The BBC has defended Crimewatch’s new format as “necessary” after viewers slammed the programme for using a historic real-life murder case as a “cliffhanger”.

Fans of the show expressed their disappointment as Monday night’s episode ended on the retelling of the case of Melanie Road, who was raped and killed in 1984 at the age of 17.

The case was reopened years later and, thanks to the advancements in DNA-testing techniques, the murderer was finally caught in 2015 and given a life sentence earlier this year.

Melanie Road’s murder investigation formed part of the Crimewatch episode (Avon and Somerset Police / PA Images)

The episode finished with viewers being prompted to tune in next week to find out how the case was solved, which encouraged some to take to Twitter to compare the series to a “soap opera”.

A BBC spokesman told the Press Association: “Crimewatch worked closely with the police on this item which was made with the cooperation of Melanie Road’s family. The story of Melanie’s brutal murder and how detectives eventually caught her killer spanned decades, involving hundreds of police officers and multiple investigation teams.

“To do full justice to Melanie’s story it was necessary to tell it across two programmes.”

@BBCCrimewatch @bbcpov A girl being murdered should not be used as a cliffhanger to get people to watch next week. V poor taste. #Crimewatch

— Vanessa Bentley (@VanessaCBentley) September 5, 2016

What has happened to crimewatch. The new format and hosts is shocking. And to leave that poor girls murder as a cliffhanger🖕🏻👎🏻 #Crimewatch

— ? (@inaybother) September 5, 2016

I agree that leaving the girl's murder on a cliffhanger is a bit disrespectful. It's a real show, it's not a TV drama! #Crimewatch

— Imogen Rowe (@icerowe) September 5, 2016

😧😯😶 #Crimewatch Absolutely shameful turning a young girls murder into a cliffhanger for people to tune into next week. 👎

— Danny Emerton (@DannyEmerton) September 5, 2016

Have they really just used a girl's murder as a cliffhanger? Jesus. #Crimewatch

— Danny Blood (@dannyswfc) September 5, 2016

So #Crimewatch is using a real-life murder case as a cliffhanger. To get ppl to watch next week? Wtf?

— Wasim Sumun (@WasimSumun) September 5, 2016

They added: “With Crimewatch now airing in a weekly format it was important to inform viewers that the conclusion of the case would be shown the following week.

“How They Caught items are useful in reassuring viewers that despite all the crime featured on the programme, criminals are caught and justice is served.”

The BBC’s long-running crime-solving programme aired with a revamped series which will be shown on a weekly basis for the first time, with Jeremy Vine and Tina Daheley as the hosts.

feel very uneasy about #Crimewatch using that poor girl's murder as a 'tune in next week' cliffhanger wtf this ain't a sodding soap opera

— Sarah Jones (@sazmeister88) September 5, 2016

Using that girls murder as a cliffhanger is disgusting, shame on you, show her mum some respect #Crimewatch

— amanda rushforth (@amandar9096) September 5, 2016

how have they just done a 'next time' like this is a soap opera??? a murdered child is not a cliffhanger.. #Crimewatch

— beth (@BethhP_) September 5, 2016

They're using a murdered child as a cliffhanger?! Unbelievable #Crimewatch

— Beth Durant (@bethmaidurant) September 5, 2016

Viewers took to Twitter to air their upset over the teaser-style ending ahead of next week’s episode.

One wrote on the social networking site: “Disgusted at #Crimewatch, a girl’s rape and murder being treated like a soap opera cliffhanger, shame on you.”

Another added: “‘Next week?’ Since when did #Crimewatch become a soap opera? A cliffhanger about a real life case? Really?”

One viewer described it as “disrespectful” adding that “it’s a real show, it’s not a TV drama!”.