Why did Kenny Doughty leave Vera, is he in season 13 and what happened to Aiden in the ITV show?

Kenny Doughty left Vera in the 2023 festive special and some fans are probably still wondering why the actor departed the ITV show

KENNY DOUGHTY as DS Aiden Healy and BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope
(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

We might have never thought we'd see Kenny Doughty leave Vera after playing DS Aiden Healy for so long but sadly that day came in the festive special.

After a year of patient waiting for the next full series, Vera season 13 was welcomed by fans - though the return of the ITV drama was also a little bittersweet. Whether you realised it or not at the time of watching it, the 2023 festive special ahead of season 13 was the final episode to star Kenny Doughty as DS Aiden Healy. Kenny’s departure as DCI Vera Stanhope's loyal sergeant might have sparked confusion amongst some viewers as his final episode didn’t feature an obvious exit for him. Thankfully, we have all the details about why Kenny Doughty left Vera and what happened to Aiden.

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope and KENNY DOUGHTY as DS Aiden Healy

(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

Why did Kenny Doughty leave Vera? 

Kenny Doughty left Vera as DS Aiden Healy for “lots” of reasons, both personal and professional. According to RadioTimes.com, he shared that whilst playing Aiden in Vera was a “life-changing job” he felt the time was right to leave.

"There were lots of personal and professional reasons why I wanted to move on,” Kenny declared. “I have loved doing Vera, 100 percent. It has been a life-changing job for so many reasons. Including working with Brenda Blethyn (who plays DCI Vera Stanhope) and in the North East. I feel like an honorary Geordie. There is also a real family connection to the crew, who I’m still in touch with."


(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)
The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves |Was £9.99, Now £7.99 at Amazon

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves |Was £9.99, Now £7.99 at Amazon

The Rising Tide is the latest in Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series and it's the story that was adapted in Kenny Doughty's final Vera episode. Vera and her team investigate after the reunion of a group of friends on Holy Island leads to one of them being found dead.

Kenny reflected on his nine years on the hit ITV crime drama, before expressing how he “just wanted to leave while [he] was still happy with everything”.

"It was a really difficult decision to leave, because I loved doing that job and I loved working with everybody on the Vera team. But a little part of me, for whatever reason, the little inner self said to me, 'You should probably call it a day while you’re still enjoying it'. To step away and seek new acting challenges,” he said.

Ultimately, whilst playing Aiden in Vera is something that will likely hold a special place in his heart forever, Kenny Doughty left the show when he still enjoyed everything about being part of it.

Is Kenny Doughty in Vera season 13? 

Sadly viewers didn't get to actually see Kenny Doughty leave Vera as Aiden in either the festive special or in Vera season 13's opening episode. Instead, his final episode was the 2023 Christmas special. Titled The Rising Tide, this was a direct adaptation of one of Ann Cleeves’ Vera novels which not all the episodes are. The name of his final episode is something that Kenny believes is very fitting, as it mirrors the name of his first ever episode, Changing Tides.

IBINABO JACK as DC Jaqueline (Jac) Williams, KENNY DOUGHTY as DS Aiden Healy, BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope and RILEY JONES as DC Mark Edwards.

(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

"My first Vera film was series five, episode one, called Changing Tides. While this story is called The Rising Tide. So it feels appropriate to come in on one tide and go out on another,” he explained, as per RadioTimes.com.

Kenny also revealed that he made the decision to leave as Aiden in Vera before they’d even started filming series 2. However, when the idea of a Christmas special came up, he was persuaded to extend his time on the show.

He said, "But then halfway through filming they said, 'Can we do a Christmas special as well?' So it was a long goodbye, with The Rising Tide being my last episode, filmed in November and December 2022.”

What happened to Aiden in Vera? 

Since Kenny Doughty’s last episode as Aiden in Vera was the Christmas special, many fans might have been left wondering what happened to him. The Christmas special ended with Vera’s team happily exchanging secret Santa presents and Aiden was still there. He'd even been given the honour of driving Vera's beloved car across the causeway to Holy Island in the episode. However, the opening episode of Vera season 13 explained that he’s gone to Australia with his family.

After arriving at a crime scene at the beginning of episode 1 of the new series, Fast Love, DCI Stanhope was asked by Paula the pathologist where Aiden was. She replied simply, “Perth”. Asked why Aiden was in Scotland, Vera then elaborated about what happened to Aiden.

Kenny Doughty in Vera

(Image credit: ITV Studios for ITV1)

“Try Perth Australia,” she said, before adding, “You’re shocked? Could’ve knocked me for six when I found out. It was his missus sent in the application, reckoned his prospects would be better Down Under. Plus, her sister lives there. Kenny gives him six months.”

So Aiden, his wife and their son have moved to the other side of the world which is how the ITV drama explained Kenny Doughty leaving Vera as the character. This reveal made via dialogue is similar to how Aiden’s predecessor DS Joe Ashworth’s departure was explained in season 5. 

We never saw David Leon leave Vera as Joe, only heard the reason why given by Vera and a similar situation happened in season 13 since we haven’t technically seen Kenny Doughty leave Vera either.

Who replaced Kenny Doughty in Vera? 

It might be hard to imagine anyone replacing Kenny Doughty as Aiden in Vera but ultimately a Detective Chief Inspector can’t be expected to do all the investigative work and so Joe Ashworth came back. Played by David Leon, DS Joe Ashworth was DCI Stanhope’s original sergeant in Vera seasons 1-4 and he returned in Vera season 13 episode 1, now DI Ashworth with the College of Policing, assigned to observe the running of his old boss's team.

When Kenny Doughty first joined the show as DS Aiden Healy, he took David’s place on the cast and so the revelation that David would then be replacing Kenny from season 13 might well have been a silver lining for fans.

Meanwhile, lead actor Brenda Blethyn has revealed how the departure of Kenny Doughty in Vera almost led her to decide against coming back for season 13 - unless they brought David back to replace him.

BRENDA BLETHYN as DCI Vera Stanhope and DAVID LEON as DI Joe Ashworth

(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

According to The Mirror, she declared, “After we filmed The Rising Tide at the end of 2022 I didn’t want to do any more without Kenny Doughty, who had decided to leave. But I said, 'I'll think about it if you can see if David Leon is available to return as Joe Ashworth.' And so they did and here I am.”

The star described herself as “broken-hearted” when David left and was “equally overjoyed” when she heard he was coming back.

Brenda said, "They have all of that early history together. I wouldn’t have continued if David had not agreed to come back. I just didn’t want to start another board game with somebody else when I know I’m not going to do many more. And who would want to do it anyway?"

David was also full of praise for Kenny’s performance as Aiden in Vera and directed him in the episode, Black Ice, which aired in 2018.

"I had obviously kept an eye on the show from afar. Also coming back in 2017 to direct a Vera film called Black Ice screened in 2018,” he shared, before adding, “I worked with Kenny Doughty (DS Aiden Healy) then and really like him both as a human being and as an actor. I also have huge respect for Kenny and his contribution to the series.”

Although some fans will still be incredibly sad to have seen Kenny Doughty leave Vera as Aiden, having Joe return as his replacement seems very fitting and it's a lovely nod to the start of the show. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!