Benedict Cumberbatch is set to return to TV screens as Sherlock on New Year’s Day, the BBC has announced.

The long-awaited third series of the mystery drama will lead the broadcaster’s schedule for January 1.

As part of a publicity stunt to reveal the air date for the first episode of the new series, a hearse containing a floral tribute spelling out ‘Sherlock 01 01 14’ and a sticker reading “#sherlocklives” drove around a number of the programme’s filming locations, including Baker Street, North Gower Street and St Bart’s Hospital.

In the finale of series two, Sherlock was seen plummeting to his death from St Bart’s Hospital and fans are eager to see how he managed to fake it in the series three opener, The Empty Hearse.

The first episode of the series of three has been written by Mark Gatiss, Stephen Thompson’s The Sign Of Three is the second one and Steven Moffat has written the finale His Last Vow.

Sherlock also stars Martin Freeman as John Watson, and The Killing star Lars Mikkelsen will debut in series three as Sherlock’s new nemesis, Charles Augustus Magnussen.