The ‘Free Marlon Dingle’ campaign starts in earnest as Emmerdale reels from the injustice of the chef’s arrest for the murder of Graham Foster. Half the village had a motive to want him dead, but no one knows it was rapist Pierce Harris who committed the crime in a twisted bid to ‘protect’ ex-wife Rhona Goskirk from the man she planned to run away with.
While Pierce’s very presence remains unknown too all but the viewers, all eyes are on Marlon as he rots behind bars, slowly becoming a shadow of his former self.
“Marlon is not emotionally or psychologically equipped for prison,” says Mark Charnock of his Emmerdale alter ego’s predicament. “The situation is genuinely bleak, he can see why the police think he did it – there is evidence against him, he just can’t disprove it.”
The lovable chef made no secret of his hatred of Graham, and vowed to stop him taking son Leo away as him and Rhona were about to swan off for a new life in France. Arranging to meet Mr Foster to have it out man to man the night he was killed, Marlon has no alibi and no hope…
“He’s very touched by the ‘Free Marlon’ initiative that Mandy starts back in the village,” smiles Charnock. “The Dingles are behind him, and so is his best mate Paddy. Cain visits Marlon and it’s a really sweet scene, he encourages Marlon to toughen up, not show any vulnerability and basically how to behave. Cain has a lot of experience in that area, unlike Marlon!
“Rhona is initially showing some doubt, but Marlon is adamant he doesn’t want his daughter April to see him. It’s too much for her to cope with so Cain lies to her children aren’t allowed to visit the prison.”
When April realises her dad is deliberately avoiding them seeing each other, the stressed kid runs away sparking a desperate search that doesn’t help Marlon’s state of mind.
“Mandy breaks the news to Marlon that April has gone missing and he loses his mind,” says Charnock. “He gets aggressive with the guards, fighting them, unable to control his anger. He is dragged back to his cell screaming. The guilt is enormous as he realises his reluctance to let April visit caused her to run off.”
Eventually, April is found by Sam Dingle and Bob Hope, but the girl slips through their grasp and remains on the run.
As for Marlon’s future, Charnock warns us he’s spending more time on the prison set than the Woolpack kitchen these days… “He’s hanging on to his sanity by a thread. Everyone around him is trying to be optimistic but it’s crushing him and any positivity has left his system. At points he is accepting of his fate and ready to give up.
“This is not going to be a quick resolution, and we won’t be seeing Marlon back in the village any time soon…”
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