'Coronation Street' actress annoyed by criticism of storyline

Julie Hesmondhalgh is "p***ed off" by critics who claim her character's suicide on 'Coronation Street' may lead to copycat deaths.

The actress' character Hayley Cropper is set to take her own life on tonight's episode after suffering from inoperable pancreatic cancer, but the controversial storyline has led to rights groups criticising the ITV soap as they feel viewers may be inspired to follow in her footsteps.

Hesmondhalgh has now fired back, telling The Guardian newspaper: "The idea it will promote copycat suicides pisses me off more than anything.

"Hundreds of murders are shown on TV and nobody's saying that normalises murder.

"But this story - that has been seeded for months and everybody knows is going to happen - is supposed to make people in Hayley's condition commit suicide? Rubbish! Nobody's going to be tuning in on Monday to copy her.

"It's insulting to those who are in Hayley's predicament to say otherwise."

Hesmondhalgh also insisted Hayley's final scenes in 'Coronation Street' aren't intended to glamourise suicide and will be difficult to watch.

She added: "It's not a beautiful death. When she takes the poison, she chokes. It's not nice. It was important we didn't sentimentalise suicide."

Former Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson has joined the debate claiming that the plot gives the impression that the ill and disabled would "be better of dead".

Grey-Thompson - who was born with spina bifida - told the Daily Mirror newspaper: "The campaign for 'assisted dying' is packaged in the language of compassion, and the 'Coronation Street' storyline is being presented in the same way."

'Coronation Street' producer Stuart Blackburn also insisted the storyline has shown both sides of the ongoing right-to-die debate in Britain, with Hayley's husband Roy - played by David Neilson - and her friend Fiz Stape, played by Jennie McAlpine, objecting to her decision.

He explained: "Not everyone will feel Hayley's decision is the right one and we fully respect this. For that reason we will be exploring both sides of the debate on screen."

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