EastEnders has defended its decision to kill off Danielle Jones as more than 41,000 fans voice their anger over her exit.

Viewers are outraged that troubled teen Danielle, played by Lauren Crace, was killed just as she was reunited with her birth mother, Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Janus).

A Facebook group – Bring Back Danielle from EastEnders – launched after Thursday night’s hour-long special of the BBC1 soap has attracted 36,000 fans.

And an online petition, set up by EastEnders fan Vicky Cole, now has 7,000 signatures.

EastEnders’ executive producer Diederick Santer has answered questions on the official EastEnders website to try and calm irate viewers – but said he thought it was ‘fantastic’ that the storyline had stoked up so much anger.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “It’s fantastic to have made such an impact.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect this level of reaction. The story seems to have really touched people, got under their skin, and – in some cases – utterly enraged them.”

“All you ever hope for as a programme-maker is to connect with your audience and get them to care.”

Defending the soap’s decision to end the storyline in such a dramatic way, Diederick said: “We thought of many alternative outcomes. But this is the one we always came back to.

“In the short term, it was the most interesting for our characters – especially Ronnie. It’s the fact that it’s so shocking and seems so wrong which made this such a strong story and episode.”

According to The Mirror, Diederick has ruled out Danielle coming back from the dead, similar to the return of Dirty Den.

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