EastEnders viewers were left in tears after the parents of young victims of knife crime delivered powerful accounts about losing their loved ones in a special episode of the soap.
The testimonies were shown in between scenes from the funeral of fictional character Shakil Kazemi, who was stabbed to death by a gang in an episode in May.
The episode concluded with the real life families of victims standing round Shakil’s coffin holding photographs of their lost ones.
One viewer wrote: “I don’t even watch #Eastenders. Just happened to turn the tv over to catch it. Now I’m sat here in tears. I have a 16yr old son and this is my biggest fear. Such a powerful episode. Well done to all involved. RIP.”
Another wrote “Haven’t watched #EastEnders in about 8 years. Happened to switch on tonight’s episode and I’m in bits. So poignant and incredibly well done.”
Another fan said: “Every single child in every single school should be made to watch this episode..to see the end result and heartache of carrying a knife..heartbreaking.”
Yet another fan wrote: “That episode of #EastEnders was so powerful. Shakil’s funeral interspersed with interviews with real parents of young stabbing victims, and then those real people were in the church yard holding photos. Was crying loads. It’s lost its way a bit lately, but that episode was great.”
During the episode, George Kinsella, the father of 16-year-old Ben Kinsella, detailed how his son was stabbed 11 times in eight seconds after a night out with friends in 2008.
Ben’s half-sister Brooke, who played Kelly Taylor in the soap, has become an anti-knife crime campaigner and advised on the long-running storyline, which saw Keegan Baker (Zack Morris) and Shakil (Shaheen Jafargholi) became victims of a brutal knife attack after Keegan stole a bike.
After the episode aired, she wrote on Twitter: “Thank you so much for all your beautiful words of support after tonight’s episode. I have read every one. Thank you for the love for our lost loved ones. From the bottom of my heart thank you @bbceastenders and your entire cast for your bravery and dedication to this storyline.”
Also sharing her story in the episode was Pastor Lorraine Jones, whose son, Dwayne Simpson, 20, was stabbed to death in a Brixton park in 2014, and Yvonne Lawson, whose son, Godwin, was 17 when he was killed in 2010 as he tried to protect his friend from an attack.
Jessica Plummer, whose son Shaquan Sammy-Plummer, 17, was knifed in the chest after he was chased down the street in 2015, breaks down in tears in front of the camera as she speaks of how much she wants her son back.
The episode comes as concerns are raised about rising levels of violence both in the capital and nationally.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who has dealt with violent crime for around the past decade, has said weapons such as zombie knives, hunting knives and machetes are being used more often and gangs of attackers are inflicting worse injuries on victims than five years ago.
Also featured in the episode was Angela Spencer, the mother of 17-year old Jason Spencer, and his stepfather, John Greensmith; as well as Paul Dove and Tanya Whitney, the parents of Billy Dove, 21; Caroline Shearer, the mother of 17-year-old Jay Whiston; and Trish Bergan, the mother of 21-year-old Jerome Eugene Bergan.