DCI Sutton returns in Manhunt ‘Night Stalker’

Monday: Manhunt The Night Stalker; (ITV, 9pm)

Sunday, 19th September 2021, 5:00 pm

Martin Clunes is arguably best known for playing lairy flatmate Gary in Men Behaving Badly, and the title role in the gentle Doc Martin, but he hasn’t shied away from darker material during his career.

As far back as 2002, he was cast in the lead role of period drama A Is for Acid, based on the life of serial killer John George Haigh. Suddenly fans, critics, producers and writers all looked at Clunes in a whole new light.

Then in 2019, Clunes played real-life detective DCI Colin Sutton in the gripping drama Manhunt. It explored the true story of how the 2004 murder of Amelie Delagrange on Twickenham Green was eventually linked to the killing of Marsha McDonnell the year before, and the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler as she travelled home from school in 2002, leading to the jailing of Levi Bellfield.

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DCI Colin Sutton

Clunes clearly felt a connection to the project. He says: “I was fascinated by the role the last time I played DCI Colin Sutton, and got very invested in the notion of the police to the extent that I now feel a bit defensive if they come under attack in the media, or feel disappointed when a police officer does something disappointing which is flagged up by the media.”

In fact, it was the chance to play a real-life cop that persuaded him to take the role, having previously resisted police dramas.

Clunes says: “I never really subscribed to the stock TV detective who was either an alcoholic, part-time undertaker or oil painter as well as a cop. But this was really interesting because of the nature of Colin and his approach to resolving that crime.”

So, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Clunes agreed to reprise the role for this four-part drama, written by Ed Whitmore and based on Sutton’s diaries, chronicling the police pursuit of a notorious serial rapist, whose 17-year reign of terror left thousands of elderly people in south-east London living in fear.

It seems it should appeal to viewers who were gripped by the first series. The actor says:

“I think this case is in a way more dramatic than the Levi Bellfield case in the first series. What Ed (Whitmore- the writer) did with the story is extraordinarily dramatic.”

However, Clunes is keen to point out that this doesn’t mean the real case has been glamourised.

He says: “As with the first Manhunt, it is not about the crimes it is about the solutions. I think we are honest, we don’t glamourise anything, we don’t sensationalise anything. Some things are altered for the sake of dramatisation, but it is a drama and not a documentary.

“We don’t see any of the crimes take place in the drama. They are real and abhorrent crimes, and to see them re-enacted would be wrong for this particular drama. Manhunt’s focus is on dogged, painstaking, real police work.”

That police work begins in tonight’s episode as DCI Sutton is brought in to review the police investigation into a series of crimes that took place between 1992 and 2009.

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