a year later. In February 2006, she is a ring bearer at her cousin Marlon Dingle's (Mark Charnock) wedding to Donna Windsor (Verity Rushworth). She moves in with Marlon briefly just before Alice died from cancer. Whilst she was there, she refused to have a bath, so Toni Daggert (Kerry Stacey) challenged her to a duck race (if Toni's duck won, Belle had to have a bath but if Belle's duck won, she didn't). The whole village joined in and Belle was thrilled when she won the race. Sadly, her happiness was short lived as Zak arrived and informed Belle of Alice's death.
Belle begins playing truant, asking Shadrach to cover for her. She claims to be ill but her teacher visited and told Shadrach that Belle hardly ever went to school and didn't apply herself when she was there. Shadrach claimed he was her father, leading the teacher to ask Belle and her parents to come to a meeting at the school so Zak, Lisa and Belle went. Zak and Lisa are told that Belle was disruptive and she complained she was bored, but she is told that school isn't meant to be fun. At home, she promises to try harder. After Belle disables the ‘nanny guard' on the computer network, Lisa and Zak returned for a second meeting. Belle said she didn't realize but the head teacher doesn't believe her. Zak defends her, claiming Dingles don't lie, and Belle is suspended. With Belle at home, Zak attempts to teach her but he isn't very good. Although he taught maths - the problems involved either horse racing or fishing. When Lisa notices Zak is struggling, she suggests he teaches her botany, but this leads him to take her to strip building materials from a derelict property. When the Dingles find out, no one is impressed as Donna said the materials were stolen, and Lisa is annoyed that Zak is teaching her to steal. Realising Belle needs professional help, Zak and Lisa ask Jasmine Thomas to teach her. Jasmine is shocked by the lack of resources, but makes do, and has Belle recite a Japanese haiku about Shadrach. The Home Education Inspector later visits to discuss Belle's future and suggests she should see an educational psychologist to find out why she is so disruptive. Zak initially refuses, but changed his mind as Belle had nightmares about Tom King's death – which she witnessed. Jasmine attempts to help Belle by taking her to Home Farm so she could talk to Pearl but this only makes things worse. Later, when Jasmine looks for Belle, she finds she has vanished, but it turns out Belle ran home, terrified of Pearl. When the psychologist visits, Belle initially hid to avoid him but Lisa coaxed her out. She is delighted to fly through the psychologist's "easy" questions, but she still needs Zak's reassurance that she'll always be a Dingle.
Belle's test results show that she is amongst the cleverest 2% of children her age, leading her to declare "I'm a priggin' genius!", but Zak and Lisa wonder what this means for her education. The inspector suggests a private school but Lisa disapproves of the idea. However, Zak is excited at the prospect of "the first Dingle to go to Heaton", whilst Belle dreamed of magic wands and capes. Zak and Lisa took Belle to sit her private school entrance exam and were awestruck by the establishment. A student guides them around, but she worries Zak and Lisa by telling them how disenchanted she was with the school, saying that she wanted to marry a footballer and be like Victoria Beckham. Belle leaves the examining room, downcast, telling her parents and Mrs Burgess that she had not done well, but Zak cheers her up by promising to take her for ice cream. Belle receives good news and bad news from her teacher, Mrs Burgess. She passed the exam with 98%, winning an automatic place, but she didn't get a full scholarship – meaning the Dingles would have to pay £2,000 a term. Mrs Burgess, however, is unaware they cannot afford it. Her parents argue about it, Lisa being concerned that if Belle went, she'd forget her roots and be embarrassed by her family, but Zak claims it is be the best education - but tells Belle that she was unlikely to go. However, Rosemary King (Linda Thorson) took a liking to Belle and offered to pay the fees. Lisa refuses to even consider it until Samson has meningitis. Worried about the little boy, no one took any notice of Belle complaining she felt unwell until the doctor checked her. When Rosemary hears Belle is in hospital, she visits, taking flowers and truffles with her. Her arrival coincides with the doctor's, who diagnoses Belle with a bad case of flu – but ensuring Rosemary that she will be fine. Zak and Lisa knew she was getting better when she complained she was hungry. Relieved, Lisa agreed to Rosemary paying Belle's fees.
