According to the Daily Star, Branning - played by Jamie Foreman - could finally see his dark past catch up with him.
"Everyone working on the show is confident viewers will be on the edge of their seats once again over the festive period," a source told the paper. "It's going to be a corker."
Foreman - himself the son of real-life ex-gangster and pal of the Krays Freddie Foreman - joined the soap as the oldest Branning brother last year. He is said to have wanted Derek to become one of the nation's most notorious soap villains, before leaving the show on a high.
Last week, Foreman - who is reported to know the details of his final scenes - was spotted filming on location, with a gang of thugs chasing his character. The outcome is thought to be one of a number of dramatic EastEnders storylines playing out over the festive season.
"The Branning family are going to be huge this Christmas," the source confirmed.
"Apart from Derek's dramatic departure there's the matter of one of the Branning brothers being revealed as Kat Moon's secret lover. We will also see the return of Derek's sister Carol Jackson, daughter Bianca Butcher and her kids for the nuptials."
Lauren's relationship with her cousin Joey is also due to become public, and the mystery of Max's secret payments will be revealed.
"Plus there's Max and Tanya's wedding," the source added. "Derek has spent months tormenting Tanya about what he and Max got up to in Manchester together and this will all come out over Christmas."
EastEnders writers have a history of killing off major characters over Christmas. Last year, viewers saw doctor Yusef Khan perish in a fire and watched soap favourite Pat Evans die from cancer.
2009 saw the dramatic murder of Archie Mitchell, Pauline Fowler suddenly collapsed in 2006 and in 2002, Jamie Mitchell - played by Jack Ryder - died after being run over by Martin Fowler.
A spokesman for the soap refused to acknowledge the pattern and simply said: "We don't want to comment and spoil it for the viewers."