As Lachlan strikes again, 10 things that always happen in serial killer plotlines on EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale

David Brown reveals how soap murderers manage to stay at large for so long

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So, Lachlan White looks set to strike again in next week’s episodes of Emmerdale, potentially adding to his already sizeable body count. But shouldn’t characters now be more aware of the serial killers in their midst? After all, there’s seemingly no end to the slaughter in the likes of not only Emmerdale, but Coronation Street and EastEnders too. Presented below are the top ten tropes of a killer-on-the-loose plotline…

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The killer strikes!
What pushes a soap regular into taking a life? Take your pick from financial wrongdoing, a secret affair in danger of being exposed, deep-seated jealousy, a fight that takes a fatal turn, someone being accidentally pushed into a carelessly stored garden implement… But this is always the point of no return, the moment where the perpetrator morphs from benign member of the neighbourhood to swivel-eyed lunatic who starts secretly lurking in doorways, stashing rope and gaffer tape in their van or muttering portentous religious verse at every opportunity.

The incompetent police investigation
The investigating officers fall for a blatantly obvious frame-up attempt by the killer and arrest a churchgoing pillar of the community, who is then seen for the next few weeks looking wretched in a prison tabard. At this point, the real murderer remains at large and keeps giving lingering sidelong looks that nobody except for the viewer notices.

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The false victim
The soap killer appears to strike again, smashing their latest victim in the face with a stainless-steel food mixer. The actor involved then appears on social media, thanking fans for their support and posting thumbs-up pics with the villain. Fast-forward three months and the apparent victim is revealed to have been held captive all this time in an ancient VW camper van, living on nothing but rainwater and Go Ahead bars. “I’ve had to keep this is a secret from everyone,” says the actor. “Even my girlfriend thinks I’ve been working in Budgens.”

The montage
This comes mid-way through a reign of terror, when the soap killer takes the life of someone totally blameless and virtuous. Woodland is often involved, maybe a spooky filter on the lens, lots of heavy breathing and close-ups of startled eyes. “WHY did you have to get involved?” begs the killer. “Why couldn’t you have just stayed out of it? I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” Cut from victim begging for their life to a joyous party in the pub, back to terrified victim. Scream. Gunshot. Credits. Point to note: must include an eerie cover version of an upbeat song: I Should Be So Lucky sung by Nick Cave, if that exists.

The complaints to Ofcom
The newspapers go crazy following viewer complaints and speak to some outraged fans: “My three-year-old son had just watched the CBeebies Bedtime Hour when we switched over to Emmerdale to see someone getting pushed under the wheels of a moving tractor,” says Sophie from Streatham. “We were horrified. My son now screams whenever Travis from Bob the Builder appears on TV.” A media heavyweight then says that soaps are responsible for the collapse of western society.

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The oblivious love interest
A normally rational, right-thinking character acts ridiculously naïve for the best part of a year as their serial killer partner starts coming home from work with body parts in refuse sacks, digging large holes in the garden and waking up at night in a sweat and clutching a crucifix. “He’s under a lot of pressure at work,” they reason to concerned friends. “I’ve suggested he goes to the medical centre but he can’t hear me over the sound of that flippin’ buzzsaw in the shed.”

The false ending
The soap serial killer is led away by the police or falls off a precipice or looks to have died during a blaze at the pub. “Thank god the nightmare is finally over,” says the stoic heroine, her chenille cardigan matted with blood. But until we see that corpse being zipped up in a body bag, you can be guaranteed that the killer will come back for one last scare. Especially if voting is still open for the NTAs or The British Soap Awards.

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The expensive promo
The soap releases a 30-second concept trailer shot in a way that’s completely divorced from the usual style of the show. Guaranteed to involve wind, smoke and rain machines. All the men will be dressed in black suits, the women styled as vamps. Killer then descends from the heavens in a tornado-style special effect accompanied by a “Coming this autumn on… [insert soap name]” voiceover. “OMG – who’s excited?” posts the soap’s official Twitter feed.

The siege
The soap serial killer handily times their final act of revenge for Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals week. Several high-profile characters will be held hostage, but the person who carks it hasn’t had a decent storyline in years, save for their ten-minute death scene. If there’s a fire involved, actors will be guaranteed to give interviews along the lines of: “It was so hot. It felt real. It was like we were doing a Hollywood movie. And the stunt guys were amazing. They can turn the flames on and off in a second. So, it felt dangerous, but safe at the same time.”

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The end
The murderer finally gets their comeuppance and is taken down by their up-until-now hoodwinked partner, the relative of a victim or a normally timid regular who exhibits a hitherto unseen flash of steel. Much fuss is made of the episode being shown post-watershed, only for it to then be repeated the following day in the 9.25am omnibus on ITV2. The soap villain then announces they’re playing Abanazar in a panto at Christmas. Two years later, they appear in a special DVD spin-off that sees them cameo as a relative of the aforementioned villain working at the hotel in Fuengirola where a well-loved soap family are on holiday.