The Archers character Helen Titchener is a free woman after being found not guilty on all charges against her in a dramatic hour-long episode of the BBC Radio 4 show.
Helen, played by Louiza Patikas, was facing charges of the attempted murder of her husband Rob, and of wounding with intent.
The trial is the climax of a storyline that has gripped the nation as listeners saw the character suffer increasing domestic abuse at the hands of Rob, played by Timothy Watson.
Louiza said: “I feel relieved – the secret’s out. Finally I can talk to friends and family about it and I’m really intrigued to see what the public makes of the verdict.”
The actress, who has played the character for 16 years, said she was looking forward to “rebuilding Helen”, but added it would “take her (Helen) some time to process the verdict and its implications”.
In preparation for the storyline, Louiza met with survivors of domestic violence through charities such as Women’s Aid and Refuge.
She added: “I hope that she’ll soon get back behind the wheels of her car and start some therapeutic cheese-making when she feels up to it. In fact therapy all around is probably needed!”
The 60-minute special, the first of its kind in the show’s 65-year history also saw former Archers actor Graham Seed return five years after his character Nigel Pargetter was killed off, to take on a role as part of the jury deliberating in Helen’s trial.
Graham was joined by seven other famous faces on the jury including Dame Eileen Atkins, Nigel Havers, Catherine Tate, Skins star Aimee-Ffion Edwards, EastEnders actor Rakhee Thakrar, stage star Tam Williams and Wolfblood actor Cerith Flinn.
The tense hour saw various arguments among the jury, who were unable to reach a unanimous verdict and sought the advice of Judge Loomis, who advised he would accept a majority verdict of 10 to one.
One of the 12 jurors was dismissed for contempt of court earlier in the week, leaving only 11, of which only eight were heard during Sunday’s special episode.
The last indication listeners had in the episode before the verdict was delivered saw the jury split as follows: six guilty, three not guilty and two undecided. The final split for the majority vote was not revealed.
Nigel’s character, Carl, was named foreman of the jury, and could be heard making various contentious remarks during the episode.
Near the end of the deliberating period, Carl says: “These women are all the same. Look, OK, OK, even if you don’t think she meant to kill him she’s still guilty of wounding with intent. Come on they can’t have it both ways. They can’t demand to be treated equally and then still play the victim. Helen Titchener brought this on herself. She – well she needs to be punished.”
The gripping finale is the swansong of the show’s current editor, Sean O’Connor, who left earlier in the year to join EastEnders. He has continued to oversee the Helen and Rob storyline until the end of the trial.
He said: “It has been humbling and very moving to be able to shine a light onto an urgent social issue that affects millions of women and to see the audience embrace Helen’s story in such an extraordinary way.”
Explaining the verdict, he said: “I was very keen that having accompanied Helen on every step of her painful story, there would be hope for her and her future. We know that life isn’t always like that, but sometimes drama can and needs to offer us a sense of redemption. That’s why we decided to conclude the trial with the verdict that we did.”
A family court hearing has been set for September 14, where the custody of the couple’s children – Henry and Jack – will be decided.