Belle Dingle

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Belle Dingle
Eden Taylor-Draper as Belle Dingle (2011)
Emmerdale character
Portrayed by Emily and James Mather (1998–2005)
Eden Taylor-Draper (2005–)
Duration 1998–
First appearance 25 December 1998
Emmerdale: The Dingles - For Richer for Poorer (2010)
Classification Present; regular
Occupation Student
Home Wishing Well Cottage
Emily Mather as Belle Dingle (2005)

Tinkerbelle Lisa "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.


Twins Emily and James Mather were cast as Belle after their mother, Joanne, was told the soap's producers were looking for babies to play a role in the show.[1] 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."[1] The twins were brought in when the producers realised that the role would be too demanding for one child to play.[1] Emily and James took it in turns to play Belle. Their mother was on-set all the time and chose which twin appeared on-screen.[1]

As Belle grew older and her storylines increased, the new actress was sought for the part. After a series of auditions, Eden Taylor-Draper was cast as Belle and she began appearing on-screen in 2005.[2]


It was revealed on 23 January 2014 that Belle would have a life-changing storyline later in the year which would see her murder her best friend, Gemma Andrews (Tendai Rinomhota) after an argument gets out of hand.[3] 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. This sentence was later reduced to 1 year in August 2014.


Belle is born on Christmas day to Zak (Steve Halliwell) and Lisa Dingle (Jane Cox). Lisa was unaware she was pregnant until she went into labour and local vet Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt) delivered Belle. When Belle is seven-years-old, she goes missing, after she is left at home under the care of her uncle Shadrach (Andy Devine), who had fallen asleep. Daz Eden (Luke Tittensor) visits, bringing his pet ferret Spike. Although being warned not to, Belle lets the ferret out of his cage and in a panic, chases him through the fields. As she pursues him, she falls down a mine shaft. Daz is forced to leave the house, and when he finds her, dives in to help her out, but discovers that they are trapped, with the risk of freezing or drowning in the water. Daz manages to keep Belle afloat, until they are eventually rescued by the Dingles and the fire brigade. Belle acts as ring bearer at her cousin Marlon's (Mark Charnock) wedding to Donna Windsor (Verity Rushworth) and she briefly moves in with Marlon shortly after.

Belle starts playing truant and claiming to be ill, until her teacher visits and informs Shadrach of their concerns. After he claims he's her father, the teacher asks to talk to Belle and her parents, who are told that of Belle's disruptive behaviour. When she complains she was bored, she is told that school is not meant to be fun. Her parents make her promise to try harder, but she continues to cause trouble, and disables the ‘nanny guard' on the computer network. The head teacher calls Zak and Lisa again, Belle protesting that she did not realize, but the head teacher does not believe her. Zak confronts her, claiming Dingles do not lie, but the head decides Belle is suspended. Belle is briefly home-schooled by Jasmine Thomas, before The Home Education Inspector visits to discuss Belle's future, and suggests she should see an educational psychologist. Zak initially refuses, but changed his mind as Belle had nightmares about Tom King's death, which she witnessed. Jasmine attempts to help her by taking her to Home Farm so she can talk to Pearl but Belle is terrified of her, and runs home. When the psychologist visits, Belle initially hides to avoid him but Lisa coaxes her out. Although she flies through the psychologist's "easy" questions, 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, but her parents wonder what this will mean for her education. Lisa refuses to send her daughter to a private school, but Zak is excited by the prospect of "the first Dingle to go to Heaton". After considering, they let Belle sit a private school extrance exam, and they are awestruck by the establishment. Belle later leaves the examining room convinced that she has not done well, but Zak cheers her up by promising to take her for ice cream. They later receive news from her teacher, Mrs Burgess, that Belle has passed the exam with 98%, winning a place, but she does not receive a full scholarship. The Dingles are worried about how to pay the fees, and have to tell Belle that she is unlikely to go. Rosemary King (Linda Thorson) takes a liking to her, she offers to pay, but Lisa refuses to even consider it until Belle's nephew Samson contracts meningitis. They do not notice she is ill at first, but she is later in hospital, where Rosemary visits 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. When Belle recovers, Lisa decides to let Rosemary pay for Belle's fees.

