1990-2013: Life before Emmerdale
Born on the 13th June 1990, Ross was the middle brother of the Barton family. When he was a year or so old, Emma, struggling with post-partum depression, attempted to smother him with a pillow. Pete saw her and told James, leading James to banish her from their lives. Ross grew up feeling his father preferred Pete to him, and in his teen years, left home. He then turned to a life of crime.
2013-2014: Attack on Laurel Thomas and family reunion
Waiting at the side of the road for Rhona to return from a chemist in July 2013, Laurel was attacked by Ross whilst tending to a crying Leo. Dressed in a black hoodie, he demanded Laurel to drive and when she wouldn't, he put his hand over her face and struggled with her. Laurel fought him off and managed to force herself and Leo out of the car and away from him. Ross drove off with Laurel's car leaving them at the side of the road.
Laurel struggled to get over the attack and attempted to discover the identity of her attacker. Shortly afterwards in August, she tracked down Ross to his flat in Maple Grove and brandished a pair of scissors at him, telling him she wanted him to feel as scared as she did when he attacked her. Ross realised, however, that Laurel wasn't going to physically harm him and called her bluff, knocking her to the ground. Realising Laurel had gone after her attacker and knowing Cain had dealings with Ross in the past, Marlon Dingle got Cain to help to track them both down. They arrived in time to witness Ross about to attack Laurel for a second time. Cain defused the situation while Marlon took Laurel home.
In October, Cain abandoned an attack on a gang of drug dealers he was supposed to be assisting in and recruited Ross as his replacement. When the job went wrong, Ross burst into Butler's Farm with a gunshot wound to the neck. Covered with blood after being shot, he blackmailed Cain into helping him by threatening to tell Moira about the job whilst she was out of the room. Moira wanted to call an ambulance but Cain and Ross insisted that she couldn't otherwise they would both be arrested. Instead, they had Vanessa Woodfield assist to the wound. Cain tried to force Ross to leave at the earliest opportunity but Moira soon realised that Ross was James's boy, and therefore her nephew, whom she had not seen for around twenty years after James and her late husband John fell out. Moira allowed Ross to stay at Butler's Farm until he recovered, leaving Cain feeling uneasy.
Also discovering that Ross had fallen out with his father, Moira chose to contact James for the first time in years in an attempt to patch things up between the pair. When James arrived at Butler's Farm however, an argument ensued and it became clear that a reunion wasn't on the cards as Ross insisted he wanted nothing to do with his father. Cain tried to convince Moira to get Ross to leave, but feeling sorry for Ross she wanted him to stay for a couple more days. Cain then informed Moira that Ross was Laurel's carjacker, leading to Moira to also want to get rid of him, but she was forced to reconsider when Vanessa insisted he need a few more days of rest. After visiting Ashley at the farm to discuss Gabby's behaviour, Laurel realised she'd left her handbag in the kitchen and returned to get it. She spotted Ross on Adam's quad bike and shouted for help when she thought he was stealing it. Telling Moira and Adam that Ross was her carjacker, she was devastated when Moira informed her that she already knew and that Ross is her nephew. When the police became involved, Laurel let slip that she had once turned up at his flat and brandished scissors at him. Laurel was arrested and told she would face a trial by jury. Before disappearing from the village, Ross helped Cain out by obtaining money from stealing Declan's car, allowing Moira to keep the farm as they handed the money to Declan.
The next time Ross was seen in the village was following Laurel's trial, where she had been found guilty and fined. Ross arrived at Tall Trees Cottage threatening Laurel for his money, stating he wanted it now. Laurel realised she wasn't scared of him anymore and that he would have to wait for his money to be paid back in the way that the courts had agreed. Having nowhere to stay, Moira once again put Ross up, not knowing that Ross was still being harassed by one of the drug dealers from the previous month. The drug dealers eventually caught up with Ross and got their revenge by terrifying Moira and beating up Adam before wrecking Butler's Farm. Despite all of this Moira allowed him to stay at Butler's Farm, along with James and brothers Pete and Finn, who were losing their own farm due to debts.
