Emmerdale Wiki
Emmerdale Wiki

Leyla Millicent Harding (previously Cavanagh) is the sister of Alicia Metcalfe, the ex-wife of Liam Cavanagh and the biological mother of Jacob Gallagher.


1984-2007: Early life[]

Leyla Harding was born on the 5th March 1984 to Yvonne Harding and her husband. Leyla has an older sister Alicia.

2008-2011: Arrival in Emmerdale and Jacob reveal[]

Leyla arrives in Emmerdale for a job interview with factory owner Eric Pollard. She tells him that she won Machinist of the Year in 2007 and left her last job because of "inappropriate overtime" with a young manager. Eric gives her the job and Leyla soon makes friends with her colleagues and joins the St. Mary's Church Choir, which forms to enter a competition and save the church from closure.

Months after starting at the factory, her colleague Lily Butterfield sees Leyla leaving the building late at night and arriving very early. Eventually, Leyla reveals she is sleeping there and that she was at university. Unfortunately, her part-time jobs as a cleaner and barmaid meant things got on top of her and she left without finishing her course. Lily asked Leyla to move in with her and Edna Birch, Lily's sister, who was unhappy with the arrangement so Lily and Leyla joined Pearl Ladderbanks, who also works at the factory. When Pearl or Lily ask Leyla about her parents, she avoids answering their questions.

Leyla takes an interest in David Metcalfe, inviting him to a concert but he was sidetracked by his ex-girlfriend, Nicola De Souza, was upset, thinking her father was terminally ill. On learning Rodney was healthy, David tells Leyla he can go to the concert after all. In early February, she goes out for the night with him and meets Skin, who drives them back to Emmerdale. While Skin tries getting close to Leyla, she makes him sleep in his van overnight. The following day, Pearl sees him fleeing after stealing their valuables. David, by chance, knocks him over and Leyla kisses him to thank him. They have a brief relationship but he dumps her upon assuming she believes he still has feelings for Nicola. In April, they restart their relationship. Leyla tells David that her mother is in a care home, and she is trying to earn as much money as possible to fund it. They grow closer during May when they campaign for election to the local council and he wins on 4th June.

In July 2009, Leyla starts work as deputy manager of the new farm shop opened by Natasha Wylde in the village. On seeing Maisie's new shoes, Leyla was jealous and stole £250 from the shop for a pair, planning to put it back when she got paid. However, Natasha's son Nathan found out, and to Leyla's surprise, was much nicer than she expected. After accompanying each other to a concert, they become intoxicated before sleeping together. Attempting to quit her job, Nathan's behaviour turns nasty. He begins to blackmail her until David becomes suspicious. In November, she admits to her one-night-stand with Nathan and, disgusted, he left. When he saw Nathan attacking Leyla, he punched him but told Leyla that he hadn't done it for her. David later forgave Leyla and they reunited in December. Leyla now owned the farm shop that she used to work in and renamed it 'Leyla's'

In 2010, David and Leyla are officially together and moved in together, buying Farrers Barn. Leyla got the news that her mum had died and insisted on attending the funeral alone. She comforted Alicia, her sister, during the service but Alicia insisted Leyla leave, telling her that she couldn't be trusted. Leyla later went to her sister's house and watched her with her husband, Justin, and young son, Jacob. She met Justin several times on the quiet, leading David to think she was having an affair with him. She swore she wasn't but wouldn't explain so David left for a council trip, hurt and disappointed, thinking Leyla was lying to him. While away, Alicia turned up with Jacob, and during a heart to heart, Leyla's difficult relationship with her mother and sister was explained. Jacob is, in fact, Leyla's son. She got pregnant accidentally and had planned a termination but was "persuaded" not to as Alicia couldn't get pregnant so she and her husband adopted Leyla's son. It was later revealed that Alicia's husband was, in fact, the father of Jacob, after a drunken one-night-stand with Leyla.