On Belle's first day, Lisa and Zak do their best to make a good impression, as they prepare to meet the headmistress. Lisa is anxious about Belle fitting in, but Belle is assigned a ‘welcome buddy' called Ayesha, who would keep her company and show her where everything was. Belle and Ayesha get on well, with Ayesha even convincing her to talk about Shadrach in class, but the teacher is unimpressed as she described Shadrach's hygiene and flatulence issues. When Belle comes home, she gave Lisa a note about a school trip to Germany. When Lisa said no Belle persuades Rosemary to give her the money, but Zak returns the cheque, saying Belle shouldn't have asked. Rosemary says she has offered and Zak agrees to discuss it with Lisa. This led to Rosemary, Zak and Lisa agreeing Rosemary would pay the fees but anything else was down to them. After Belle attends a spa day with her school friends, Lisa feels guilty at not having her friends to visit, and suggested she throw a party. Belle isn't keen and tells Rosemary she is embarrassed about the Dingle house. Rosemary suggests holding the party at Mill Cottage, so Belle invited her friends, but didn't tell Zak and Lisa. Rosemary said she needed their permission so Belle "persuaded" Shadrach to phone Rosemary, pretending to be Zak. At the party, Belle impressed her friends, claiming to live at Mill Cottage with her "auntie" Rosemary and "cousin" Grayson (Christopher Villiers). However, Lisa finds out when she phoned Ayesha's mother to organize a sleepover. When Belle returns, she argues with Lisa. She is later upset to hear her parents discussing taking her out of private school. After Rosemary confesses that she had poisoned Perdy to get her sectioned, Zak ends his friendship with her, warning her to stay away from his daughter. Her parents worry about how they could afford to send Belle's school fees. Belle’s head teacher, Mrs Kennedy, told them the governors weren't prepared to give Belle a free place, leaving Zak and Lisa devastated, knowing they would have to tell Belle. The Dingles tell Belle she has to leave, lying that Rosemary couldn't afford the fees. Zak later decides to compete in a bare-knuckle fight against an old adversary, Mike O’Shea, to raise the funds needed for Belle to stay at private school. When he is close to beating O'Shea, the police raid the building, ending the fight. Although Zak had almost won, he could not claim the money. Zak's granddaughter Debbie lends them the money, allowing them to send Belle back to private school. Belle attends Rosemary's funeral, and is the only person, apart from Grayson, who indicates genuine sorrow at her death.
In May 2008, the family again struggle to pay Belle's school fees. They refuse to borrow any more from Debbie, selling stolen manure from Emmerdale Haulage instead, but Matthew King takes the money when he finds out. Belle covers his car in manure, but Zak makes her apologise. When Eli Dingle accidentally backs the van into a plasma TV Matthew had bought for a presentation, an angry Matthew takes the money for the replacement out of the bonus he was going to give Zak. When his brother Jimmy convinces him to change his mind, Matthew refuses to give him the money until the new TV arrived. A furious Zak then quits his job. Lisa and Zak hope Belle will remain in the dark, but another student finds out from her father and tells Belle. Belle is upset, but a few days later, she tells her family that she was sick of the school anyway, as she was a Dingle and Dingles weren't supposed to be "posh". In November, Belle auditions for the choir but she is slammed by Nicola De Souza (Nicola Wheeler), causing Ashley (John Middleton) and Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) to tell her that she was too young. Later that month, she decides to try to see what it would be like to be blind, but this phase doesn't last long. A month later, she and Shadrach steal Christmas presents from under the Woolpack Christmas tree, but they are eventually are found out. In February 2009, she develops a friendship with Will Wylde (Oscar Lloyd), who had just moved to Home Farm with his family. Two months later, Zak leaves and does not come home for Easter as he was supposed to, which makes Belle upset and so she calls a Dingle Court in which Zak gets ex-communicated from the family. Zak returns a couple of days later after a drinking spree and carrying an enormous brand new TV. As Belle and Will's friendship develops, they grow closer and Belle comforts Will when he finds out the shocking news about his father's death. Maisie Wylde (Alice Coulthard) and Nikhil Sharma (Rik Makarem) announce that they are engaged and this news affects Will; when Belle comforts him he snaps at her. Belle is left devastated. Will immediately goes to say goodbye to Belle after it is revealed they are leaving the village, and he gives her his Nintendo DS and they part on good terms. Belle gives Will a goodbye kiss on the cheek and when he walks away she is left crying. She talks to Lisa, who encourages her to see him off. Just as Maisie and Will are leaving, Belle rushes up to the taxi, shouting that she loves him - and Will shouts that he loves her too. Belle is happy that with the way things ended between them and decides to let him leave.
