Debbie Wilkins made her first appearance 21 March 1985 and her last in May 1987. She was portrayed by Shirley Cheriton. Debbie was Walford's first upwardly mobile character. She had an on/off relationship with her ill-fated boyfriend Andy O'Brien and she tended to be a bit too pretentious for the working class locals of Albert Square.
Debbie moved to Albert Square with her boyfriend, nurse Andy O'Brien in March 1985. At the time of their arrival, they were the only upwardly mobile residents. They threw cocktail parties, got involved in campaigns and protests, and went jogging together in matching track suits, much to the bemusement of the locals. Many of Debbie’s working class neighbours found her stuck-up; no-one guessed that Debbie had actually been raised in a Walford council estate, not far from Albert Square. Debbie and Andy had a rocky relationship. Ambitious and determined, Debbie's interests focussed on success, whilst Andy wanted to settle down and start a family. When Debbie left a steady job as a bank clerk in order to start her own business and make fast money, Andy was furious as they then had insufficient funds to repay their mortgage. Various rows erupted, and Debbie soon discovered that starting her own business was not as easy as she had expected. Without regular work, she began to struggle financially.
Andy asked Debbie to marry him and for Christmas 1985, he bought her an engagement ring. However, she was mugged on New Year's Eve and it was stolen. Andy subsequently became over-protective, which infuriated Debbie as it went against her ideals of female equality. The situation between Debbie and Andy was complicated further by local policeman Roy Quick, who began wooing Debbie early in 1986. That led to Debbie and Andy having an open relationship; dating other people, but living together. The situation was not ideal, however, as Andy got jealous seeing Debbie pursued. Roy was infatuated with Debbie and asked her to marry him several times, but Debbie declined when she realised she wanted to marry Andy after all. Unfortunatel, Debbie and Andy's happiness did not last as in August 1986 Andy ran in front of a truck to save a toddler from being hit and was killed. Debbie’s grief was compounded with guilt as her last words to Andy during a row were “drop dead”. Debbie was unable to pay her mortgage after Andy died so she moved in with her friend Naima Jeffery.
In 1987 the women of Walford were targeted by a man known as the "Walford attacker". Sharon Watts, Sue Osman and Pat Wicks all had encounters with the attacker and in April that year, Debbie was attacked too. While she was alone in the launderette, the "Walford attacker" tried to assault her. Debbie managed to ward him off using self-defence, which led to his eventual capture. Debbie's heroic act led to her meeting Detective Terry Rich, who was investigating the case. He asked Debbie to act as his girlfriend in an under-cover stake-out held in a restaurant. After getting to know each other that evening, they then began dating. When Terry was transferred to another division, Debbie decided to leave with him. They got engaged and threw a celebratory leaving party in the Queen Vic, and left Walford in May 1987. Later that year Debbie wrote to Naima to tell her that she was pregnant; she and Terry married off-screen.