Sherlock series 3 air date revealed in 'Sherlock Lives' London stunt

'The Empty Hearse' will be broadcast on New Year's Day 2014

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief: Sherlock lives.

Driven around London in a black hearse this morning was a coffin adorned with flowers reading "Sherlock" and the air date of the new episode.

The first show of Sherlock series three will reach UK living rooms on New Year’s Day and is aptly entitled "The Empty Hearse".

The BBC has confirmed episode two will be shown on Sunday 5 January and episode three on Sunday 12.

News of the publicity stunt began spreading last night when the show's producer Sue Vertue posted a mysterious message:

"Keep your eyes peeled in the morning rush hour and pay your respects," she wrote.

BBC One has changed its Twitter name to the Sherlock hashtag and starred tweets from fans correctly guessing that "The Empty Hearse" will be broadcast on 1 January 2014.

The second season of Sherlock ended earlier this year with the assumed death of Benedict Cumberbatch's lead. Sherlock Holmes fell from the roof of St Bart's Hospital and was laid to rest with a headstone in closing episode "The Reichenbach Fall".

The hearse was spotted outside the hospital of Sherlock's supposed demise on Gower Street at 9.30am this morning.

Intrigue over what really happened in the season two finale began after a teaser published in August featured Sherlock alive and watching over his own grave as his sidekick John Watson mourns him.

It remains to be seen how the sleuth managed to recover from the fall as Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have kept the plot a secret.

There will be a new villain in the next series as Lars Mikkelson from The Killing has been confirmed to play the "terrifying" Charles Augustus Magnussen.