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6 stars who quit Midsomer Murders and why

From John Nettles' DCI Tom Barnaby to Laura Howard's Cully

John Nettles and Jason Hughes on the set of Midsomer Murders
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
13 April 2024
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ITV's detective drama Midsomer Murders is a staple of British television and made household names of several actors and actresses, including John Nettles and Neil Dudgeon.

Over the 27 years it's been on the air, the show has seen various stars come and go. From Jane Wymark to Laura Howard, find out which of the drama's main cast members decided to leave and why. 

WATCH: Did you know that Holly Willoughby once made a cameo on the show?

John Nettles in Midsomer Murders

John Nettles – DCI Tom Barnaby

John Nettles starred in the hit ITV drama as DCI Tom Barnaby from its debut in 1997 until he stepped away from the show in 2011 after 14 years. 

Tom announced his retirement from the force before handing the reins over to his cousin, John, played by Neil Dudgeon, who has been the show's leading detective ever since. 

Explaining his decision to bow out of the show, John told The Telegraph: "I never thought when we were filming the pilot The Killings at Badger's Drift in 1996 that I would go on to film so many episodes. It has been a joy to be involved in such a long-running series with so many good actors and great storylines. It's the end of an era for me.

He continued: "I suddenly realised that I'm going to be the oldest detective in the business now that David Jason has thrown off the mantle. But it was a very difficult decision to make.

"I'll have been doing Midsomer Murders for 14 years by the time Barnaby leaves. I've formed familial ties with the people involved in the show and they will be hard to break. It's always wise to leave people wanting more, rather than be booed off the stage because you bored them."

John Nettles and Jane Wymark

Jane Wymark

Like her on-screen husband, John, Jane made her debut on the show in the first episode back in 1997 and also departed in 2011.

At the time, fans speculated that Joyce had been asked to leave the drama due to John's retirement storyline, but the actress said she was ready for a different role. 

"I'm relieved that I don't have to be the nicest person in the world anymore!" she told Birmingham Mail. "That's a heavy burden to carry. I want to be completely evil now, a really bad person with no redeeming features and a terribly good cook!"

She continued: "Tom's retirement will be tough on Joyce – when he mentioned it before, she was horrified. I certainly would be if my husband said he was retiring. But John and I have been talking about him leaving for a long time, it hasn't come out of nowhere. And I agree, enough is enough.

"I am fond of Joyce but she is very limiting. Now I get to do different things," she added.

Laura Howard, John Nettles and Jane Wymark© David Graves/REX/Shutterstock

Laura Howard – Cully Barnaby

Laura Howard played Tom Barnaby's inquisitive daughter Cully from the premiere episode up until 2011.

So, why did Laura's Cully leave the show? 

Laura left the programme in season 13 when her character tied the knot with Simon Dixon and her father retired.

Speaking about bowing out of the drama, Laura told the Evening Standard: "I was 19 when we filmed the first episode and 30 when we shot the wedding last summer.

"Midsomer Murders has been quite prohibitive in terms of being able to do other work and it just seemed like the right time to say goodbye."

She also added that she didn't receive a "big send-off" on her final day of shooting. "A lot of the crew didn’t know it was my last episode," she explained. "The director did shout something like, 'OK, that's Laura's last scene – you can go back to your trailer. Thank you and goodbye.' But most people didn't seem to realise what was going on."

Daniel Casey in Midsomer Murders© Getty

Daniel Casey – DS Gavin Troy

Daniel Casey played Tom's loyal companion, Gavin Troy, from the very first episode up until season seven in 2003, before making a brief return in season 11 for the wedding of Tom's daughter Cully.

On his decision to leave, he told Saga magazine: "I was just aware I didn't want to stay with the same thing for too long and I wanted to branch out." 

Barry Jackson, John Nettles, Jane Wymark and Betty Willingate© Rex

Barry Jackson – Dr George Bullard

Barry Jackson played Causton's resident pathologist, Dr George Bullard, up until season 14 when his character decided to take some time off and left the fictional south Oxfordshire town for Ireland.

Before his exit, Barry said that he had considered leaving due to receiving few lines in the script. "My complaint is that I'd like a little bit more to do," he told Birmingham Live. "I hate it when Bullard just says 'he died between 12 and 2.30'. It's a poor show if they can't write anything more."

John Nettles and John Hughes© Getty

Jason Hughes – DS Benjamin Jones

Jason Hughes joined the show in season nine, portraying DS Benjamin Jones for a five-season stint. He left the drama in season 15 before making a brief cameo in the 19th series. 

After announcing his exit, Jason revealed that the show's demanding schedule took a toll on his health. "I was completely burned out from getting up at 4.30 am in Brighton to get the train to London and then on to wherever we were filming in Buckinghamshire, and then doing the journey back and getting home at 9 pm," he told the Daily Mail. "It was starting to affect my health and I was so tired I was no good to anybody, either at home or at work."

He went on to add: "My doctor told me I was suffering from exhaustion and the only answer was rest."