In 2011, Belle overhears Amy Wyatt (Chelsea Halfpenny) and Victoria Sugden (Isabel Hodgins) talking about holding a party, and sees them stashing alcohol in the barn. She hides the drinks, and blackmails them to let her come along, but she ends up drinking too much cider, and throws up all over the floor, causing an angry Lisa to have to come and collect her. Belle forms a friendship with Amy, and when she collapses, Belle rushes to get help, but Amy stops her, and tells her that she is pregnant, but doesn't want anyone else to know. She goes to the hospital with Amy, pretending to be her sister when the nurses are around, and skips classes to go and see her. However, the school call Lisa to tell her that Belle never turned up at school, and when confronted, Belle tells Zak and Lisa she was with Amy, but doesn't say anything about being at the hospital. Later, Belle goes to see Amy, who has been discharged, but Amy grabs Belle and threatens her to stay away from her. When Amy has the baby, she calls him Kyle Wyatt and Belle's excited to be an "aunt" and buys a scrap book with pictures of him in it. Belle later befriends Sean Spencer (Luke Roskell), a teenage troublemaker who arrives in the village. On her 13th birthday, Belle and Sean kiss. The following day she gives him an Christmas present of a silver car key ring, and says it reminds her of when he took her to the hospital to see baby Kyle. She pretends to need the toilet in the Woolpack, but actually goes outside to see Sean. When Zak comes to find her he sees Sean and Belle leaning in about to kiss and threatens him not to go near his daughter again. Angry, Belle refuses to speak to Zak, but he warns her that it isn't safe for her to be having a boyfriend at her age. Belle verbally lashes out at Zak and goes to her room. Soon after, Sean and Belle meet at the barn and go to the lake, but they are later found by Debbie, leaving Belle embarrassed. Their relationship ends when he confesses he had kissed Ruby Haswell (Alicya Eyo).
At a New Year's Eve party Belle meets Luke Salter (Daniel Pearson), an older boy. After discovering Luke had previously dated Gemma Andrews (Tendai Rinomhota) she leaves the party. A few days later, Luke goes to Belle's house to meet her. He tells her he lied about being eighteen and is really fifteen, which makes Belle feel better about him. They share their first kiss together, and decide to keep their relationship quiet. The pair continue to meet up behind Gemma's back until she sees them at the bus stop together, where Gemma warns Belle that Luke is trouble. However, they still don't reveal their relationship, so Zak and Lisa don't find out, as they would disapprove. Whilst Belle and Lisa are home alone, Luke turns up out of the blue, forcing Lisa into inviting him around for tea. When Luke comes, he insists him and Belle go upstairs to work so they can be alone, but Zak sees through his lies and forces them both to do the washing up to keep them downstairs. As the pair leave for the bus stop, Luke accuses Belle of being a tease. He explains he just wants time alone, but Belle tells him that she will have a free house tomorrow if they skip school. The next day they are at her house, and Belle admits she hasn't had sex before. When she sees the disappointment on his face, she explains she does want to though - with him. They begin to kiss again, before Lisa runs into the house and drags Luke out, telling him to get out. Belle argues with Lisa over Luke and tries to go after him, but she is soon stopped from leaving. The next day Sam takes Belle to school via Lisa's orders so she doesn't see Luke. When Belle gets to school she tells Gemma what's happened, but afterwards she receives a text from Luke, which ends her relationship with him as she realizes he was only after sex from her.
