Five Daughters — Killer TV No.41

BBC1, 2010
‘I’m not a waste of time, space or oxygen. I deserve the air that I breathe. I stand on corners, alone, lonely, waiting, always for one last time. I love and I am loved. I am alive, except when I choose to play dead…’ – Annette Nicholls
Ian Hart, Sarah Lancashire, Jaime Winstone, Ruth Negga, Joseph Mawle, Vicky McClure, Kierston Wareing
Identikit: Factually based drama telling the stories of five young women who were murdered in Ipswich in 2006.

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‘This is madness,’ says DCS Stewart Gull in this fact-based drama, and those words sum up the dismay – among public and within the police – that surrounded the shocking series of five murders in Ipswich during late 2006. Amid the car chases, brilliant deductions, twisting whodunits and maverick cops, British television occasionally produces a serious drama that punctures the fiction by offering an insight into the real pain behind the crime story headlines. Five Daughters was about the Ipswich serial murders committed by Steve Wright and the impact on the victims’ families. Stephen Butchard wrote a hugely compassionate three-parter that showed that the victims, whatever their backgrounds as sex workers and drug users, were individuals who were loved and profoundly missed by those close to them. Completely free of cop-show cliches, it was based on the personal testimonies of those close to the events in 2006. It tells, for example, of Anneli Alderton’s hopes of

starting her own hairdressing business after coming out of Holloway Prison, or Gemma Adams turning to a drug charity project to break her heroin addiction and get out of the sex trade. And all along is the loving support of mothers, siblings and friends as the women battle to turn their lives around. Cops and killer were not the focus, but the ordinary lives devastated by these awful crimes were. The production was low-key and sensitive, and beautifully acted by a fine cast of young and experienced actors. Though painful to watch at times, the mini-series went some way to help redress the wrong done to the women by showing them as the good, decent people behind the often lurid headlines. 

Watercooler fact: Following Five Daughters, writer Stephen Butchard returned to the fiction side of crime with Sky Atlantic’s Falcon and BBC1’s excellent Good Cop, starring Warren Brown.

Other links…
Best crime dramas of 2010

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