One of the most powerful storylines in British soap history is set to air in full for the first time in nearly four decades.

Streaming service, STV Player, has announced that the episodes of Brookside which feature the harrowing rape of much-loved character, Sheila Grant, will land on the platform on Wednesday 3 July.

As one of the first depictions of a brutal sexual assault in a British soap, the storyline rocked the nation when it first aired in 1986 and brought conversations around the devastating impact of rape and sexual assault to the mainstream.

The episodes see Sheila Grant, played by acting doyenne Sue Johnston in one of her early roles, fall victim to a traumatic sex attack after getting out of a taxi.

Three suspects are quickly put in the frame: former friend Matty Nolan, who’s furious with Sheila for telling his wife about his affair; neighbour Pat Hancock, who was drunk on the night in question and can’t remember his whereabouts; and lecturer Alun Jones, who recently failed in his attempts to start an affair with Sheila. But could any of these men really commit such a heinous act?

Blockquote open Brookside was, and remains, renowned for its gritty realism and for not being afraid to shine a light on issues that were so often ignored on television when it was first shown forty years ago. The rape of Sheila Grant was a landmark moment – not just in Brookside, but in British TV itself. The wider conversations the storyline provoked at the time were testament to Sue Johnston’s powerful performance, as well as the sensitive scripting of the Brookside writers. Four decades on, we’re pleased to be giving a platform to this significant storyline and the important issues it highlights. Blockquote close

Richard Williams Managing Director of Digital, STV

The storyline is the first landmark Brookside plot to air on STV Player since the platform became the first streamer to show the iconic Merseyside soap from the very start in February 2023.

Since then, five new episodes have been released on STV Player each Wednesday and viewers have now reached episodes from July 1986 – meaning they’ve watched the equivalent of three and a half years of the show’s original timeline.

The relaunch of Brookside has been a surprise hit for STV Player, becoming the fastest show to ever reach one million streams on the platform – in just one week – and receiving more than 14 million streams in its first year.

STV Player is available for free across the UK on all major platforms, including Sky Q, NOW, Virgin Media, Amazon Fire TV and Freeview Play.

New episodes of Brookside drop every Wednesday on STV Player.