Remarkable drama does justice to victims and dedicated police: ROLAND WHITE reviews last night’s television
The long shadow
The opening scenes of The Long Shadow (ITV1) seemed remarkably familiar: strikes, an energy crisis and a bitter debate about Europe. How depressing that it introduced us to Britain in 1975.
That was the year that Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, claimed his first victim, Wilma McCann. We watched as she put her four children to bed before turning in for the night, never to return.
Fortunately, we were spared the gruesome details of her death.
Television plays a role in recreating the atmosphere of the 1970s, writes Roland White
The problem with true crime on television is that it so often glorifies criminals. But you won’t see much of Sutcliffe in this remarkable and sensitive drama, which focuses instead on the victims, their families and the unfolding police investigation.
Toby Jones is excellent as Detective Chief Inspector Dennis Hoban, who initially led the hunt for Wilma’s killer. Of course he is. He is excellent at almost everything. He also gets most of the best lines.
“It starts now and it won’t end until one of us catches the villain,” he tells his officers in a stirring speech. Part detective, part Henry V.
This is a man so dedicated to his job that he has an officer call the station on Christmas Day even though – as is made clear to him – he might miss Morecambe and Wise.
Television plays a role in recreating the atmosphere of the 1970s. When DCS Hoban receives a call at home, his wife asks, “Should I tell him to call back?”
‘Because it’s Emmerdale Farm’.
You’d think Alan Bennett helped with the script.
The story of Emily Jackson, the second victim, was particularly moving. She reluctantly entered the sex industry because her family was struggling financially. She promised her guilty husband that she would only do three more jobs – for £5 each. She needed £15 to buy a bridesmaid dress for her daughter.
By then, police knew the killer was driving a green Land Rover or a Corsair. As detectives stopped a Land Rover in Leeds’ red light district, convinced they had found their man, Emily climbed into a Corsair. As the lights disappeared into the distance, we knew she wouldn’t be able to buy that dress again.
Pete Doherty, who killed my son?
Pete Doherty, who killed my son? (Chapter 4) was another real-life murder investigation, and it certainly made for uncomfortable viewing for the Metropolitan Police.
Michael Cockerell’s 1996 portrait of Roy Jenkins, a deeply social democrat (BBC4), featured Labor MP Leo Abse, a fellow Welshman, praising the former Chancellor as ‘great at a dinner table, great at a high table’.
Could anything be more damning in Labor circles?
They are accused of botching their investigation into the 2006 death of Mark Blanco, who fell from the balcony of a flat where Pete Doherty, rock star and ex-boyfriend of Kate Moss, was attending a party.
It is left to Mark’s mother, Sheila Blanco, to pursue a murder case. CCTV evidence presented last night looked damning.
An American forensic investigator is certain that someone else was on the balcony and probably put Mark to death. One of Doherty’s alleged minders, known as Johnny Headlock, admitted murder but later retracted his confession and was never charged. Both he and Doherty claim they have no idea how Blanco fell.
Perhaps the police were fascinated by Doherty’s celebrity. In an interview with Jonathan Ross, he boasted that a cop once asked for his autograph when arresting him for a drug crime.
I’m afraid little will happen after this show, but at least it was a reminder of the collateral damage that can be caused by a major, seemingly untouchable celebrity living an erratic lifestyle. Sound completely familiar?