Leyla Harding is the sister of Alicia Metcalfe and the biological mother of Jacob Gallagher.


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. 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.

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.

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Background informationEdit

  • 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."

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

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

See also Edit

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Current characters
Eric Pollard | Kim Tate | Victoria Sugden | Zak Dingle | Sam Dingle | Mandy Dingle | Jamie Tate | Marlon Dingle | Paddy Kirk | Belle Dingle | Diane Sugden | Cain Dingle | Charity Dingle | Bob Hope | Rodney Blackstock | Nicola King | Rhona Goskirk | Gabby Thomas | Laurel Thomas | Chas Dingle | Pearl Ladderbanks | Aaron Dingle | Jimmy King | Noah Dingle | Sarah Sugden | Samson Dingle | David Metcalfe | Cathy Hope | Heath Hope | Doug Potts | Arthur Thomas | Brenda Walker | Leyla Harding | Moira Dingle | Matty Barton | Angelica King | Jai Sharma | Priya Kotecha | Jacob Gallagher | Amy Wyatt | Elliot Windsor | Leo Goskirk | Amelia Spencer | Rishi Sharma | Dan Spencer | Kyle Winchester | Kerry Wyatt | Vanessa Woodfield | Archie Breckle | Harriet Finch | Pete Barton | Liam Cavanagh | April Windsor | Amba Metcalfe | Tracy Metcalfe | Carl Holliday | Moses Dingle | Johnny Woodfield | Liv Flaherty | Dotty Thomas | Lydia Hart | Isaac Dingle | Leanna Cavanagh | Dawn Taylor | Ryan Stocks | Manpreet Sharma | Billy Fletcher | Bear Wolf | Will Taylor | Nate Robinson | Andrea Tate | Millie Tate | Al Chapman | Eve Dingle | Theo Metcalfe | Harry Sugden
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