ITV’s latest drama Manhunt, a look at the investigation that brought real-life serial killer Levi Bellfield to justice, has been met with mixed reactions after its first episode. Though many viewers praised the series as “compelling”, others were unnerved by the subject matter, suggesting that wounds left in the communities affected by the events were still raw.
Manhunt is based on the memoirs of Colin Sutton (played by Martin Clunes), the detective who lead the investigation into the death of 22-year-old Amélie Delagrange in the 2000s, eventually tracking down her killer, Levi Bellfield, and connecting him to the murders of Milly Dowler and Marsha McDonnell.
The production had already faced scrutiny last year, after filming in Walton-on-Thames on the anniversary of Milly’s disappearance, and some viewers, including those in close proximity to the events, felt that the subject matter was just too sensitive for dramatic depiction.
“I’ve been dreading Manhunt somewhat,” Twitter user @FrecklyBee wrote. “We lived next door to Levi Bellfield, in Walton-on-Thames, at the time Milly Dowler was snatched. My mother was reassured that it was because he knew her. Since found out he just targeted females, and it could have easily been my sister and I.”
She added that seeing her home-town on-screen was “triggering” and that she didn’t know if she would watch the next episode.
Another viewer, Roz Thomas, wrote: “if my daughter was the victim I’d be devastated, literally heartbroken that her murder has been turned into an ITV drama. My thoughts are with all of the victims families.”
And Chelsey Fielding, who was close to one of the victims, concurred. “Manhunt has broken me,” she wrote. “I didn’t watch it but all I can think about is my friend. How she suffered, how that man still gets to live a life. How can you do this? It’s not fiction. It really happened. We all lived it. No one needed to hear this story.”
However, there were others who felt that the drama dealt with the subject matter well.
“Heartbreaking watching #Manhunt on ITV,” Sky News presenter Jonathan Samuels tweeted. “I covered the murder and trial at the time for Sky News and it’s stayed with me. Excellent portrayal by Martin Clunes of DCI Sutton.”
Sally Ann Matthews, AKA Jenny from Coronation Street, shared this sentiment. “Totally the wrong word but I enjoyed Manhunt,” she said. “Unnerving to revisit such local events but it was done so well and Martin Clunes was at his best ever.”
The jury may still be out, but the drama continues on Monday and Tuesday this week…
Manhunt airs on 7th and 8th January at 9pm on ITV