EastEnders has been praised after parents of young knife crime victims told their stories on a special episode of the BBC One soap.
They addressed the camera during Friday night’s episode, which centred on the funeral of fictional character Shakil Kazemi.
Shakil was stabbed to death by a gang in an episode shown in May.
Viewers said they were in tears watching the episode, which has also been praised by critics.
It concluded with the families of the real-life victims standing outside the church, holding up pictures of their loved ones, as the coffin was carried past to the sound of Abide With Me.
The victims’ names were shown as part of the episode’s credits.
‘Relevant and powerful’
The relatives taking part in the episode included George Kinsella, father of stabbing victim Ben Kinsella, whose sister Brooke is a former EastEnders actress.
Ben, 16, was stabbed 11 times after a night out with friends in 2008.
Brooke, who played Kelly Taylor in the soap, has become an anti-knife crime campaigner and has advised on the long-running storyline.
It saw Shakil, played by Shaheen Jafargholi, stabbed in a knife attack after his friend Keegan Baker stole a bike.
Following the episode, Brooke thanked people for their support and “for the love of our lost loved ones”.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Michael Hogan said it was “popular television at its most relevant and powerful”.
“The drama was stripped back and restrained, rightfully allowing reality to take the focus,” he said.
He praised both Strictly’s Davood Ghadami, who played Shakil’s brother Kush, and Bonnie Langford, who played his mother Carmel – saying the former was “unshowily excellent” and the latter “downright devastating”.
It was, he wrote, “a triumphant tribute to lives lost senselessly and a plea for sanity to be restored”.
In Digital Spy, Sophie Dainty said the scenes may have been an EastEnders first – but that they were also “some of the most emotional in the soap’s history”.
She wrote that it was “an undeniably difficult watch”, especially where the actors and victims’ families shared the screen.
“This was a tear-jerking, traumatic reminder that knife crime is happening everywhere, in different ways, to different people – and that this is far, far more than a soap story,” she said.
Davood said on Twitter that he was “so grateful” for the “bravery and strength” of the contributors.
Hollyoaks actor Gregory Finnegan was among those praising EastEnders for “tackling an extremely difficult and emotive issue” in such an innovative way.
People who had lost loved ones to knife crime also commented, with one saying it had been handled “absolutely perfectly”.
Viewer Brian Welsh said it was “truly one of the most moving, poignant episodes of a drama ever on British TV”.
Many others said it had left them in tears, applauding EastEnders for highlighting the issue.
The special episode came at a time of growing concern over knife crime.
There were 70 murders in the capital between January and June, according to Metropolitan Police data.