Last night saw the start of a moving four part drama about the real life murder of 11-year old Rhys Jones.
Back in 2007, the country was horrified when Rhys was shot by a member of a local teen gang called the Croxteth Crew while heading home from football practise.
Although paramedics desperately tried to save the lad, he was, sadly, pronounced dead at Alder Hay Children’s Hospital an hour and a half later.
After lengthy investigations and a number of arrests, 18-year-old Sean Mercer was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, serving a minimum of 22 years.
The new drama, written by celebrated writer Jeff Pope, tells the story of how the Jones family dealt with the devastation of losing their beloved son.
And within minutes of the show starting, emotional viewers were fast to express their heartache at the harrowing events taking place on screen.
One wrote: “This is absolutely heartbreaking #littleboyblue”
While another posted: “How absolutely horrible that must be for a mother to hear, her son’s been shot #littleboyblue”
A fourth shared: “Omg!! Worst nightmare #littleboyblue”
Other avid viewers said they felt “sick” watching he drama unfold and said they were “sobbing”as the family in the drama were told of Rhys’s death.
“Hard to believe how much ur life can be destroyed in so little time 😢 💙💙#littleboyblue” posted another.
Celebrity viewers were also gripped by the hard-to-watch real life drama and took to Twitter to share their thoughts.
Paddy McGuinness said: “My heart goes out to the Jones family. Even though I knew about this tragedy, my stomach was in knots from start to finish.”
Ex EastEnders stars Brooke Kinsella, whose own brother was killed in a fatal street stabbing, also praised the drama; “Incredible performances in #LittleBoyBlue. I’d give anything for it not to be a true story. Cuddle you loved ones that bit closer tonight.”
Viewers were particularly taken by the performance of Sinead Keenan, who plays the mother of Rhys, who says she spent some time with his real mum Melanie Jones to help her nail her performance.
“I was a little bit nervous, I’d never played a real life person before, and one we know about because of the worst possible situation you could find yourself in,” Sinead told the Huffington Post.
“With that comes a lot of responsibility. No doubt it was odd for her as well.
“She was very warm and generous with her time, and we had a good couple of hours.
“Knowing that she and Steve were so involved [in making the drama] from the get-go, that was a huge help.
Sinead that she was amazed by the touching script but said that when she first read through she thought a courtroom scene and been exaggerated because of the way the behaviour of the accused had been written.
But to her horror, Melanie confirmed to her that that was the way it had happened.
“During the court case, [the boys] behaved so badly, utterly dismissive and disrespectful, in the faces of Rhys’s parents. I read that and thought, no human being is going to behave like that, but it was what happened.”
Sinead was also horrified to find out that during the trial, the judge presiding over the case sent an obviously distraughtMelanie a message telling her, “If you’re going to continue to be upset, we’d prefer it if you didn’t come into the courtroom.”
“Perhaps the judge was allowing them (the boys) to hang themselves,” Sinead reasons. “but you do ask, how is that possible?”
Sinead also spoke about another scene depicted in the first episode that she found almost unbelievable to comprehend.
“A porter in the hospital knew that Rhys was a big Everton fan, and he got an Everton pillow and quilt so it was like he was asleep in bed.
“Mel went to touch him, as you would, and it was like he was in his bed at home, and she touched his hair.
“And the police officer said, ‘If you touch him again, I’ll arrest you,’ because the body was evidence. It’s understandable, but it’s such a cruel process.”
Little Boy Blue continues next week on ITV.