On her first day, her parents are anxious about how she will fit in, but Belle is assigned a ‘welcome buddy' called Ayesha, who helps her get to know the school. They become fast friends, but when Ayesha convinces her to talk about Shadrach in class, the teacher is unimpressed as she described Shadrach's hygiene and flatulence issues. When she comes home, her parents clash with Rosemary after she tries to pay for Belle's school trip to Germany. Zak and Lisa agree, but anything else is down to them. Belle later convinces Rosemary to help her throw a party at Mill Cottage for her friends. At the party, she impresses the girls by claiming to live at Mill Cottage with her "auntie" Rosemary and "cousin" Grayson (Christopher Villiers). However, Belle is in trouble when Lisa phones Ayesha's mother to organize a sleepover, and discovers the truth, leading to an argument. She is later upset when she hears her parents discuss whether to take her out of private school. After Rosemary confesses that she had poisoned Perdy to get her sectioned, Zak ends his friendship with her, and warns her to stay away from his daughter. It becomes obvious that they can not afford to pay for Belle's education themselves, leaving Zak and Lisa distraught after the school head, Mrs Kennedy, tells them the government are not going to pay for her place. Zak decides to compete in a bare-knuckle fight against an old adversary, Mike O’Shea, to raise the money for Belle to stay in private school. He is close to beating O'Shea when the police raid the building, ending the fight. Although he almost won, he is unable to the funds, so his granddaughter Debbie lends them the money so Belle can keep her place. Belle then attends Rosemary's funeral, although she is the only person apart from Grayson who indicates genuine sorrow at her death.

In May 2008, the family again face problems with Belle's school fees. After they refuse to borrow any more from Debbie, they sell stolen manure from Emmerdale Haulage, but Matthew King finds out and takes the money. Belle covers his car in manure for revenge, but Zak makes her apologise. Eli Dingle accidentally backs the van into a plasma TV Matthew had bought for a presentation, a livid Matthew takes the money for a replacement out of the bonus he was going to give Zak. His brother Jimmy convinces him to change his mind, but Matthew refuses to give him the money until the new TV arrives, leading to a furious Zak quitting his job. The Dingles hope Belle will remain in the dark, but another student finds out and tells her. She is upset, but she soon tells her family that she was sick of the school anyway, as she was a Dingle. In November, Belle auditions for the choir but Nicola De Souza (Nicola Wheeler) pans her performance, causing Ashley (John Middleton) and Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) to tell her that she was too young to save her feelings. A month later, she and Shadrach steal Christmas presents from under the Woolpack Christmas tree, but they are eventually are found out. In February the next year, 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, she rushes up to the taxi, shouting that she loves him - and Will shouts that he loves her too. Happy that with the way things ended between them, Belle decides to let him leave.

In 2011, she overhears Amy Wyatt (Chelsea Halfpenny) and Victoria Sugden (Isabel Hodgins) talking about throwing a party. She hides the drinks they stashed in the barn and blackmails them to let her come along, but when she throws up after drinking cider, Lisa is furious. A terse friendship forms with Amy, but when Belle witnesses her collapse, Amy stops her from getting help, admitting that she is pregnant. However, Amy does not want anyone else to know, so Belle goes to the hospital with her, and skips class to be with her. The school contact her mother, and Belle admits she was with Amy, but does not say anything about being at the hospital. She attempts to see Amy, who has been discharged from hospital, who threatens Belle to stay away from her. She gives birth to a son, Kyle Wyatt, with Belle thrilled to be an aunt. When teenager Sean Spencer (Luke Roskell) arrives in the village, Belle develops an attraction to him, and they kiss on her thirteenth birthday. The day after, she soon gives him a Christmas present of a silver car key ring, as she says it reminds her of when he took her to see Kyle in hospital. She disappears later to see Sean, but when Zak finds them, he threatens him not to go near his daughter again. An angry Belle refuses to speak to Zak, but he warns her that it is not safe for her to be having a boyfriend at her age. She verbally lashes out at Zak and goes to her room. They meet at the barn and go to the lake, but when they are found by Debbie, Belle is embarrassed. Their relationship comes to an end when Sean confesses he had kissed his mother's girlfriend Ruby Haswell (Alicya Eyo).

