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'Hollyoaks' axes child killer plot

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'Hollyoaks' axes child killer plot
Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks has agreed to axe its upcoming child killer plot just days before transmission. 

Last month, 42-year-old Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered child James Bulger, expressed her outrage at the Liverpool-based serial embarking on a storyline that she believed to be based on her son's death.

In scenes that were scheduled to air this week, Loretta Jones's (Melissa Walton) past was to return to haunt her in the form of her old friend Chrissy (Amber Hodgkiss). It would soon be revealed that the pair had been living under false names since they bullied a 12-year-old to death when they were the same age.

Despite the subtle differences between the storyline and the 1993 Bulger case, Fergus demanded a meeting with the show's bosses at its production house Lime Pictures in Liverpool.

She subsequently attended a private screening of four episodes, before meeting with Hollyoaks' executive producer Tony Wood and Lime Pictures' Managing Director Sean Marley to express her upset over the story as it "carried distinctive similarities to events following the murder of her son".

Due to the nature of the complaint, Lime Pictures agreed to drop and re-mould the storyline and invited Fergus to work with the show to shape future plots affecting young people.

Speaking to Click Liverpool, Fergus said: "It was constructive meeting and I accept what they told me - that there was never any intention on the part of Hollyoaks to copy or mirror events surrounding James's death.

"Having said that, there was no doubt in my mind that the plot carried some of the hallmarks of what happened to that evil pair after they were convicted of murdering James."

She continued: "The part that I found most disturbing was that there were scenes in which two child killers were seen to be giving each other sympathy.

"The producers said that in the long run, the story would not have been favourable to the killers and in the future they would be shown to suffer the consequences from their crime.

"But I was shocked to see two people on screen, who were immediately identified as 'Thompson and Venables' in my mind, talking about how they had murdered another child. Played by glamorous young actresses, they were the centre of attention and looking to each other for support.

"It was turning the killers into celebrities and to me that was completely unacceptable," she went on. "I made it clear that I did not want those scenes broadcast and I'm pleased to say they clearly understood my feelings and agreed to scrap them.

"I'm very relieved and grateful that they are respecting my wishes. I also appreciate it will involve an amount of work to re-edit these future episodes and would like to thank them publicly for doing this."

She added: "It is clear that they never intended to cause upset to me and decided to act immediately when I told them how strongly I felt."

A Lime Pictures spokesman this morning said: "Hollyoaks has a very good track record of tackling difficult subject matter for a younger audience and the producers take seriously their duty to deal with sensitive issues in an appropriate way.

"This particular storyline was not based on any real-life case and was not intended to recreate actual events. However, after conversations with Denise Fergus we have agreed to amend certain aspects of the storyline."

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