ONE of Coronation Street’s best loved characters will make her final appearance next week.

East Lancashire actress Julie Hesmondhalgh said there was ‘an almost holy atmosphere’ during her last scene when her character Hayley Cropper committed suicide in the face of incurable cancer.

The star, originally from Church, joined the soap in 1998 to play the Street’s first transsexual, and won the hearts of the nation with her on-screen romance with cafe owner Roy.

Julie, together with David Neilson, who plays her on-screen husband, has been at the heart of major storylines including being caught in Tracy Barlow's web of deceit when she claimed Roy fathered her child in an attempt to steal their savings.

She said she had no problem being written out in such dramatic fashion. She said: “It would have been more convenient for me as an actor if I could have come back later on if work wasn’t working out for me but it would have been a complete betrayal of everything that we’ve done because they are the most steadfast and loyal and loving couple in continuing drama and they just would not have separated for any other reason apart from death.”

A story in some national newspapers yesterday raised fears that Hayley’s suicide could spark a wave of similar deaths.

But a spokesman for The Samaritans said the charity had been working with the producers of the show for several several weeks, and that Coronation Street had taken advice on board in order to ensure the storyline was portrayed sensitively and appropriately.

He said: “As part of drama, and not just drama, but news, these programmes are going to be made with these kind of storylines, whether we like it or not. What we hope is that programme makers will follow our media guidelines and advice, and do what they can to reduce copycat behaviour.” Julie’s final episodes will be shown on Monday.

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