Haydn Gwynne
Staying alive
Haydn Gwynne leaves Newton Park - in one piece. By Lorraine Thurlow 

When Haydn Gwynne decided to hang up her uniform, she had one request for the producers: 'Please don't let my character die.' 

"I was violently and abruptly killed off in ITV's Peak Practice two years ago and fans were really annoyed," explains Haydn, who plays Supt Susan Blake for the last time this week. 

"It wasn't a slow, lingering death they had time to get used to - my character got in the way of a bullet three minutes before the end of the episode. The Peak Practice website received about 15,000 hits from people saying, 'How could you?'

"Plus if I died in Merseybeat, too, the next programme I'm in, people might see me and go, 'Dead woman walking!'" 

In her last episode, the doubts Susan has about her ability to do her job come to a head when she identifies with Cathy, a suspect she and PC Larry Barton question about the attempted murder of a doctor. 

Cathy feels let down by the medical profession just as Susan feels let down by the police top brass, who have ordered her to run every major decision past Insp Jim Oulton since her officers shot and killed a young joyrider. 

The unlikely bond between the women leads to Susan making a decision which could spell the end of her career. 

Haydn, who lives in London with partner Jason, quit the show for the sake of their children, Orlando, five and Harry, two. "When they were pre-schoolers, it worked for us to live up in Liverpool, where Merseybeat is filmed," says the 42-year-old actress. "But Orlando has started school now and there is no way I would work in Liverpool and have my children in London." 

Haydn, a keen scuba diver, filmed her final scenes in August and had a big leaving party. 

"The cast gave me a full-length wetsuit, which I modelled for them with high-heeled boots, sunglasses and my son's water gun," she says. "Did I feel like I was in The Avengers? No, I felt extremely stupid!" 

Haydn also sails, cycles and plays tennis - and once beat Tim Henman in a charity tournament. 

"Peter Fleming, who was John McEnroe's main doubles partner, and I played Tim and, I think, a weather girl," she says. "The guys weren't playing properly, obviously. If Tim and I went on court for real, he'd have no trouble beating me quickly. "It's funny because Merseybeat has now gone to Australia and I've had Australian journalists asking me about my career as a tennis champion!"

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