Ross began to be accepted by the village when he saved Gabby from being hit by a car when she ran into the road. Bernice couldn't think of enough ways to thank Ross and even Laurel had to swallow her pride to at least thank Ross for saving Gabby's life.
Ross had sex with Charity Sharma, as she was intent on making estranged husband Jai Sharma jealous. He was seen on occasions with a woman called Laura Atkinson, and Ross' lodger Debbie's daughter, Sarah becomes fond of her. Debbie tells Sarah she will probably never see Laura again.
2014: Relationship with Donna Windsor & Donna's death
Ross became infatuated with Debbie, but she began a relationship with Pete. Ross became close to Donna Windsor, who he enjoyed flirting with and teasing. He realised she was a dodgy policewoman and he agreed to help her burgle the house of Gary North, a prolific local criminal. However, Pete overheard Donna saying that she was only luring him into this position so she can arrest him, as she was fully aware of his previous crimes. Donna convinced Ross that she was only saying it to keep things under wraps and they go ahead with the burglary.
Ross and Donna became lovers, but Donna neglected to tell him she was dying, instead working with him on a heist to help pay for her daughter April's future. Gary North attacked Ross' brother, Finn, knowing that Ross was the closest to Finn of anyone, and nearly killed him, in order to send Ross a message. To keep his family safe, Ross agreed to do a dodgy job for Gary. Everything went terribly wrong and the outcome of the job led Donna to throw herself off a building while handcuffed to Gary. She professed her love for Ross before she jumped over the edge; Ross was left devastated as she was the first person he had ever truly loved.
2015: Reconciliation with Emma
The Barton brothers faced turmoil when they learned that James and Moira had had a one-night stand resulting in the conception of Adam, and that Emma had known the truth. Ross and Finn blamed them for the loss of their mother, and Finn tracked her down. Only Pete and James knew that she had tried to kill Ross. Ross was deeply hurt when they told him, but when Emma explained her depression, he forgave her.
2015: Affair with Debbie and birth of Moses
Ross began dating Carly, but had stronger feelings for Debbie. Ross and Debbie began an affair, whilst she was engaged to his brother Pete. They planned to run away a few days before the wedding, however, Cain stops them and announces he was the father of Debbie's half-brother, Moses, via a one-night stand with Charity while they were working on a chop shop. Debbie panicked and broke up with Ross after Cain added that Ross made a deal with Charity to keep the paternity of Moses quiet if he broke up Cain and Moira. Ross told Finn everything and he managed to get the letter Debbie had addressed to Pete, in which she confessed to the affair and planned to run away with Ross before Pete could read it.
At Pete's stag do Ross revealed in front of the whole pub that he was Moses' father. His parents James and Emma were furious at Ross for keeping the fact that they were grandparents from them. At first, Ross wanted nothing to do with his son, but eventually, he warmed up to him and Emma managed to persuade Charity to put Ross' name on the birth certificate so he wouldn't lose any rights to his son when Charity was released from prison.
2015: Presumed death and feud with Pete
On the wedding day, Ross planned to tell all at the ceremony. Cain tied Ross up and put him into the back of a van, which he parked at the edge of a cliff. Ross escaped by jumping into the water below and was unconscious for a while. When he woke up, he walked back to the village to witness Cain and Pete putting a lifeless Debbie into the car as a result of a helicopter crash. He went to the hospital and asked Pete whether Debbie was alive or not, Pete does not respond, worrying Ross. Ross went back upstairs to see Debbie, but Pete saw him again and attacked him. Security guards threw them out of the hospital, but they continued to fight outside. After Ross punches Pete to the ground, Pete charged at Ross, causing him to hit his head on a stone wall. Pete kept hitting him and stopped when he thought that he had killed him. Instead of finding help for his dying brother in the hospital they are right outside of, Pete placed Ross into the boot of his car and drove to the woods, where he hid him a ditch and covers his body with leaves.