When Alicia and Jacob revealed that Alicia and Justin had split up and they were homeless, Leyla insisted they move in with her and David. David was not happy about this but accepted it to make Leyla happy. Alicia soon got a job as barmaid at The Woolpack but annoyed David by constantly assuming that Leyla would be happy to babysit. Eventually, David got so fed up of the complications that having Jacob around caused, he demanded Leyla choose: him or Jacob. She promptly left the village but got in contact in April 2013 when she sent Jacob a present.

2013-2018: Return[]

In November 2013, Alicia and David told Jacob that Leyla is his birth mother and that they are unaware of her whereabouts. After finding her online, Jacob secretly sent Leyla a message saying he was aware of the truth and that he hated her. She arrived back in the village, to the shock of David and Alicia, on their wedding day (Christmas Day), demanding to see her son. Leyla discovers that David and Alicia is getting married but is locked in a cupboard by Val Pollard, to stop her ruining the wedding. She is later let out and sees Alicia, who promptly slaps her.

Alicia sees that Jacob is confused and upset, following Leyla's visit, and agrees to let her be part of Jacob's life. After dropping Leyla at her flat, Alicia sees her leave and follows her to a strip club. She learns that Leyla is now a pole dancer and angrily drags her offstage before being arrested on suspicion of soliciting. They are released the next day and Leyla returns to Emmerdale with Alicia, much to David's annoyance. Leyla makes friends with Priya Sharma who helps her get a job at the factory. She moves in with Katie Sugden. In 2014, Leyla tries to help Priya through her pregnancy, as she has an eating disorder. She is surprised to learn that David is the baby's father but more concerned that Priya is putting the baby at risk. She denies that she has an eating problem but finally confides in her and Leyla accompanies Priya to a scan, where they are told the baby is smaller than average but unharmed. However, Priya is worried but repeatedly tells Leyla not to tell anyone, adamant that she can cope alone. However, Leyla tells her brother Jai Sharma and Priya starts getting help.

Alicia receives a £70,000 inheritance from the recently deceased Keith Cheesedale. Alicia accepts the money and learns that Mr. Cheesedale was Leyla's boss/lover. The money was mistakenly given to Alicia as Leyla's stage name was "Alicia Harding". Alicia and David refuse to give Leyla the money until Jacob throws it in the river. David and Leyla recover most of it and she repays Jacob the money he lent her and gives Alicia and David enough for a new car. A delighted Leyla then enjoys her windfall.

Leyla later becomes business partners with Megan Macey and they decide to base their new-found business around wedding planning, calling it Take A Vow. They plan Laurel Thomas and Marlon Dingle's wedding and Priya's wedding to Rakesh Kotecha. When flirting with Megan's boyfriend, Jai, Leyla realises that she has a crush on him, touches him and they end up copulating. Leyla tries to end her affair with Jai repeatedly but keeps falling for his charms and they are caught by Rakesh. Leyla swears Rakesh to secrecy but her friends become suspicious, knowing that she is in a secret relationship. Jai and Leyla are nearly caught by Megan but Leyla manages to hide. After Jai is rushed to hospital following an accident at home, Megan discovers Jai and Leyla's affair. She tries to convince Leyla to sell her half of the business to her, but Leyla refuses. She does, however, agree to stay away from Jai and Megan reconciles with him.

Leyla supports Alicia when she is sexually assaulted by Lachlan White and helps Alicia, David and Jacob through their difficult time. She slaps Georgia Sharma, for snide remarks about Alicia dress sense, saying that is what made Lachlan attack her. Alicia changes her style and appearance, upsetting Leyla as she tries to convince her sister not to change because of what Lachlan did. She is pleased for Alicia and David when they decide to move to Portugal but argues with Alicia on realising that she will not be able to spend time with Jacob. Leyla rekindles her affair with Jai, who is still with Megan, and he promises that he will marry Leyla after leaving Megan, which excites her. However, her feelings are challenged when she sees him violently grab Rachel Breckle and threaten to murder her if she does not give him custody of their son, Archie. Leyla tells the court about Jai's behaviour, which causes Jai to lose his case for residency. The affair ends when she thinks that Megan has miscarried Jai's baby.

