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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 18:45 GMT
Axe falls on five EastEnders
The di Marco brothers
Gianni di Marco (left) is to go but brother Beppe wins a reprieve
EastEnders is to drop five of its main characters before the end of the year.

In a series of changes planned by new producer John Yorke, most of the di Marco family and odd-job man Jeff Healy are to be written out of the hit BBC soap.

From the Italian family, only Beppe di Marco - played by Michael Greco - will remain along with his estranged wife Sandra, played by Clare Wilkie and their screen son Joe, played by Jake Kyprianou.

A spokeswoman for the series said: "These changes have been decided by John Yorke and are just part of his plans to revamp the series and give it a new look."

However, she would not give any details as to how or when exactly any of the characters on the hitlist would depart from the screen.

Rosa di Marco
Rosa di Marco created competition for the square's pub and cafe
The di Marcos arrived in Walford in 1998 and instantly set the cat among the pigeons in Albert Square. Beppe was a policeman and Rosa, played by Louise Jameson, began a restaurant to rival the Queen Vic pub and the cafe.

Beppe and brother Gianni, played by Marc Bannerman, have raised temperatures all round with their Latin charm.

Among their most notable love matches, Beppe tried to woo tragic barmaid - and Mitchell wife - Tiffany. Gianni is still in a relationship with Jackie Owen - sister to the square's baddie Steve Owen.

Jeff Healy, played by Leslie Schofield, joined the soap in 1997 and is screen father to Melanie and vicar Alex. Although not exactly the average Casanova, he too has set hearts a flutter, including that of Dot and Rosa di Marco, for whom he worked as a waiter.

Pauline Fowler, played by Wendy Richards, was however the one to eventually win the day and since Christmas the two have been considered an item.

Producer John Yorke joined EastEnders two months ago. In that time, Craig Fairbrass, who plays publican Dan Sullivan, has also been written out. Troy Titus-Adams, the Vic's barmaid, decided to leave last month.

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