The end for Melissa Rafter

Zoe Ventoura quits Packed to the Rafters in shock exit.

Viewers were shocked last night as a major character met her demise in Seven's hit drama Packed to the Rafters.

Melissa Rafter (Zoe Ventoura) met her death in a tragic car accident while distracted by a mobile phone call from husband Ben (Hugh Sheridan).

The plot turn imploded the near-perfect world of the Rafters family, as a favourite daughter was suddenly cut from the show.

The death followed network promos for the show that promised "the death of a young Rafter". While fans debated whether it could be Rachel (Jessica Marais), Ben (Hugh Sheridan), Nathan (Angus McLaren), Melissa (Zoe Ventoura) or even baby Ruby (Hannah and Sebella Storie), there was also some cynicism that it might just be a dream sequence or a promo stunt.

But the car accident involving Melissa was followed by her husband identifying her body in a hospital. Ben was surrounded by his tearful family as he gazed down upon her body, in a slow-motion scene, devoid of any dialogue.

Ventoura is the second major cast member to leave the show, following Jessica McNamee who played Sammy Rafter. She has quit the drama to pursue acting opportunities in the US, but keeping her departure under wraps for so long was a major exercise for everyone from cast and crew to network publicists.

No preview DVDs were issued to media for fear of the news leaking. The synopsis for the show failed to indicate any tell-tale signs. Even synopses for next week don't spoil anything, with no hint of tragedy and all cast members still listed for the episode.

The episode was also carefully timed to air on Melbourne Cup day, traditionally one of Seven's biggest audiences of the year.

Over 2.3 millions viewers tuned in for the episode, which will be repeated at 9:30pm Monday, November 8 on Seven, due to popular demand.

The death of a soapie character is always a major drawcard for TV audiences. The more memorable ones in Aussie TV have been Molly (Anne Tenney) in A Country Practice, Lou (Alex Cook) in Love My Way, the unseen death of Grace Sullivan (Lorraine Bayly) in The Sullivans and Madge Ramsay (Anne Charleston) in Neighbours.

There are just two more Rafters episodes left to air this year. Better get out the tissues.

Packed to the Rafters airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on Seven.

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Nov 04, 2010
With this character's demise and Jessica Marais saying in varying interviews that she is staying and then she is going, one wonders what will happen to the show now. Two of the three Rafter children have now lost their partners and Rachel has had so many boyfriends that I have lost count. Magazine reports are saying that the series isn't rating as well as it was and I hope that this latest exit doesn't mean that they (the ratings) will plummet even further as the first series in particular was excellent Australian drama - a 'soap' with a 'non-soapy' feel about it. I wish Zoe Ventoura all the very best with her future endeavours.
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