At a New Year's Eve party, she meets Luke Salter (Daniel Pearson), an older boy. Upon discovering he had 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 kiss, but decide to keep their relationship quiet, as her parents would disapprove. They continue to meet up behind Gemma's back until she sees them together at the bus stop. Gemma warns her that Luke is trouble but Belle decides to stay with him. When Luke comes to tea, he insists him and Belle go upstairs to work so they can be alone, but Zak sees through his lies and forces them to do the washing up to keep them downstairs. Luke accuses Belle of being a tease, and he explains he just wants time alone, but Belle convinces him to wait till tomorrow. After meeting at Belle's house, she admits she is a virgin, he is disappointed, but she decides to keep on going. They begin to kiss again, before Lisa drags Luke off her, telling him to get out. Belle argues with her over Luke, and tries to go after him, but she is stopped from leaving. The next day Sam (James Hooton) takes Belle to school via Lisa's orders so she does not see Luke. Belle 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 him jealous. Sean sends her a Valentine's Day card which she thought was from Thomas, but she discovers it was from Sean. When he lies and tells her it was not, she is insulted. Gemma gives Belle a makeover after Sean laughed at her, which impresses Thomas. He seems to develop feelings for her, but Belle lies to her parents, until they find inappropriate pictures of her on her phone, with evidence that Thomas took them. They punish her until Belle then begins to change her behaviour so that she will get her phone 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. He later steals a bottle of alcohol in an attempt to impress her, but after seeing them kiss, he is so angry he smashes the bottle, and ignores Gemma. Marlon asks Thomas and Belle if they're together, but they are defensive. Marlon says Thomas is just like his father, so he runs home, and Belle shouts at him. She shows up on Thomas' door soon after and comforts him. Thomas apologizes to Marlon later, and also says that he and Belle are together. He asks her if it was okay for him to say that, and she accepts his offer and they kiss. They then become a couple, but although he seems comfortable with her, she is shocked when he acts dismissive in front of her father.

She is happy when Sam announces he's moving in with his girlfriend Rachel Breckle (Gemma Oaten). However, her relationship with Thomas causes her to neglect Gemma, whilst Sean's jealousy over Belle leaves him heartbroken, as they begin to avoid him. After a fighting with her, Gemma sends Sean a suggestive photo of Belle which she had taken earlier in an attempt to get Thomas to notice her. However, Sean defends Belle and asks her if Thomas is making her do stuff, leading to her to angrily announce she never fancied him. In response, he puts the picture online to spite her. Thomas notices, and attacks Sean in defense of Belle, causing her to find out and she begins to ignore Thomas' calls. Sean apologises 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. Distraught, Belle finds Thomas about to escape in Dan Spencer's (Liam Fox) van, and begs him to take her with him. Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt) sees them, Thomas lets her come, and they drive off. Paddy believes that Thomas kidnapped Belle, and tells her family. Belle grows worried, and calls her mother the next day, but 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 is dismissive about this, but he decides to return 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. Heartbroken, Belle abandons him, and seeks advice from Debbie who tells her she needs to get revenge. Belle tells everyone at school that Gemma had an abortion, leading to Gemma attacking her. Belle is then suspended after fighting, with Dom determined to get Belle expelled. She confides in Debbie, at one point saying she wanted to harm Gemma, which Dom hears. In a meeting with her headmaster, Belle refuses to apologise to Gemma and runs away when she is left outside the office. After hearing Zak threatening to give her a beating, she finds some of Debbie's leftover alcohol and tries to drink her troubles away. Sean has discovered her treatment of Gemma and calls her pathetic, so she goes off on her own. She encounters Debbie, who takes her to her house to sober up. However, when she 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 would not be able to say no. Zak and Lisa told Belle that Amy had not 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. She storms out and Belle follows her, but Gemma calls her selfish. Belle then tells her that Sean would not be interested in her anyway, but Gemma slaps her. In retaliation, Belle pushes her to the ground. Gemma bangs her head, and Belle is immediately sorry, offering to help her. Gemma angrily tells her to stay away, and they both go off in opposite directions. Dom is upset that Gemma has not returned home and, in the morning, he arrives at the Dingles' house, as she said she may stay there overnight. When they reveal they have not seen her, Dom goes out with people to look. Harriet (Katherine Dow Blyton) discovers Gemma's body by a hedge and an ambulance is called. Gemma later dies from her injuries in hospital, leaving Belle distraught. Wracked with guilt, Belle tells Lisa that she killed Gemma, but she forbids her from going to the police. Chas and her brother Cain tell Belle to keep it from her father, as he may not cope with another breakdown. Belle ignores them and leaves the funeral to hand herself in, but Cain stops her. She tells Zak and 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, but he is distraught when she is given bail. Belle is charged the following day with the murder of Gemma. Cain later arrives at Dom's house and tries to get him 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. After several failed attempts to have sex Belle and Sean drop the idea. Belle's brother, Sam, later tries to run away with her to escape a prison sentence. But after Dom tips off the police they are caught and Belle is kept in prison until her trial. At her trial she is sentenced to three years in prison, but she was forgiven by Dom who made a statement to the court telling them that he had forgiven her. After her trial she appeals against her sentence. In August 2014, while Zak and Lisa were visiting her in prison, she told them her appeal was successful and that her sentence had been reduced to one year. Belle admits to Sean that she no longer has feelings for him and he then decides to join the army, leaving the village.

