Emmerdale star John Middleton has revealed people are avoiding him in public because of his character Ashley Thomas’s violent storyline.

The 58-year-old actor, who plays the village vicar, is currently at the centre of the controversial Emmerdale storyline in which he has been physically attacking his elderly dad Sandy (Freddie Jones).

John revealed to the Daily Record: “People are avoiding me. My own mother doesn’t like what’s happening.

He added: “I’m a season ticket holder at Newcastle and people have stopped coming up to speak to me.

“I’ve been going to the same coffee rooms for years and there was a party of women who would normally have come across and spoken, but they didn’t say a thing.

“John, who owns the place, said: ‘People take it so seriously. They told me that they didn’t know what to say and that I should go across and tell you to stop being so horrible to everyone.'”

“My mum doesn’t like it and a lot of her friends have stopped watching it. They’ve been asking, ‘What’s happening to Ashley?'”

John has been playing the loveable vicar for almost 16 years, but feels Ashley has changed and may never return to his old self.

He said: “It’s very unsettling and I’m approaching it with a lot of trepidation. It’s almost like a new start – I’ve been given a new character. It’s a complete change of a character that I’ve built up over 15 years. In the past he was written for with great tenderness and fondness.

“That’s gone and the public perception of him as a gentle and liberal character has gone too. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get him back.”