Barbara "Babs" Dabner was the wife of accountant Arthur Dabner, a colleague of Derek Wilton at Barkers stationery firm. In March 1989, when Derek invited Arthur to a soiree at The Kabin flat, he thought Arthur was single but he was actually separated, living on his own since 1986. Babs and Arthur were still on good terms, and occasionally spent weekends under the same roof. In April, after spending an afternoon discussing their future, they decided to give their marriage another go.

In the weeks before getting back together with Babs, Arthur had struck up a close friendship with Emily Bishop, who he met at the Wiltons' party. Emily was aware that he was separated but Arthur had told her that he and Babs only saw each other in matters involving their now-grown-up children. As he'd been due to meet Emily for lunch when Barbara gave him a call, he called Emily from a phone box in Heaton Park, lying to Emily that he'd been called into work. Almost immediately afterwards, he and Babs ran into Emily's lodger Percy Sugden, who was feeding ducks in the park. When Arthur gave a muted reply to Percy's greeting, Babs asked if he was a friend, to which Arthur replied that he was someone he'd met a time or two. After telling Emily the truth, he didn't see her again, and presumably saw no need to tell Babs about her.

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