Archers fans spellbound by deadly end to domestic violence storyline
Fans of The Archers have been left in shock after a hard-hitting storyline about domestic violence and coercive control ended in the first murder in the show's 65 year history.
The BBC Radio 4 soap began trending on Twitter after the shocking episode, which saw Helen Titchener stab her abusive husband Rob in front of her young son Henry.
In a dramatic climax to the powerful storyline, she had told Rob she was planning to leave him because of his controlling behaviour, which included dictating what she could wear, keeping tabs on where she was at all times, and marital rape.
But erupting into a fury, Rob handed Helen a kitchen knife, saying it was her "only way out" and she stabbed him in the tussle that ensued.
Fans of the show told of their shock and sympathy for Helen on Twitter, with one eminent QC saying he would be "more than prepared" to represent her at court.
Timothy Kirkhope, the Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber wrote: "At last, Helen has cracked and turned on Rob in the Archers. Massive sympathy all round."
Nigel Pascoe QC wrote: "I know we are not allowed to tout, but I am more than prepared to represent Helen, along with most of the criminal bar."
Another listener, Rob Shepherd, wrote: "I must say also that the #archers Helen & Rob plot line is undoubtedly the best written longform drama for many, many years."
Fans have been listening with growing horror as Helen has been psychologically bullied, raped and slapped by her controlling husband.
The daily soap, set in the genteel village of Ambridge, usually focuses on the comings and goings of the farms and village shops.
The hard-hitting storyline has won widespread praise from charities who have credited the "Archers Effect" with helping to raise awareness that domestic abuse affects all sorts of people, including middle-class independent women in sleepy villages.
It coincides with the introduction of the new coercive controlling behaviour offence, which criminalises extreme psychological and emotional abuse which falls short of physical violence.
Last month the Press Association revealed that calls to the national domestic abuse helpline have soared by nearly a fifth in a year, fuelled in part by the soap's storyline.
Following Sunday night's episode, a flood of listeners donated to The Helen Titchener Fund - a JustGiving page set up to raise money for the domestic violence charity Refuge.
More than £87,000 has been raised so far, just short of the £100,000 target.
Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley said: "Refuge is as shocked as everyone else by the dramatic turn of events in The Archers on Sunday evening.
"Listeners do not know how this story will unfold. What they do know is that Helen obviously felt under threat from an aggressive man. Rob was behaving in a menacing way towards Helen's son Henry, and in the melee that ensued, Rob suffered apparently fatal wounds.
"This episode tells us that a victim of prolonged abuse may one day fight back when she is in great danger.
"Helen's situation mirrors what so many abused women feel and experience every day. It is important to remember that research shows an abused woman is at most risk at the point of separation.
"This storyline simply reflects the reality for many women today and I congratulate the script writers for highlighting a much ignored issue."