Chilling, fact-based portrait of Peter Manuel, infamous Scottish psychopath from the 1950s
★★★★ ITV, Wednesday, 7 December, 9pm
ITV HAS A good record of adapting true-crime events into mini-dramas. The appalling cases of the Moors Murderers, Fred West and the Yorkshire Ripper have all been portrayed, usually with some controversy, but they have been pretty sensitive and serious-minded.
In Plain Sight goes back a little further back into the crime annals to a notorious case from 1950s Scotland. Peter Manuel was a truly nasty criminal. He was a rapist, robber and killer who inflicted a reign of grief on the quiet communities of South Lanarkshire.
This three-parter shows the duel that arose between Manuel and detective William Muncie, who – in spite of opposition from his boss – waged a campaign to put the psychopath behind bars.
Martin Compston and Douglas Henshall
Douglas Henshall (Collision, Shetland) plays the cop with a near obsession. Peter Manuel is played with convincing swagger and odiousness by Martin Compston (Line of Duty).
Released from prison in 1955, Manuel embarked on a two-year killing spree, claiming eight lives in South Lanarkshire. He also made various veiled threats against Muncie, the man who had him put away for sexual assault.
1950s setting is skilfully done
Manuel evaded justice for so long because the local police had never encountered such a spree killer. He was a cold-blooded psycho who committed callous, motiveless crimes.
Henshall brings tight-lipped passion to Muncie, while the brash, controlling Manuel is excellently brought to life by Compston. The 1950s setting is also skilfully done, emphasising the modest lifestyles and how vulnerable the community was to the brute on the loose.
The drama steers clear of depicting Manuel’s crimes in detail, but still captures what a toxic presence he was. He taunted the authorities, and manipulated his family, the courts and anyone who crossed his path. For a textbook example of a psychopathic personality, it’s hard to beat.
It’s called In Plain Sight because Manuel was a high-visibility killer. He loved the limelight, but being in his audience was not to be recommended.