She later falls for Sean's best friend, Thomas King (Mark Flanagan), making Sean jealous. Sean sent her a Valentine's Day card and although she originally thought it was from Thomas, but she finds out it was from Sean. However, he lies and tells her it wasn't, insulting her. Gemma gives Belle a makeover to impress Thomas after Sean laughed at her. Thomas seems to develop feelings for her, but after Belle lies to her parents, they begin to punish her, especially after finding inappropriate pictures of her on her phone and evidence that Thomas took them. Belle then begins to change her behaviour so that she will get her phone and trust back. Zak decides to trust her again, angering Lisa. However, Lisa soon begins to relent. The flirting between her and Thomas grows, as Sean becomes determined to gain Belle's affections again. Sean later steals a bottle of alcohol in an attempt to impress her, but after witnessing a kiss between her and Thomas, he is so angry he smashes the bottle, and ignores Gemma. Thomas expresses his fear of her father to Belle, saying he's worried what his reaction to him will be. Marlon asks Thomas and Belle if they're together, but they reply defensively, which gets a bad reaction, as Marlon says Thomas is just like his father. Thomas then runs home and Belle shouts at Marlon, later showing up on Thomas' door and making him feel better about his father. When they later come across Marlon, Thomas apologizes for overreacting, and also says that he and Belle are together. After he asks Belle if it was okay for him to say that, she accepts his offer and they kiss. Thomas is thus seen constantly with his arm around her but she's shocked when he acts dismissive in front of her father. Belle is later happy when Sam announces he's moving in with Rachel Breckle (Gemma Oaten). However, her new relationship with Thomas causes her to neglect Gemma, whilst Sean's jealousy over Belle and Thomas' relationship leaves him heartbroken, as Thomas begins to ignore him and Belle makes up excuses to avoid him. After a fight with Belle, Gemma sends Sean a suggestive photo of Belle which she had taken earlier in an attempt to get Thomas to notice her. Sean defends Belle and asks her if Thomas is making her do stuff, leading to her to angrily announce she never fancied him. Furious, he puts the picture online. When Thomas sees the photo, he angrily attacks Sean in defense of Belle, causing her to find out. An upset Belle cries to Zak before announcing she doesn't care what her parents do to her as her life is over, and she begins to ignore Thomas' calls. Sean later shows up to apologise to Belle and she forgives him, announcing she is only mad at Gemma and not him. He tells her that Thomas is running away as Jimmy King (Nick Miles) and Nicola are planning to send him away first. Belle finds Thomas, about to escape in Dan Spencer's (Liam Fox) van, and begs him to take her with him. When Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt) sees them, Thomas takes her and they drive off. Paddy announces that he saw Thomas "kidnap" Belle. When a worried Belle calls her mother the next day, Lisa tells her that Dan's van is where Thomas's father (Tom Lister) tried to rape Chas Dingle (Lucy Parteger). Horrified, Belle tells Thomas who tells her to go to sleep, but he returns her to the village. Belle defends him from Zak and Lisa and when he leaves, Lisa declares she has abandoned Belle, upsetting Zak who still loves her. Eventually, Lisa begins talking to Belle again.
Belle once again grows closer to Sean as they comfort each other over Thomas's departure. After Sean's accident, Belle's constantly asking how he is. Sean later awkwardly asks Belle out, and she agrees. They make plans to sleep together, but Dom Andrews (Wil Johnson) interrupts them, claiming that Sean got Gemma pregnant. Sean's devastated when Belle abandons him. A heartbroken Belle seeks advice from Debbie who tells her she needs to get revenge, so Belle then tells everyone at school that Gemma had an abortion, leading to Gemma attacking Belle and the two of them fighting. Belle is then suspended, however, Dom tells Zak and Lisa that he will stop at nothing to see Belle expelled. Belle continues to seek advice from Debbie, at one point mildly threatening to harm Gemma, which Dom hears. In a meeting with her headmaster, Belle refuses to apologise to Gemma and, when told to think about it outside, she runs away. After hearing Zak threatening to give her a beating, she finds some of Debbie's leftover alcohol and tries to drink her troubles away. She comes across Sean who confronts her about hurting Gemma and calls her pathetic. She then runs into Debbie, drunk, who tells her to go home and sober up. However, when Debbie and her daughter Sarah Sugden (Sophia Amber Moore) arrive home, they find Belle unconscious. Sarah fetches Cameron Murray (Dominic Power) to help and Debbie and Cameron take Belle to hospital. Debbie phones Zak and Lisa and they arrive with Sam and Marlon. They discover that Belle is in critical condition because the alcohol she drank was contaminated. Debbie confesses it may have been hers, leading to the others isolating her from the family. After hearing about Belle, Sean rushes to see her but Zak and Lisa push him out. As this is happening, Belle wakes up. Despite warnings that she may suffer long-term effects, the doctors say she's going to be alright and was very lucky. Belle apologizes to her mother, but Lisa says she let Belle down and apologizes, too.
