Tele­vi­sion star de­fends gal­lows hu­mour in TV hunt for Milly Dowler’s killer

Sunday Express - - SPECIAL INVESTIGATION - By David Stephen­son

MARTIN CLUNES has de­fended the black hu­mour which pep­pers a new drama about the Milly Dowler case.

The ac­claimed Doc Martin ac­tor stars as for­mer De­tec­tive Chief In­spec­tor Colin Sut­ton who even­tu­ally tracked down Dowler’s killer Levi Bell­field.

The three-part ITV drama Man­hunt made by his own pro­duc­tion com­pany Buf­falo Pic­tures, goes out in Jan­uary, and is based on a mem­oir and di­aries writ­ten by Mr Sut­ton.

Clunes said it was a “mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity” to drama­tise the case, which he said was ac­cu­rate down to the dark hu­mour of the po­lice in­volved.

Af­ter one of the mur­ders, of­fi­cers joke about a sus­pect look­ing like Ar­gen­tinian football star Diego Maradona, known for his “hand of God goal”, with one com­ment­ing: “I wouldn’t put it past him.”

The first episode be­gins with the mur­der of 22-year-old French stu­dent Amelie De­la­grange on Twick­en­ham Green in 2004, who was also killed by Bell­field.

She was sav­agely at­tacked and struck sev­eral times on the back of the head with a ham­mer as she walked home af­ter a night out with friends.

In the drama, Sut­ton is pro­moted to se­nior in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer (SIO) for the case, and is ribbed by col­leagues at Barnes Po­lice Sta­tion in London, where the ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion is run.

But al­ready of­fi­cers are talk­ing about sim­i­lar­i­ties with the cases of Milly Dowler, 13, who was killed in 2002, and Mar­sha Mc­Don­nell, 19, killed in 2003, which oc­curred in the same gen­eral area, but po­lice didn’t orig­i­nally link them of­fi­cially. As the case gets un­der way, Sut­ton and a de­tec­tive sergeant (Katie Lyon) in­ter­view a wit­ness who saw some­one be­hav­ing sus­pi­ciously near Twick­en­ham Green.

“He looked a bit like Maradona,” sug­gests the wit­ness. The de­tec­tive sergeant says, “Like Maradona, eh?” Sut­ton quips: “Makes a change from Phil Mitchell” – a ref­er­ence to wit­nesses of­ten say­ing a sus­pect looks like the EastEn­ders hard­man. De­tec­tive in­spec­tor Gary Cun­ning­ham played by comic Steve Furst says, “Maradona... the hand of God. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

All of the peo­ple fea­tured in the drama, claims the writer, “are real peo­ple”. Asked if the jokes “jarred” in a se­ri­ous drama about the mur­ders of three peo­ple, Clunes said: “When we had a cast and crew peo­ple laughed too, and that was a real shock to me, but it was just the cur­rency of day-to-day peo­ple get­ting by and the way they talk to each other. But if it makes an au­di­ence laugh, that’s okay too.”

Writer Ed Whit­more said: “I think some of those ac­tual lines were in the orig­i­nal mem­oir writ­ten by Colin Sut­ton. I think Maradona was. There was a lot of low level mirth about that. It’s a re­lease, isn’t it?”

Bell­field, 50, was con­victed of De­la­grange’s and Mc­Don­nell’s mur­der in 2008 and jailed for life. In 2011 he was con­victed of Milly Dowler’s mur­der and given a sec­ond life term. Asked if the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims were in­volved, ITV said “the fam­i­lies were kept in­formed ev­ery step of the way”.

DRAMA: Martin Clunes as DCI Colin Sut­ton in ITV’s Man­hunt

KILLED: Milly Dowler, 13

KILLER: Levi Bell­field

DIED: Amelie De­la­grange

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