Alicia returns to the village when Val is killed in a helicopter crash and is shocked by David's plans to stay and buy the shop back. When Alicia and David announce their separation, Leyla tries to make David see what he is throwing away and books him a ticket to Portugal but he refuses to go, frustrating Leyla. She says a tearful farewell to Alicia and Jacob and insists David made the wrong decision. Leyla tells him that Alicia is filing for divorce and is annoyed that he does not care.

Leyla begins dating Pete Barton and they become engaged. However, they end the relationship after deciding, on their wedding day, that they are rushing things. She later discovers from Pete's mother, Emma Barton, that Pete had been having an affair with Leyla's best friend, Priya. She attacks Priya in the salon after finding out and declares they are no longer friends.

In October 2017, Following the death of Pete's mother, Emma, and younger brother, Finn Barton, Leyla supports Pete as a friend, however, is shocked to learn that Pete could potentially be the father of his aunt, Moira Dingle's baby after having sex with her while engaged to Leyla. After learning that Emma was murdered, Leyla also informs the police that Priya had threatened Emma.

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2019: Jacob's abuse[]

In April 2019, Leyla is involved in the soap's Big Night Out and attacks paedophile teacher Maya Stepney following the revelation that she had been grooming her student Jacob Gallagher throughout the end of 2018 and start of 2019.

She along with Priya Kotecha and Tracy Metcalfe attempted to cover up the teacher's supposed "death" believing that they had killed her. However, it was later revealed she had survived and she was later put on trial for her crimes. Although they hoped that would put an end to it, Leyla and David struggled as Jacob still didn't see what Maya had done as anything wrong and was convinced they were in love. Subsequently, he despised Leyla and David for what they had done and blamed them for Maya going to prison.

2021: Marriage to Liam Cavanagh[]

In June 2021, Leyla gets married to Liam Cavanagh. Their wedding day is slightly catastrophic as Liam’s ex partner Bernice Blackstock does all she can to sabotage the day since she wanted Liam back, although in the end, she backs down, and lets the two get married. Not even a month after their marriage, Liam’s daughter Leanna dies on her 18th birthday, supposedly after falling off a bridge. Liam grieves and becomes very unhappy, and Leyla is very supportive of her husband. Liam begins to act suspiciously and starts illegally visiting his old house where he, Leanna, and his ex wife lived when Leanna was a child. Leyla initially suspects that he is having an affair with Bernice, so follows him to the house and learns that he has been gardening where Leanna had planted a tree which was now fully grown. The home owner comes out and confronts Leyla, who puts up a fight and smashes a garden gnome. The police then arrive and Liam returns after a break, horrified by what he is seeing. Leyla explains everything to the police, who are sympathetic towards her. After she learns of her husband’s interest in gardening, she gets him a spot at the village allotment, where he spends lots of time with various villagers, and eventually turns a corner.

2022 to present: Drug addiction[]

In January 2022, it is revealed that Leanna’s death was not an accident and that she was actually murdered by their supposed friend, Meena Jutla, who had also murdered Nadine Butler, Leyla’s business partner Andrea Tate, her neighbour Ben Tucker and had also attempted to murder several more people. Liam understandably regresses and feels as if he has lost Leanna all over again. Leyla too is affected by this. After this revelation, Meena flees the village, although returns on zthe day of her ex boyfriend Billy Fletcher’s wedding to Dawn Taylor, somebody who Meena did not like at all. Meena kidnaps them and holds them hostage on an abandoned viaduct and issues them an ultimatum. Leyla, who had been planning their wedding, realises that something is not right when the location of the limousine they had hired was on the viaduct, and not on the way to Home Farm, where the reception was. Leyla heads out to see what is going on, and is shocked to find Meena on the viaduct with Billy and Dawn. Dawn pleads with Leyla to go back, although as she is doing so, Meena shoots her with a gun. She is later taken to hospital, and fortunately survives, however, it’s clear that had a huge impact on Leyla’s mental health.

