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