Three weeks later, Pete and James went to the woods to find the body of Ross, but it was nowhere to be seen. The pair return to inform Chas, Cain and Debbie that the body is gone and that they believe he is still alive. Unbeknownst to anybody, Ross was lying in a hospital bed but in a coma. The next day, Ross woke up from the coma. The hospital thought that he was named Stephen having found a passport given to him by Cain. Ross tried to get out of talking to the police and left the hospital, returning home. He found Pete and they argued about the events with Ross being angry that Pete had told everyone what he had done and not been reported to the police. He collapsed when he tried to punch Pete, and returned to the hospital where his parents and Finn were reunited with him. Ross shocked everyone when he forgave Pete for his actions, however, this was just an act. Over the next months, Ross tried several times to get revenge on Pete. On September 25th 2015, Ross made a deal with Andy Sugden, Andy would kill Pete and Ross would kill Andy's brother Robert. Later that night, Ross shot Robert and left the village. Ross, upon his return in October, was shocked to find that Robert and Pete were both still alive. The deal was dropped.
Debbie, who didn't know what Ross had been up too, asked Ross to move in. Ross agreed. They went to tell Pete together. Later on, that year, after Debbie learnt that Ross shot Robert, she left for her safety of her and her children. Ross rapidly ran after the car but he was too late.
After Pete was released from prison in May 2016, he and Ross put their differences aside and set up a taxi firm with Finn.
2016: Death of James
In September 2016, Ross was left fuming when he found out James told Moira he loved her and that he'd nearly had sex with her in the back of their cab. A few weeks later, Ross was upset when he learnt his cousin Holly died of a heroin overdose. While helping James and Emma move into Wylies Farm, he berated James for messing with Emma's feelings and accidentally pushed him down the stairs, breaking his leg as a result. While in hospital, Emma overheard Ross and James arguing about James' feelings for Moira and overcome with jealousy, she kept James hostage in their own home but he later escaped and was pushed off a bridge onto a motorway after a final confrontation with Emma. He succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital as Emma, Pete, Finn, Moira, Adam and Victoria watched on, heartbroken. The next morning, Ross arrived home after spending the night with a girl and was distraught when told of James' death. He lashed out at everyone, namely Cain and Moira, desperate to put the blame on someone. On the day of James' funeral, Ross broke down in Emma's arms, devastated that he never made up with his dad before he died. He resented Adam's role at the funeral, and made a pass at Adam's wife Victoria, leading her to slap him. Ross left town for a while to clear his head.
2016-2017: Relationships with Kerry, Debbie and Rebecca
Pete and Ross had a bet over who could bed a woman first. Kerry, girlfriend of Ross' garage co-worker Dan, was upset over his kissing another woman, and slept with Ross. Kerry got pregnant and had a termination. Dan was furious when the truth came out. Ross warned him off, finally knocking Dan out with one punch when he tried to start a fight.
In January 2017, Ross was shocked when Debbie returned to the village. He was saddened to learn her daughter Sarah's cancer had returned, and asked Debbie to give their relationship another go. Debbie gently declined, telling Ross her daughter comes first. With Moira's help, Ross set up a chop shop at Butlers in order to raise money for Sarah's cancer fund. Some months later, Debbie and Ross had sex, and planned to announce their reconciliation, but changed their minds due to Sarah's continuing problems.
Ross began sleeping with Rebecca, unaware of her feelings for Robert. They broke up after he learned of her one-night stand with Robert. When she revealed she was pregnant, he ruled himself out as the father due to using protection.
2017: End of Barton Cabs
In trying to end Finn's obsessive relationship with his boyfriend Kasim, Emma burnt out one of their cabs. Finn went away on holiday to Australia not revealing huge debts to Pete and Ross until some time later.
Ross and Finn found marijuana plants at Wylie's Farm whilst going there to collect Emma's belongings from her brief stay with James, and they decided to start selling the product. However, a feud with Robert and Aaron led to the destruction of the plants as well as their other taxi.
2017: Deaths of Finn and Emma and Emma's murder revelation
As Finn slowly learned of Emma's role in James' death, Pete and Ross were left in the dark. When they were told of Emma confronting Moira at the farm and Moira being rushed to hospital, they went to see her for answers, only to see Finn, suffering from a gunshot wound, wheeled in. Ross was devastated as he watched Finn die.
