'Real' reasons for departure of Shortland Street actress claimed

By Joanna Hunkin

EXCLUSIVE - Actress Lucy Wigmore made her on-screen debut as Dr Justine Jones on Shortland Street last night, but it is her predecessor Laurie Foell who is today the centre of attention.

A message posted on Shortland Street fan sites claims to reveal the real reasons Foell left the soap opera last year.

Foell made Shortland Street history when she became the first adult actor to be replaced by another actor.

South Pacific Pictures, who produce the series, announced the recast last November, saying it was a "mutual decision by the actor and the producers".

However, the message posted by "Sydneysider", said the decision was not mutual and includes detailed discussion of Foell's departure.

While internet posts are often unreliable, a response posted by executive producer Simon Bennett has given some credence to the claims.

Bennett, whose online handle is Pookina, wrote: "As far as Sydneysider's post is confirmed, there are bits of truth in there, bits of half-truth and some complete rubbish as well."

While a South Pacific Pictures spokesperson confirmed the message was written by Bennett, she said she was unable to comment on any of the claims made in the original post unless the author was identified.

Foell's agent Imogen Johnson said neither she nor Foell had any knowledge of the message and could not comment on the anonymous posting. She did not confirm or deny the claims made in the post.

Fans have been quick to pick up on the controversy and message boards are overflowing with speculation about Foell's departure.

They have also been quick to criticise Foell's replacement Wigmore, with an abundance of negative comments posted since her on-screen debut last night.

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