A scriptwriter has defended last night's controversial episode of Shortland Street in which a main character was killed off, angering viewers who called it a cop out.

* Warning: This story contains spoilers.

The soap's long-running villain, Dr Victoria Anderton, died last night after crashing her car shortly after confessing to her crimes.

The manipulative character's storyline had been building up for months after she attempted to kill her ex-boyfriend Drew and frame Curtis, the son of her new partner.

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But fans were quick to turn on the show, flooding Shortland Street's Facebook page with complaints.

Many said she should have been forced to face justice for her sins.

Read more: Shortland Street death: Why the soap's fans are angrier than ever
Shortland Street script producer Nick Malmholt told the Herald they realised they'd upset viewers but didn't want to give them "exactly what they wanted".

"(We) understand the desire of many Shortland Street fans to punish Victoria for her crimes, and to make her feel the pain she inflicted on decent people like Mo, Curtis, Margaret and Drew.

"People want justice. And when they feel they haven't got it, they get angry," Malmholt said.

"The writers pour their hearts and souls into creating the best stories they can for the New Zealand public. We're never fully satisfied with our efforts, we could always do better, and must always try," Malmholt said.

"But we never seek to give the audience exactly what they want, but instead strive to give them what they never knew they needed."

Shortland Street's Dr Victoria Anderton, played by Laura Thompson.
Shortland Street's Dr Victoria Anderton, played by Laura Thompson.

On Facebook, fans called the end to Anderton's storyline lazy writing.

"Why the hell did they kill off Victoria? She should have been taken to trial and made to hear the victim impact statements. Shorty, I'm so annoyed with you," wrote one.

Another said: "Why make us sit there and wait for six-seven months to see her explode and confess ... then let her just crash into a tree and die??!!! REALLY????"

Malmholt said other characters would face justice of their own in coming weeks, as "Kylie faces trial for the death of her mother, and Mo struggles to stop the justice system from tearing his family apart".

Shortland Street is New Zealand's longest-running soap and pulls in tens of thousands of viewers each weeknight.

It has a long tradition of characters becoming villains and teasing out their stories for months, often ending them with cliffhanger episodes at the end of the year.

Nick Malmholt's full statement

"The death of Victoria is a tragic end for a tortured soul. She served Shortland Street well as a character people loved to hate, but also by highlighting issues of abuse in New Zealand society. If Victoria had found the help she needed when she needed it, then perhaps her destructive rampage might never have happened.

"The creative team at Shortland Street understand the desire of many Shortland Street fans to punish Victoria for her crimes, and to make her feel the pain she inflicted on decent people like Mo, Curtis, Margaret and Drew. People want justice. And when they feel they haven't got it, they get angry.

"Just like the hundreds of thousands of people on social media right now debating the demise of Victoria. Many wanted to see her dragged into the stocks and stoned to death. And failing that, many now want to drag the Shortland Street writers into the docks and stone them instead.

"The writers pour their hearts and souls into creating the best stories they can for the New Zealand public. We're never fully satisfied with our efforts, we could always do better, and must always try. But we never seek to give the audience exactly what they want, but instead strive to give them what they never knew they needed.

"We need justice in Shortland Street. But we also need mercy - and so did Victoria. And issues of justice and mercy come to the fore again in the coming weeks, as Kylie faces trial for the death of her mother, and Mo struggles to stop the justice system from tearing his family apart."