Lisa and Charity Sharma (Emma Atkins) take Belle home eventually where Zak and her half-brother Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) were waiting for her. Debbie then showed up with a present for Belle and even though Belle was glad to see her, Lisa sent Belle upstairs whilst the others told Debbie to stay away from her. Later, after a talk with Charity, Belle hugged Lisa and apologized again. Belle and Lisa then left on a short camping trip as Sean kept sending flowers to Belle and Zak thought she deserved some time away. When Lisa and Belle returned, Belle meets with the head teacher to talk about her future at school. She runs into Sean soon after and flirts with him. Belle later confesses to Lisa and Zak that she wants to be a doctor and they arrange for her to get work experience at the veterinary clinic. Belle is distraught when Gennie Walker (Sian Reese-Williams) dies, and stays at home with Samson. Gemma tries to apologise to Belle with festival tickets, admitting her jealousy, but she refuses her. However, Belle later finds Gemma and apologizes. They resume their friendship. After discovering that Amy was in contact with Kyle, Belle encourages her to take a picture of him to "hold onto," insisting that she wouldn't be able to say no. Zak and Lisa told Belle that Amy hadn't revealed her real identity to Kyle's adoptive grandmother, Joanie Wright (Denise Black), putting her chances of seeing Kyle in danger. Belle was furious and angrily confronted Amy. Gemma stays with Belle when her father takes some time away.
Belle and Sean grew close together, much to Gemma's displeasure. Gemma storms out and Belle follows her, saying that she didn't know Gemma liked Sean. Gemma calls her a selfish cow and Belle replies back that Sean wouldn't be interested in her anyway. Gemma slaps Belle, who retaliated by pushing her to the ground. Gemma hits her head on a rock and it started bleeding, rejecting Belle's offer to help. They both storm off home, but, whilst walking, Gemma collapses and falls to the floor, rolling out of view into foliage. Dom is upset that Gemma hasn't returned home and, in the morning, he arrives at the Dingles' house, expecting her to be there, as she said she may stay there overnight. The Dingles' haven't seen her and so Dom begins asking people to help him look. Harriet (Katherine Dow Blyton) finds Gemma's body by a hedge and an ambulance is called. In hospital, Gemma later dies from her injuries, leaving Belle distraught. Belle then tells Lisa that she killed Gemma, but Lisa forbids her from going to the police, and tries to persuade Belle to pass her guilt onto her. Lisa tells Chas and Cain and they all agree that Zak cannot find out that Belle believes she killed Gemma, as he has had a nervous breakdown and this revelation could trigger another. Belle later leaves Gemma's funeral early and runs to the police station, but is stopped by Cain. Later, Belle and Zak are alone in the house and she tells him that she believes she murdered Gemma. Zak and Lisa continuously attempt to tell Belle that it was an accident, but she disagrees, believing she killed her. She pleads that he accompanies her to the police station so she can confess to her crime. Zak agrees as he believes it would be better to let it out, as she is wracked with guilt. Belle is given bail and Lisa is distraught that Zak agreed to take her to the police, telling him that she would never forgive him if she was charged. The following day, Belle is charged with the murder of Gemma. Zak later goes round to Dom's house and informs him that Belle has been charged with the murder of his daughter. A devastated Dom punches Zak in anger and falls to the floor, crying. Days later, Cain arrives at Dom and Vanessa's house and tries to ask Dom to convince Belle not to plead guilty to his daughter's murder, but he reacts very badly and refuses. Belle remains staunch, believing she deserves to be jailed, but it becomes apparent that Lisa and Zak will do whatever it takes to change her mind and get her to change her statement. Zak locks Belle in a barn to give her a taste of what prison would be like, and refuses to give Lisa the key to let her out. Eventually, she changes her mind and she later discusses with Sean the possibility of them having a baby together to avoid a prison sentence.
For her portrayal of Belle, Taylor-Draper earned the Spectacular Scene of the Year award at the 2006 British Soap Awards along with co-star Luke Tittensor for the storyline where Belle and Daz fell down a mineshaft. The following year, she won Best Young Actor at the Inside Soap Awards. Eden Taylor-Draper then won the Best Child Performance at the British Soap Awards in 2013.
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