EastEnders’ powerful and heartbreaking episode featuring the families of knife crime victims left viewers crying as they praised the soap for tackling such a difficult subject.
On Friday, the BBC soap aired accounts from real people interspersed with the fictional drama during Shakil Kazemi’s funeral.
The teen was stabbed to death in harrowing scenes last month. For actress Bonnie Langford, who plays his grief-stricken mum, said that the storyline had been the toughest she had ever tackled.
Viewers watched as each parent spoke about the pain they suffered at losing their child and their struggle ever since.
"The moment you decide to carry a knife you are taking a whole family into that grave with you," Yvonne Lawson said. "Godwin was just one person but my whole family’s life died with Godwin on that night.”
Meanwhile Caroline Shearer said: "I don’t actually remember me before Jay. I don’t remember that life. I struggle to remember memories and I try so hard but then I can’t. But that night stays with me, even now. This stays with you, this is something you take with you to the grave.
"What happened is what takes over your life. We can spot each other miles off, our special group, because it’s so expensive to join. Nobody wants to join our group."
Trish Bergan said: “The doctor came and held my hands and I said ‘don’t say anything, I know. Eugene is no more. He’s gone isn’t he?’ She said ‘yes, I’m sorry’. I knew that when she held my hands. I knew what she was going to say to me.
“He was stabbed in his neck. He had no chance of survival.”
George Kinsella, father of former EastEnders actress Brooke, said he will never comprehend why his son Ben was murdered a decade ago. “He was stabbed 11 times in about eight seconds. I’ll never understand why.
“They’ve wasted my son’s life, they’ve wasted their lives, they’ve wasted their families lives. We’ve all go to live with this now.”
Lorraine Jones said: “The whole thing was just like a dream, I still feel I’m dreaming. I saw Dwayne on the life support machine and he was so swollen and full of blood. I remember the only places I could kiss him were on his forehead and on his feet.”
Many of the parents’ stories, interspersed with scenes of mourners gathering for Shakil’s funeral, ended with them recalling the last words they heard their sons say before they were killed, such as "I love you mum" and "see you later".
EastEnders boss John Yorke said: “From the very beginning we were determined to treat the difficult subject of knife crime in a responsible, non-sensationalist way.
“It’s a tricky subject to do and easy to get wrong. We talked to all the people recommended by Brooke Kinsella and her dad and their stories were so powerful by themselves, we thought everyone just needed to hear them. The families have been so brave and we thank them for sharing their time with us.”
Viewers flocked to Twitter during and after the episode to praise the heart-rending scenes.
One tweeted: "Blimey. Brilliantly done. Desperately sad. Beautifully acted. #Eastenders."
While another commented: "F*** me #EastEnders I’m in tears, bringing in real stories of people loosing loved ones to stabbings and including them in the funeral holding photographs that storyline was."
A third wrote: "The way Eastenders portrayed that episode, with it being such a sensitive topic was just amazing, truly am proud of everyone who’s part of the crew & cast, the BEST soap#EastEnders."
*EastEnders airs at 9.15pm on BBC One
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