Pensioners accused of murdering their son!

Thursday: Accused of Murdering Our Son – The Steven Clark Story; (ITV, 9pm)

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 5:00 pm
Doris 81, and Charles Clark, 78, parents of Steven Clark

Crime dramas aren’t a rarity on our screens. Neither are true crime documentaries.

But both are hugely popular, as the success of recent hits Line of Duty and Unforgotten prove, while Netflix churns out factual programmes on similar themes, all of which are lapped up by the public.

This new one-off is, however, a little different. Ex-detective Mark Williams-Thomas – who exposed Jimmy Savile as a predator in ITV’s multi-award award-winning The Other Side of Jimmy Savile – is a key player and describes the programme as “a compelling real-life story, providing an intimate insight to the unique experience of a couple that is as close to a crime drama as you will ever see on television.”

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It charts a disturbing 17-week period in the lives of pensioners Charles and Doris Clark, who first came to the police’s attention in December 1992 when their 23-year-old son Steven disappeared in mysterious circumstances following a family walk; he was last seen close to his home in Marske, near Redcar.

Twenty-eight years later, following a review by the Cleveland and North Yorkshire Cold Case Unit, Charles, then 78, and 81-year-old Doris were arrested on suspicion of murder.

That’s when Williams-Thomas appeared on the scene, exploring both the Clarks’ and the police’s side of the story, with particular attention paid to the couple as they came under increasing pressure while being forced to relive the anguish of their son’s disappearance. Their house was searched and their garden dug up as detectives searched for evidence; they believe Steven, whose body has still not been found, has come to some form of serious harm.

“Over 17 weeks I followed Charles and Doris whilst they were accused of the murder of their son,” says Williams-Thomas. “My approach was to be totally impartial, my questioning direct, as I unpicked their accounts and explored the possible scenarios around Steven’s sudden disappearance.”

He’s also seen regularly checking in with retired senior police officer Julie Mackay, who offers an insight into the police investigation and the reasons for the accusation levelled against his parents.

Charles and Doris themselves share new home video footage of Steven as a child and relive the tragic accident when, aged just three, he was hit by a lorry, which left him with a damaged left arm and a pronounced limp. Doris explains, “He was so different from the little boy before the accident to how he was when he came home, so we just worked as hard as we could to get him better.”

A quick internet search will tell you that the couple were eventually released without charge, but the build-up to that point is extraordinary.

“We discover the true pain and trauma caused by this investigation,” concludes Jonathan Levi, managing director of production company Content Kings. “The Clarks live in fear of the unknown. More importantly, nearly 30 years later, Doris and Charles say they still don’t know what happened to Steven and we gain a painful insight into what it’s like not just to lose your son, but to be accused of his murder without proven facts.”

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