Denial of Murder
Denial of Murder, a two-part film drama written by Neil McKay
(Wall of Silence) - based on the controversial case of Stephen Downing
and the murder of Wendy Sewell in Bakewell cemetery in 1973 - comes
to BBC ONE this month.
Tompkinson (Lucky Jim, Grafters, In Deep) plays campaigning
local journalist Don Hale and Caroline Catz (The Vice, The
Bill) portrays Wendy Sewell.
Denial of Murder interweaves the story of Don Hale's fight to free
Stephen Downing, played by Jason Watkins (State of Mind),
with an account of the murder victim - a young woman who struggled
to find happiness in life and lost her reputation in death.
In Denial of Murder is broadcast on BBC ONE on Sunday 29 February
and Sunday 7 March 2004 at 9.00pm.
was lunchtime on a bright September day some 30 years ago when typist
Wendy Sewell was brutally attacked in the picturesque graveyard
in Bakewell in the heart of the Peak District.
days later she died from her injuries in a Sheffield hospital.
council worker, Stephen Downing, was convicted of her murder and
sentenced to life imprisonment in 1974.
his refusal to admit his crime meant that he was classified as "IDOM"
(In Denial of Murder) and ineligible for parole.
served 27 years in prison until he was released on appeal in 2001
following a tireless campaign led by the then editor of the Matlock
Mercury, Don Hale.
2002 there were triumphant scenes when the Court of Appeal quashed
Downing's conviction, finding it to be unsafe.
case was thought to be the longest miscarriage of justice in British
legal history. As such it attracted worldwide media attention.
campaign had captured the imagination of press and public alike,
and he was showered with awards and accolades including an OBE.
one year on, in February 2003, Derbyshire police announced that
following their exhaustive reinvestigation of the murder, the only
remaining suspect in the case was Downing.
to look behind the headlines to see how one man, an editor of a
weekly paper, fought and gained another man's freedom, the acclaimed
team of writer Neil McKay and executive producer Mark Redhead
began their detailed researches in 2001.
previously worked together on This Is Personal: The Hunt For The
Yorkshire Ripper, which was shown in 2000.
McKay explains their methodology: "We read copious amounts
of legal documentation, correspondence, other written material and
made many visits to Matlock and Bakewell.
hours were spent talking to key figures including Don Hale, the
Downing family, journalists who covered the story, serving and retired
police officers, witnesses from the original murder inquiry, relatives
and friends of Wendy Sewell, as well as numerous others."
Redhead emphasises that what emerged from their enquiries was a
complex case riddled with contradictions; it was not the story they
had initially anticipated.
up, Mark Redhead says: "The objective of the film is not to
blame or shame individuals, but to explore the grey areas of human
behaviour that lie behind the headlines with sensitivity and compassion."
McKay is no stranger to sensitive subject matter drawn from life.
dramatisations include Innocents, the Bristol babies' heart scandal,
and in January of this year his powerful drama Wall Of Silence,
based on the 1997 murder of London teenager, Jamie Robe, was shown
on ITV to critical acclaim.
McKay also co-wrote BBC TWO's three-part factual drama Dunkirk.
his 2000 collaboration with Mark Redhead, This Is Personal: The
Hunt For The Yorkshire Ripper, starring Alun Armstrong, won the
2001 Broadcast Award for Best One Off Drama.
Denial Of Murder reunites several more key members from the This
Is Personal: The Hunt For The Yorkshire Ripper team - director
David Richards (Alibi, Reckless) and former BBC executive
producer Mike Dormer (New Tricks, Sparkhouse).
film was produced by Mary McMurray (Judge John Deed, Spender).
Head of Drama Commissioning Gareth Neame and Peter Carlton
(EM Media Investments) are also executive producers.
Redhead is Head of Drama at Hat Trick and his recent credits include
Bloody Sunday (which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International
Film Festival), The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (BAFTA Award for
Best Single Drama) and Jeffrey
Archer: The Truth.
Denial of Murder is a Hat Trick Production for BBC ONE co-financed
by East Midlands Media Investments and filmed on location last autumn
in the timeless landscape of the Derbyshire Peak District.
by Neil McKay
Tompkinson plays Don Hale
Catz plays Wendy Sewell
the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview,
the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well
as on satellite and cable.
offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services
from BBCi, as well as 11 national BBC radio networks.