EASTENDERS' Chantelle Atkins will be brutally murdered by her husband Gray tonight in harrowing scenes.
The BBC soap's hard-hitting domestic abuse storyline will come to a tragic end as the hairdresser loses her life at the abusive lawyer's hands.
Viewers watched last night as Chantelle was forced to leave her family and go home with Gray – knowing that she had missed her chance to escape.
And tonight the abuse will escalate and become worse than ever before, leading to Gray killing his wife.
Actress Jessica Plummer said: "It's been such a privilege to play Chantelle and to be able to tell her story.
"Sadly what she goes through is all too common and her death is a reminder of the devastating effect of domestic abuse.
"I've known it wasn't going to end well for Chantelle for a while now and although it was a shock to find out her fate, far too many men and women suffer in silence so I hope that by raising awareness we can ultimately save lives.
"I am so grateful to all the team and my lovely cast members for being so supportive, I'll miss Albert Square!"
EastEnders has worked closely with Women's Aid and Refuge on the storyline, and the soap said the prevalence of domestic abuse in society meant it was important to represent the issue as accurately as possible.
Refuge, which runs the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, has seen calls and contact soar during the pandemic, while Women's Aid said more than two thirds of survivors reported their domestic abuse escalating in lockdown. Other research showed more than three quarters of women living with an abuser said they felt they could not leave or get away because of the pandemic.
In the first week of July, as lockdown lifted, Refuge saw a 54% rise in women contacting its helpline needing emergency accommodation, compared with the last week in June.
Lisa King of Refuge said: "The Covid-19 crisis has magnified the reality that many survivors like Chantelle face every day.
"Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting our society and millions of women and girls remain trapped with an abusive partner.
"Sadly, Chantelle's murder is not an isolated incident – on average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales.
"We urge anyone who has been affected by Chantelle's story to contact Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247, http://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk). No one should live in fear – you are not alone."
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