After more than 33 years in Weatherfield, Coronation Street legend Vera Duckworth is to be killed off in an emotional storyine to be screened early next year, ITV has confirmed.

The decision to kill off the character was taken after consultation between producer Steve Frost, executive producer Kieran Roberts and actress Liz Dawn, who is leaving the show due to ill health.

All parties felt that it would be better to have a dramatic finale rather than compromise the characters of Vera and husband Jack, played by Bill Tarmey, by having the actress return for future guest appearances.

Liz’s departure will be filmed in top secret and viewers won’t know how Vera dies until they watch her final episode.

And the soap’s producers are so keen to keep the cause of death under wraps that three alternative endings have been written.

Letters have also been sent to newspapers and magazines asking them not to leak details.

Liz first set foot on the Corrie cobbles in 1974, becoming a regular character in 1983.

A lifelong smoker, Liz was diagnosed with lung disease emphysema five years ago.

She was written out of the show earlier this year after suffering complications.

She said: “It’s going to be very emotional filming Vera’s death scenes but I do think it is the right decision for the character.”

Steve Frost added: “After discussions with Liz Dawn we have settled on a heart-breaking exit story which will see Vera leave Coronation Street in 2008.”

Steve also said that Liz’s contribution to Coronation Street has been ‘remarkable’, and went on to add: “It has been a great privilege to work with Liz and I wish her a very happy and very well-deserved retirement.”