|Character Profile||List of appearances|
Helen Cunningham (previously Richardson) was the ex-wife of Dennis Richardson, the wife of Gordon Cunningham as well as the mother to Lewis, Mandy Richardson and Tom Cunningham. She and Gordon were killed in a car accident in February 2004 when the car she, Gordon and and Tom were in was struck by a truck (later revealed to have been driven by Milo Entwistle in 2018). Tom was left an orphan in the accident.
For much of Helen's early time in the village, she had the terrible misfortune of being saddled with a family intent on ripping itself apart. Helen had a tough time whilst she was married to Dennis Richardson, who had been abusive to her and had repeatedly raped their daughter, Mandy. Helen was unaware of this until Mandy confessed to her brother Lewis after running away in 1998, and Lewis angrily confronted Dennis before he was thrown out of the family home.
After Dennis was sent to prison for seven years after being found guilty of sexually assaulting Mandy in October 1998, Helen found a new love interest in Gordon Cunningham). The pair slept together and Helen was shocked to discover that she was pregnant. Gordon did the honourable thing by asking her to marry him. They soon got married and Helen gave birth to baby Tom Cunningham on Millenium Eve. In October 2001, Helen was devastated when she found out Lewis had attempted suicide by overdosing on paracetamol and was slowly dying from liver failure. This left Helen devastated and she found it hard to cope. Mandy struggled to grieve for Lewis as Helen did as Lewis had assaulted his girlfriend, Ruth Osborne, shortly before his death. Helen and Mandy became estranged, whilst Laura Burns ended up filling Mandy's gap in the family.
Due to Lewis's death, the relationship between Helen and Mandy fell apart and the pair barely spoke to each other. After a while, however, the pair began to rebuild their relationship. Helen then enjoyed a period of happiness running the ironing and cleaning business 'Steam Team' next door to Gordon's Drive 'n' Buy whilst raising Tom.
Then suddenly, for reasons best known to herself, Helen became restless: her shop changed its identity, and so did she, indulging in an affair with Tony, Gordon's friend. This was eventually exposed when an earthquake destroyed the barge the lovesick pair had chosen as a bolt hole. After much argument, Tony told Helen that he did not want to be with her any longer and that she should get back with Gordon for Tom and Mandy's sake. Helen took Tony's advice and she and Gordon were fully reconciled.
Helen began to regain the respect of daughter Mandy and stepson Max Cunningham (Matt Littler), but soon things were back on rocky ground for her when husband Gordon had a death scare, suffering a heart attack. Helen blamed herself, but Max supported her and Gordon seemed to recover. However a week later, lightning struck twice when Gordon, Helen and Tom were involved in a car accident that left Gordon dead after he suffered another heart attack.
Helen was devastated and although she returned home from the hospital, she later died in her sleep whilst sitting in a chair with a blanket over her legs. This left Tom, who survived the crash, an orphan. According to Helen's will, Tom was supposed to stay with Mandy. He then lived with his brother Max for four years until Max died when he was run over on his wedding day, and his widow wife Steph Dean begins to take care of Tom until her death in 2010.