When Ross learned Emma had accidentally shot Finn, he went searching for her, and found her in her car. He bundled her into his car and took her to the viaduct. He berated her, yelling at her to go ahead and kill herself. He left and then returned, only to find her dead. He blamed himself but kept quiet about his involvement.
He and Pete began to believe Adam might have pushed her, and they worked to have him sent down. After Adam went on the run, Moira confessed to them that she was responsible. Ross pushed her against a wall, but the next day, told her he forgave her and wanted to move on.
2018: Acid attack
When Debbie's new boyfriend Joe left her jobless and homeless as part of a revenge scheme against her family, Ross agreed to act as a double agent for her, getting a job as Joe's driver. Debbie was unappreciative of his help, and he began to enjoy the lifestyle of beautiful women at his disposal. He decided to genuinely work for Joe, but Joe had already discovered his duplicity and fired him.
Ross stole one of Joe's cars and drove back home, unaware that Debbie had asked drug dealer Simon to "mess" Joe up. Simon, unable to see clearly at night, doused Ross with acid.
Joe and his associate Graham stumbled upon him screaming in pain while they were tracking the car down, doused him in water, and got him to hospital. A horrified Ross learned he had facial scars which might never heal. Charity brings Moses to visit Ross in hospital. Ross is overjoyed to see his son but his joy soon turns to devastation when Ross realises Moses is scared of the way he looks. He orders someone to get Moses out of the room then orders everyone else out too. Later, Pete visits him and shows him a picture of Moses and he cries after Pete leaves. A few days later Ross goes to see Moses at the playground but when Moses spots Ross, he gets scared and Ross retreats into the church. Ross states he sees his injuries - he doesn't recognise himself anymore. Cain questions how Moses is meant to recognise him then. Debbie and Cain play with Moses in the playground when Ross approaches. Ross takes over pushing Moses on the swing, and in terms, the youngster will understand, he explains to Moses that he's still his daddy despite his different appearance.
The scarring left Ross feeling very self-conscious and after being discharged from hospital, he spent all of his time in Dale View, refusing to leave. Pete tried to convince him to go out on multiple occasions, but Ross refused, not wanting people to gawp at him. However, after Pete snaps and tells him that James and Finn can't go to a cafe now, Ross reluctantly agrees to go to the cafe with Pete. As he got to the cafe, everyone tried to act normal around him, but Ross ends up snapping at Brenda when she tells him his food is on the house. He yells at everyone, calling Rhona Pete's tart before storming out.
He later pursues a relationship with Rebecca White, bonding over both their traumatic experiences as she's suffered a severe head trauma after a car accident. He helps her remember things and getting her head sorted after her brain damage while she helps him with his views on his appearance.
On 2nd November 2018, Ross Barton leaves the village with Rebecca White and her son Sebastian White to move to Liverpool. The pair decided to leave Emmerdale for a fresh start after Ross was offered a job in Liverpool. Ross originally planned to bring Moses with him, but Charity stopped him from doing so after Ryan Stocks told her about Ross' cocaine use that had led to him collapsing in front of Moses leaving his son to wander off alone. Ross begged Charity not to cut him out of his son's life and Charity took pity on him, agreeing to let him have contact with Moses whenever he pleased as long as he dropped the custody battle idea and sorted his life out. Ross agreed to leave Moses in Emmerdale on the basis that he would still get regular access.
"Shut it. Drive, now!" (First line, to Laurel Thomas)
"You and me are for keeps, aren't we?" (to Donna Windsor)
"Is that it? Is that all you've got?" (To Pete Barton before Pete beats him unconscious, although Pete thought he'd beaten Ross to death)
"Bit late for the Ice Bucket Challenge, isn't it?" (to Pete Barton)
"Listen, I am flattered, mate, but I am as straight as a ruler." (To Robert Sugden who had him pinned against the bar)
"Right, now drive." (final line to Rebecca White)