Emmerdale viewers will know that the show has tackled head-on the controversial and often taboo issue of elder abuse…
That storyline – which of course features Vicar Ashley Thomas’s cruelty to his father Sandy, who’s played by the wonderful Freddie Jones – is set to come to a shocking climax next week when Ashley is arrested on suspicion of assault.
But surprisingly, it’s not Sandy or Ashley’s wife Laurel (Charlotte Bellamy) who involve the police, nor is it Rachel Breckle (Gemma Oaten) who’s suspected Ashley of abuse for weeks…
It’s actually Ashley’s biggest fan, pew groupie Edna Birch (Shirley Stelfox) who makes the call to the police, so I guess that means she no longer a fan at all!
Speaking to Soaplife, John Middleton, who of course plays the vicious cleric, began by saying that Ashley has shocked himself with “what he’s capable of”.
He said, “Ashley’s shocked himself by what he’s been capable of. He’s frightened himself. It goes against every grain of his being.
“The thing I’ve said often when people have talked about Ashley’s job is that it’s not just a job, it’s a calling, a vocation, and influences every part of his life.
“That life has now changed for ever – it’s shattered.”
A twist in the tale comes when Ashley decides to walk into the Woolpack and announce to all the pub’s patrons just exactly what he’s done, which he hopes will be punishment enough, but Edna has other ideas.
Of that curve in the plotline, John said, “It will be difficult for him to cope with the reaction of anyone who knows what’s been going on.
“But it’s especially hard with Edna. She’s always been like a barometer for him on how the parishioners see him.
“Edna tells him it’s wrong to get others to hide his shame and he takes her words to heart.
“In some ways it would have been easier to go to the police than stand up in front of the villagers. He feels this very public confession is the only way to move forward.”
However, Ashley’s left reeling when Laurel tells him their marriage is over.
John went on, “He’s destroyed. This is the worst time of his life and he knows he’s brought it on himself.”
And finally, of how Ashley comes to get arrested, John said, “Edna calls the police and Sandy is actually angry with her.
“He feels it should all have been left in the family. Ashley tells the police he’s ready to co-operate fully.”
So will this be the end of Ashley’s work as a Vicar? Will he go to prison? Will Laurel, Sandy or Edna ever be able to forgive him? Does my bum look big in this?
Stay tuned for – nearly – all those answers in upcoming episodes of Emmerdale.