By Laura Cox and Jennifer Ruby
She caused nationwide outrage when she posted a picture of herself posing with a gun to her head in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre.
But a tearful Helen Flanagan apologised to the nation on Daybreak on Thursday morning, saying: 'It's the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life'.
Despite posting a tribute tweet about the event just days before, the actress admitted that she hadn't thought about it when posting the picture, which alluded to a hangover.
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'It was just a completely out of context tweet, completely. I did the tweet and it was some different pictures in one and it was relating to a hangover,' she explained.
'I treated this picture completely carelessly, like it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life,' she added.
The former Coronation Street star was condemned as ‘stupid’ and ‘insensitive’ for tweeting the image of herself from an old photoshoot in a lacy black bra earlier this week when the first victims from the shooting were buried.
'It was just relating to a hangover that I had and then I tweeted it and I started getting all these reactions of, ‘how insensitive, how could you do this?’, and I just felt sick,' she said on Daybreak.
When asked by Kate Garraway whether she understood the public's reaction, she said:
'Absolutely, I absolutely hated myself for it. I am incredibly sorry and I couldn’t be more sorry. And I tweeted it completely out of context – it was just about this hangover and it was never, I mean I really do – my heart bleeds for all the families.'
she 'hated herself' fro posting the picture, but that she'd never want to hurt anyone
Presenter Kate then asked why Helen had thought it appropriate to pose with a gun for a photo shoot in the first place:
'It was in October, seven weeks before this happened. I sometimes forget – none of my friends are in the public eye and I kind of forget that I am in the public eye and I will take more responsibility and realise that I have to be more careful.
'I'm seen as a role model and I will definitely learn a lesson from this but I am truly, truly sorry.'
Hundreds took to social networking sites to criticise the 22-year-old before she removed the offending image and the caption ‘Head ****’.
At first, Helen appeared unable to understand why people were so upset at her actions.
She accused her critics of bullying her, tweeting: ‘I am absolutely disgusted in this. Completely cruel. I will absolutely NOT stand for this kind of bullying.’
Hours later she issued a statement admitting she had ‘posted the picture without thinking’ and accepted it was a huge error.
Anti-gun groups accused her of glamorising violence and questioned her judgment in posing for the pictures in the first place.
Lyn Costello, from Mothers Against Murder And Aggression, said: ‘One can only assume from this picture and the timing of Miss Flanagan’s decision to post it on Twitter that she is either incredibly stupid or completely insensitive.
‘Historically, we have seen that guns are neither sexy nor glamorous, and to seek to display them as such is completely irresponsible. If this is a deliberate attempt to garner publicity, she should be thoroughly ashamed.’
Ahead of her appearance on Daybreak, Helen tweeted a lengthy apology to all of her followers, urging them to watch her on ITV.
'I am going on daybreak this morning to explain the cover of the sun newspaper yesterday which i was obviously completely shocked and truly sickened by,' she wrote
Helen first posted the image, from a series of lingerie photographs, in October.
She decided to publish it again on Monday – the day the first victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, were buried. Twenty children, aged six and seven, and six adults were shot dead by 20-year-old Adam Lanza on Friday.
The stunt was immediately condemned by a relative of one of the victims who said: ‘It’s just ignorance when the eyes of the world are on what happened here. To be posing with a gun like that is insensitive and stupid.’
The actress has seen her profile rise in recent weeks as a result of her appearance in I’m A Celebrity last month.
She wasted no time stripping to her bikini to get in the camp shower – a scene that has become customary among the fame-hungry in the Australian TV jungle.
But Helen appeared only to irk viewers with her ditzy manner and hysterical screams.
After being one of the first to leave the jungle, Miss Flanagan revealed she has suffered bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder and considered taking her own life in the run-up to quitting Coronation Street last year.
Last night Tory MP Patrick Mercer said: ‘Firearms are intrinsically dangerous so when you handle them you need to do so with respect, and flippancy is never ever sensible. Helen is a role model and should have thought of this before posing like this.’
In her statement yesterday, Miss Flanagan said: ‘I would like to sincerely apologise to the families of the victims of the Connecticut massacre and anyone else who I offended through the picture that I tweeted on Monday.
'I did not mean any offense and the picture was posted without thinking. This was a huge error of judgment on my behalf and as soon as I realised my error I removed the picture immediately.
‘Like the rest of the world, I have looked on in dismay at the tragic events that have unfolded in Connecticut and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and friends.’
VIDEO Helen in tears on Daybreak after gun-to-head photo...