Nigel Pargetter, one of The Archers' best-known characters, has died after accidentally falling from the roof of his stately home, shocked listeners of the long-running radio soap has been told.
Millions of fans were broken the tragic news after hearing Nigel, played by actor Graham Seed for nearly 30 years, lose his footing at his Lower Loxley home while trying to take down a New Year's Eve banner in a special 60th anniversary episode.
Earlier on in the episode, which had been billed as having a storyline which would "shake Ambridge to the core", Helen Archer gave birth to a baby by emergency caesarean after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.
Listeners were supposed to be kept in suspense as to whether Nigel had survived in one of the show's biggest cliffhangers but the outcome was accidentally revealed by editor Vanessa Whitburn prior to the show.
Ms Whitburn said fans would have to wait to learn Nigel's fate, saying only that it would have repercussions that would affect the fictional village of Ambridge for a decade.
But asked about the broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, she said: "Obviously, there's a birth and a death and that's quite iconic, I think."
Told by presenter Evan Davis that she had given the plot away, Ms Whitburn backtracked, saying: "There is a birth and a potential death - that's what I said."
Ms Whitburn said that it had been a "tough decision" to kill off one of the show's leading characters.
"We thought long and hard about a storyline that would befit a landmark anniversary like the 60th and one that would reverberate through Ambridge well into the year," she said.
"For that sort of impact we knew it had to be a major event involving a significant character."