MEDiA: Manhunt, 2019


It seems my penchant for ‘true crime’ is, pardon the tasteless pun, alive and kicking.

Whilst the direction of Manhunt is not especially remarkable – the subdued almost monochrome grey-ish palette is standard practice in English crime thrillers nowadays (for obvious reasons, climatic and subjective) – that’s actually a strength. It’s understated in a perfectly appropriate businesslike and very functional manner. Exactly right for a police procedural; PC plod going about their business!

The cast of this drama are uniformly (can’t seem to staunch the flow of puns!) superb. Martin Clunes, as SIO Colin Sutton, heads up a roll call of actors most of whom are not previously known to me, with one or two exceptions (such as Sutton’s long-suffering partner*, played by Claudie Blakly, and…?).

At one point, Sutton is about to fly to Spain for a family wedding, and we see him reading Wicked Beyond Belief, which I’ve only recently read (see my review here). It’s a great credit to Sutton and co. that this killer, Levi Bellfield, was caught so much sooner than Peter Sutcliffe. It seems lessons have been learned.

It’s also very interesting to see what has evolved technologically and what hasn’t, in terms of detection. The ubiquity of cameras brings new avenues of pursuit, but the evidence this yields – vehicles used by the perp’ – still requires masses of slogging through databases and wearing out of ‘shanks pony’/shoe leather!

Obviously computers, and forensics have all developed massively since Sutcliffe’s reign of terror. But it’s fascinating to see the parallels in the Bellfield case, regarding how hard it can be to amass the required amount of evidence to make the crucial arrest.

As with Michael Bilton’s excellent book on Sutcliffe, the approach here is to follow the coppers, not the killer, which I can see has a certain advantage, morally speaking, over the potentially more salacious and prurient voyeurism of following the murderer.

In the Sutcliffe case, it was (if I recall aright?) just one car that the rozzers needed to trace. Here they discover that the perp’ used numerous different vehicles. And yet they were able, thanks to all the CCTV footage, to do much better this time around, than back in the Sutcliffe investigation.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with the series. As I’ve watched three episodes, and it seems to have finished. But I also see it being advertised as ‘starting on Monday’, and there seems to be footage in the trailer suggesting something different from what I’ve watched online.

Anyway, what I’ve watched is well done, and both enjoyable and interesting viewing.

*A theme in WBB is the toll this demanding work takes in the marital lives of coppers.

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