Peaky Blinders has dedicated the first episode of its sixth and final series to the late Helen McCrory.

McCrory, who starred as Shelby family matriarch Polly Gray in the hit crime drama in the previous five seasons, died from cancer aged 52 last April.

The programme, which returned to BBC One on Sunday evening, also addressed her absence by writing her death into the plotline which causes members of the Shelby family to subsequently spiral.

A collage of scenes recapping the previous action was shown before the new episode where McCrory can be seen portraying her role as Polly.

The infamous Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, dramatically opens the first scene and soon has to come to terms with the consequences of his actions as a cart of dead bodies is delivered to his door.

After opening the body bags whilst crying, the scene cuts to a portrait of Polly, implying that she is among the victims.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

While watching the bodies burn in a memorial service, Polly's son Michael, played by Finn Cole, says: "Mum, it was the ambitions and strategies of one man that caused this.

"And I swear on the devil of the almighty God, no matter what it takes, no matter how many lies I have to tell, I will take revenge on Tommy Shelby."

The rest of the episode sees the various rivalries within the Shelby family coming to the fore as they come to terms with Polly’s death.

The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy also returned to screens, reprising her role as Gina Gray, Michael’s American wife.

Ahead of the show airing, the actress shared two stills from the episode which sees her with a fingerwave hairstyle while perched on a velvet sofa holding a drink, and another of her staring intently at Shelby.

She captioned the post: "Something wicked this way comes…"

The episode spans multiple countries and features a bar brawl and a Christmas celebration gone wrong.

At the end of the programme, a tribute to McCrory was emblazed across the screen saying: "Dedicated to the memory of Helen McCrory OBE 'Polly Gray’."

Murphy has previously said that this sixth and last series will be a tribute to McCrory and that he hopes the production will "live up to her memory and our memory of her".

McCrory’s husband, actor Damian Lewis, announced in April last year that she had died at home following a "heroic battle" with cancer, prompting tributes from across the worlds of film and TV.

Although this is the final television series of Peaky Blinders, the show’s creator Steven Knight has spoken previously about continuing the Shelbys’ story on the big screen with a film in the works – and plans to shoot the movie in Birmingham.

Knight said that Spider-Man actor Tom Holland could finally join the ranks of the crime gang in the film after he was rejected following an early audition.

Click here for move television news