Appropriate Adult: the critic

Alison Graham explains why she thinks we need programmes like ITV's Fred West drama

I can already hear the clamour, writes TV editor Alison Graham: Appropriate Adult has made Fred West, rapist, torturer and murderer of women, a nice guy. Dominic West’s Fred West is too sympathetic. Too genial.


But this misses the point. Fred West was genial. Everybody liked Fred, an odd-job man well known in Gloucester and in the Forest of Dean and its patchwork of small towns.

Fred, reliable Fred. A storyteller and a bullsh****r and an epic liar, but he always turned up and did a good job.

Remember the post-arrest photo of West, handcuffed to police officers as he arrived at court for a remand hearing? They were cracking up laughing. That was Fred, he spun a good yarn. He was a manipulator but he was a charmer, too.

And a sexual sadist and a cunning brute, a link in a grotesque chain of incest, who would parrot his own father’s favourite saying: “A girl’s first baby should be her dad’s”.

Strong family and professional ties mean that I know Gloucestershire, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean well. Curiosity and outrage took me to 25 Cromwell Street after it was demolished.

I’m not particularly proud, but it was the same compulsion that led me to Ground Zero on a trip to New York. I’m a journalist. I need to see and I need to know.

There is nothing left of the house, which was obliterated, its debris pulverised. No souvenirs for the sick collectors, no memorial for the gawpers or the obsessed.

I won’t make any cheap, flowery claims that I could feel the terrible silence or hear the restless cries of the dead. I didn’t. It’s now a pathway to the city centre. Nothing more.

We need Appropriate Adult, otherwise Fred West will be allowed to languish forever in folklore. He killed himself before he stood trial, so victims who survived, their families and the bereaved, as well as us, the wider society, never had our day in court.


We need to see, and we need to know. Dramas like Appropriate Adult allow us that much.