At some point after her recovery, Leyla meets somebody called Suzy Merton who occasionally took cocaine. She also allows Leyla to take some, and she begins to come an addict. When Leyla spots Suzy in the village on a date with Vanessa Woodfield, she is horrified and worried that her drug use may be revealed. Eventually Leyla becomes okay with Suzy being in the village, and they even go to have a meal at Moira Dingle’s house with Vanessa. When they are there, the conversation directs to Moira’s daughter Holly, who died of a heroine overdose a few years prior. Moira points out the photo of Holly on the fridge, and Suzy is visibly on edge after seeing it. Afterwards, Leyla asks her what was wrong, and Suzy reveals that she knew Holly, and that she had given her the money for the heroine that killed her, thinking she was only going to buy cocaine.

Following this, Suzy decides to get clean, and stops doing drugs permanently. Leyla reluctantly agress, although when she cannot cope, she encourages Jai Sharma to give her his old dealers number, supposedly to make him a better person and that she would burn it on a fire. He agrees, and assumes that she had burnt it along with other bits of scrap, although she had actually hidden it in her hand and when he leaves, she starts using it. When she meets him, it’s obvious that he is dodgy. He is very threatening and when Leyla calls him twice in one day after having to throw away the previous drugs she had purchased after a police officer was in her midst, He accuses her of ripping him off and selling his drugs on. Eventually, he begins to blackmail her and says that if she doesn’t get Jai back on his drugs, he won’t serve her again. Suzy discovers this along with Leyla feeling unwell after taking some of his drugs. She explains that dealers like him are bad news and that drugs are of terrible quality. Eventually she confronts the dealer and tells him that she had been recording when he was talking about dealing drugs, and tells him to leave and never bother Leyla again. Leyla is furious with Suzy and then tells her that if she doesn’t give her the phone number of her dealer, she would tell Moira about her role in Hollys death. Suzy reluctantly agrees but tells her that their friendship is over.

Leyla continues to take drugs and is eventually caught by David Metcalfe, who is disgusted by what he sees. Leyla begs him not to tell Liam, and he reluctantly agrees, but tells her that she needs to get help, she tells him that she has stop and has been attending support sessions, although avoids them and end up attending Italian for beginners. Eventually, Leyla calls up her dealer again, and explains that she has no money, so he therefore says that she can store drugs for him instead. The drugs are then stolen by Matty Barton, who plants them on Suzy to get revenge on her for Holly’s death, after The Bartons learn the truth, although his plan backfires as Leyla finds the drugs and returns them to her office. That same day, Leyla takes more drugs and eventually has a heart attack. Liam then finds her unconscious and all is revealed. Liam is disgusted with his wife, and has Suzy and Cain Dingle return the bag of drugs to her dealer. Once she is off the hook, Liam forgives her and she acknowledged that she is an addict, and goes to rehab.

When Leyla returns from Rehab, her relationship with Liam breaks down, as Liam kisses Bernice, and Leyla goes away again to stay with a friend. When she returns, they talk and agree that their marriage has come to the end of the line, and Liam informs Leyla that he has filed for divorce.

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Background information[]

  • During her original stint on the show between 2008 and 2011, the actress playing Leyla was credited by her full name 'Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi', however upon her return in 2013, the credit was shortened to 'Roxy Shahidi'.
  • In January 2018, Roxy Shahidi went on maternity leave, expecting her first child. She then returned to the show in October 2018.


"If you've got it flaunt it, that's what I say."

"Is that what this is then? Is this payback from all that time ago? You vindictive little witch!" (to Alicia Metcalfe)

"Maybe her Botox wears off at midnight" (about Kim Tate)

"She's the least of your worries darling." (to Maya Stepney)"

See also[]

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