Sheridan Smith’s portrayal of a woman caught up in one of Britain’s most shocking missing child investigations wowed 7.2 million viewers.

The two-part series Moorside, named after the location of nine-year-old Shannon Matthew’s disappearance, aired last night on BBC One.

Over the years Sheridan Smith has gone from being an actress more likely to be seen in comedies such as Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps to now featuring in hard-hitting dramas such as Cilla and The C Word.

In Tuesday night’s episode she showed why she is one of the UK’s best TV actresses with her representation of Julie Bushby, the friend of Shannon’s mum Karen Matthews.

The drama focused on the kidnapping of Shannon in Dewsbury and how the Moorside estate community got behind the Matthews family in their crusade to find the youngster.

As the story progressed it was clear to see that something was amiss with mother Karen’s attempts.

She was adamant that local and national press needed to be informed, rather than letting the police do their job.

The role of Karen Matthews was executed perfectly by actress Gemma Whelan, the subtle underlying fake emotion came across sublimely in such a discreet way.

For anyone that does not know the deceit involved in the disappearance of Shannon, the ending would have left you in a scramble to find more information as it was left just when she was found safe.

A moment of sheer joy would quickly turn to despair.

Last nights action came to a dramatic halt as Matthews’ next door neighbour Natalie Brown, portrayed by Sian Brooke, tells Julie Bushby that Shannon has been found at the house of Matthews’ boyfriend’s uncle.

The viewers were left wanting more and it would be no surprise to see the BBC viewing figure of 7.2 million topped for the next episode.