Finally, it has happened. Helen Archer is rid of her tormenter after hearing from Miles Titchener that his brother Rob died at 9.09pm on Saturday night.


There have been a fair number of villains and rogues in Ambridge over the years — Matt Crawford, Cameron Fraser, Simon Pemberton – but none have caught the imagination in the way that the manipulative, abusive Rob Titchener did.

He arrived in Ambridge in 2013 and began an affair with Helen not long after. That love story soon turned into a long-running tale of coercive control and domestic abuse, as Rob alienated Helen from her friends and family.

The troubling storyline culminated in 2016 with Helen being arrested for stabbing Rob with a kitchen knife, following an explosive confrontation when she tried to leave him. Villagers were shocked to learn the full extent of the abuse during Helen’s trial, while Rob continued to manipulate people with his version of events.

Timothy Watson, who plays Rob Titchener in The Archers, poses in a church with his hands in his pockets.
Timothy Watson by Emily Lavarello

Helen was eventually cleared of attempted murder and, now a pariah in Ambridge, Rob fled to the States.

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The storyline had been developed with domestic abuse charities and was widely praised for raising awareness of the issue of coercive control — MPs referenced the story during the creation of new legislation to criminalise this form of abuse, and the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw an increase in the number of calls it received.

Fans took the story to heart, with Timothy Watson, the actor who played Rob, finding himself on the receiving end of nasty vitriol. He was booed on stage at the Radio Times Festival in 2015 and had to quit social media to avoid abuse.

When Rob reappeared in The Archers earlier this year, in an attempt to gain access to his biological son, Jack, it seemed as if the nightmare was beginning all over for Helen.

Instead, we soon discovered that Rob had an inoperable brain tumour and seeing his son was his dying wish. The storyline has been neatly balanced between eliciting sympathy for an unsympathetic character and raising suspicions that everything this sick man is doing is manipulative.

He’s managed to divide the village with his request to be baptised, with the Archer family withdrawing donations to the church in response to the vicar helping him, and I wonder whether his malign influence will linger after his death.

During his final two episodes, which were superbly played two-handers with Helen visiting Rob on his deathbed, he pleaded with Helen to smother him with his pillow, to end his suffering. Will this come back to haunt Helen in some way?

On hearing of Rob’s death, Helen said she didn’t know whether to cry, laugh or throw up. Archers fans may be feeling the same way – a nasty villain is dead, but it’s the end of one of the most gripping stories there has been in the programme’s long history.

And what of the man who was Rob? You can read Libby Purves’s interview with Timothy Watson in this week’s issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale Tuesday 21st November.

The Archers is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 7pm Sundays to Fridays, with an Omnibus edition on Sundays at 10am, and is available to listen on BBC Sounds.


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