Ex Corrie star Julie Hesmondhalgh will be the centre of the new series of Broadchurch when it returns in February

Former Corrie star Julie Hesmondhalgh will play a traumatised rape victim when hit ITV drama Broadchurch returns to TV in February.

Her attack will be the centre of the investigation as DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) has recovered from his heart attack sufficiently to lead it alongside DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman).

The action in the third series of the ITV show picks up three years on from the end of series two, which focused on the trial of the Danny Latimer’s killer, Joe Miller (Matthew Gravelle).

Julie, 46, will play rape victim Trish, while The Fast Show’s Charlie Higson is her husband and Sir Lenny Henry will be the boss of the farm shop where she works.

Merlin star Sarah Parish will star as Trish’s best friend Cath and Home Fires’ Mark Bazeley, 46, plays Cath’s husband.

Other Broadchurch characters expected to return include vicar Paul Coates, newspaper editor Maggie Radcliffe and Danny’s parents Beth and Mark Latimer.

Writer Chris Chibnall, who has announced that the third series will be the last, said: “I hope it’s a compelling and emotional farewell.”