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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK


Brookside racist torched

Racist Josh (left) - Mick, Leo, Nicky and Jerome look on

A long-running racist storyline on Channel 4 soap Brookside reaches its shocking climax later this month - with a dramatic plot twist.

A thug who has terrorised the close for months is turned into a human torch as his plans to petrol bomb a black family's home backfire.

[ image: Josh's plan backfires]
Josh's plan backfires
The horrific scenes conclude the racist saga which has seen Mick Johnson and his best mate Sinbad, played by actors Louis Emerick and Michael Starke, beaten up by the gang.

The vicious attack left the lovable Sinbad deaf in one ear while Mick quit his chip shop after it was daubed with racist slogans.

The episode, expected to be screened on 29 October, shows Mick's troubled son Leo (Steven Cole) leaving home with his cousin Jerome (Leon Lopez) as a car screeches in to the close.

A hooded Josh, played by actor Paul Barnhill, jumps out and prepares to throw a petrol bomb at the Johnsons' house.

However, just as he starts to hurl it, petrol gushes down his back and he is engulfed in flames.

[ image: Menacing: Paul Barnhill plays racist Josh in the soap]
Menacing: Paul Barnhill plays racist Josh in the soap
Actor Paul Barnhill, aged 28, from Knutsford, Cheshire, said he thought long and hard before agreeing to play the part of a racist.

"I decided it was a really good part for 10 episodes but I didn't want to do it stereotypically.

"The whole point is these are the guys who work in your office and drink in your pub."

Mersey TV boss Phil Redmond says racism is an issue that should be re-examined.

"It is one of those things - issues, problems that pervades society, like drugs and unemployment, that doesn't go away.

"I think also there is a feeling at the moment flowing through society that it is being swept under the carpet. It is one of those things we should keep going back and looking at.

"The message we are trying to get across, and Mick is trying to tell Leo, is that there has got to be a better way for people to work out their differences than through this sort of confrontation."

Challenging storylines

Thrice-weekly Brookside. which is currently undergoing a long-term review, is Channel 4's highest-rated programme, pulling in up to six million viewers per episode.

Only last month two Brookside regulars, builder Greg Shadwick and his son Jason, were killed in an explosion.

Since it was created in 1982, issues it has dealt with include domestic violence, murder, rape, incest, surrogacy and euthansia.

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