When Belle is released from prison, she finds it hard to adjust to normal life again. She confronts Gabby Thomas by threatening to kill her after being teased by her and some other kids from school at the bus stop. Belle's behavior turns erratic around her family, causing her parents to be more concerned about her well being. Belle dyes her hair dark for a new look and image. She meets Lachlan White, who recently discovered about Belle's accidental murder of Gemma. Lachlan informs Belle that someone wrote "MURDERER" on the front of her house, which Belle confronts Zak Dingle and Lisa Dingle about. It is soon revealed that the culprit was Noah Tate. In late November 2014, Belle is discovered by Ashley Thomas and Harriet Finch in the church, crying and covered in blood. It is apparent that Belle has been attacked, but she refuses to tell Zak and Lisa who the attacker was, leading to them assuming that she could have been sexually assaulted. As she struggles to cope, Belle considers trying to kill herself with painkillers, but she fails and breaks down in tears in the back of her family barn. Belle soon begins to behave erratically and after ringing up school, demanding that she will not be turning up anymore and trashing David Metcalfe's shop, Belle is seen talking to an imaginary version of Gemma, as she admits to herself in the mind that she caused the graffiti on her house, also harming herself, destroying her own portrait for a competition and putting cans of spray paint in Lachlan's bag as "Gemma" demanded her to do these things in her mind.

Belle smashes and trashes Edna Birch's house, taking her pension money. Lachlan takes photos of Belle leaving Edna's house as evidence, prior to him planning on grassing Belle up. Belle tells Lachlan in exchange for deleting the photo that she will have sex with him, but Lachlan instead deletes the photo and becomes friends with Belle. Belle finds herself in luck with a job at Paddy Kirk's surgery. Belle becomes paranoid, as she believes that everyone hates her and she quits her job at the surgery. Lachlan offers Belle a legal high pill, which she takes and is relieved to discover that the voices in her head have stopped. Belle soon begins to hear voices again and asks Lachlan for more of the legal high pills, which he gives to her. Belle is later offered a job by Katie Sugden on her new farm and Belle proudly accepts, determined not to let herself or her family down. Belle believes that "Gemma" caused her brother Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) to become ill with his brain aneurysm. Belle's erratic behavior worsens and when Katie witnesses Belle talking to an imaginary Gemma, Belle fights Katie and bites her arm in order to escape the farm to run away. Belle locks herself in Katie's car and when Zak and Lisa try to stop her from driving away, Gemma's voice is heard on an overvoice in Belle's mind, as she is instructed by "Gemma" to run down Zak in the car. Realizing that she could never hurt her father, nor her mother or the rest of her family, Belle gives in and unlocks the door of the car and she returns home with her family. Belle reveals to Zak and Lisa that she has been hearing Gemma's voice since leaving the young offender's institute and her parents decide to contact a psychiatrist for Belle to see. It's possible that Belle could be developing the mental illness, Schizophrenia.

Belle later discovers that Katie has died and she believes that she was responsible for her death. Belle tries to kill herself in the collapsed floor of the barn and whilst distracted by Harriet Finch, Belle's brother Cain goes up to the top floor to rescue Belle. She almost falls to her death in the process but Cain saves her, as Belle breaks down in tears. She is sectioned into a psychiatric unit and she receives a visit from her cousin, Aaron Livesy, who convinces Belle that Katie's death had nothing to do with her and she shouldn't fight battles by herself. Belle decides to stay in the psychiatric unit until she properly recovers.


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.[4] The following year, she won Best Young Actor at the Inside Soap Awards.[5] Eden Taylor-Draper then won the Best Child Performance at the British Soap Awards in 2013.


  1. ^ a b c d "Dingle Belles; (But one of them is a boy)". The People. 24 January 1999. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Percival, Charlotte; Lewis, Stephen (30 May 2007). "Meet the Belle of the ball". The Press. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Green, Kris (23 May 2006). "In Pictures: the British Soap Awards". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Young girl wins top soap award". Newsround (BBC). 25 September 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 

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