Who is ‘H’ in Line of Duty? It’s the question that’s continued to plague viewers well into series five, with AC-12 on the hunt for the corrupt police officer at the heart of the BBC crime drama.
*SPOILERS for Line of Duty series 5 episode 4*
Somewhere at the top of this giant network of bent coppers and balaclava-clad criminals is the ultimate villain pulling the strings.
But are we any closer to catching them?
What do we know about ‘H’ so far?
- We first heard the initial ‘H’ in Dot Cotton’s dying declaration; that was all he managed to give Kate before the medical team moved in. But is this the first letter of a name (like Hastings, Hargreaves, Hilton or Huntley)? Or is it actually a codename, as suggested by John Corbett’s old covert operations manager?
- He or she is all but certain to be someone senior in the police force, able to pull strings across a wide network of corrupt police officers and protect him/herself from investigation.
- ‘H’ communicates with the balaclava gang by instant messenger to preserve anonymity. The balaclava gang has not met ‘H’ in person and Lisa McQueen says she doesn’t even know ‘H’s actual name.
- ‘H’ can’t spell “definitely.” Note the spelling mistake in his message to Lisa and Corbett: “It’s definately high risk…”
- ‘H’ knew about the trackers in the goods at the depot, so must have some access to AC-12 intel
- ‘H’ has been working with this particular organised crime group for years, perhaps all the way back to when the gang was led by Tommy Hunter. ‘H’ has been revealed to be utterly ruthless and amoral, ordering murders and executions throughout the drama.
- Presumably, ‘H’ has gained financially from the balaclava gang’s lucrative crimes.
And so, with that in mind, we’ve pinned a big ‘H’ at the top of a virtual blue board – and put together our own collection of suspects…
Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar)
Let’s start with the most controversial candidate: AC-12’s beloved crusader against police corruption, Superintendent Ted Hastings.
Line of Duty creator and writer Jed Mercurio planted a seed of doubt about Adrian Dunbar’s character right at the end of series four, and from the opening of series five that seed has sprouted. Here’s what we know:
- When messaging John Corbett and Lisa McQueen, “UNKNOWN” (who we presume is ‘H’) spelled “definitely” with an “a”, writing that the Eastfield depot job was “definately high risk.” Then in episode four, Ted hijacked a conversation AC-12 were attempting to simulate between ‘H’ and the OCG via the same messaging system and took over typing duties, writing that he could “definately pull the right strings.” Does the spelling error indicate that ‘H’ and Hastings are the same person?
- In the same conversation, Hastings wrote “I need you to bring all this to a close.” This may have been a coded message to Lisa ordering her to murder Corbett, the undercover officer or “rat”. Corbett was duly – and brutally – slain.
- Originally, series five teased us with circumstantial evidence that could be explained away: Hastings’ laptop pinging with an instant message just after we saw Lisa and John Corbett (Stephen Graham) using IM to talk with ‘H’, and an unknown dialler calling Lisa’s mobile just as Hastings was ringing a number which didn’t pick up. But it’s harder to think of an innocent explanation for what happened in episode three, when a panicked-looking Hastings wrapped his laptop in bubble wrap and took it off to an electronic disposal centre straight after hearing that Corbett had made contact with Steve. Suspicious.
- Ted Hastings went off to visit balaclava gang member Lee Banks in prison, telling him in no uncertain terms: “Sit down, fella. This b***ard’s got a thing or two to say to you. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.” We don’t know what was said, but we do know that Hastings was driven to the interview by someone else.
- It was Hastings who insisted on raiding the OCG’s headquarters at Kingsgate Printing Shop, as well as the property where they kept girls for sex – interrupting Corbett’s undercover mission. It was also Hastings who ordered Kate and Steve to respond to the “status zero” in the middle of the depot raid, ignoring their warning that it could be a trap and diverting the armed officers away from the OCG. Did he deliberately allow the balaclava gang to get away with £50m of stolen goods?
- During the stand-off between Steve and Corbett, Hastings gave a “fahrenheit order” – instructing his police officer to shoot to kill. Steve disobeyed him, later disputing the lawfulness of the order; and Kate argued that it was “irregular.” Did Hastings just want Corbett dead by this point?
- Hastings seemed extremely nervous when Kate showed PC Jane Cafferty several photos of bent coppers and potential suspects – including Hastings’ photo – and asked her to identify the person who had recruited her. She ultimately singled out Dot Cottan, but is there a reason he was so jumpy?
Then, we have some broader suspicions about Ted Hastings which require further thought:
- Hastings is a Mason. Steve observed his boss doing the special secret handshake with retired cop Patrick Fairbank, later identified as a paedophile involved with a ring of sex abusers. Although it has not been suggested that he knew anything about Fairbank’s crimes, Hastings’ Masonic links raise a big question about his loyalties.
- It was DCC Hilton who first suggested that Hastings’ rank and surname made it possible he was ‘H’. Hilton then died from a gunshot wound to the head, and Hastings was suspiciously keen to label it “suicide” rather than murder. Why did Hastings pin all the blame on Hilton and ignore the fishy nature of his death?
- By the end of episode four, we start to wonder about Hastings’ history in Northern Ireland. Corbett’s torture of Roisin Hastings and the paramilitary-style punishment wounds, and the revelation that Corbett was born in Belfast and lost both his parents in the 1980s before being sent to Liverpool and adopted, hint at some connection between the two men; indeed, Mrs Hastings told her estranged husband: “He was from back home… he spoke with a Belfast accent. He said you’d know why he’d done it, he said you’d know what you’ve cost him.”
- We know that Hastings has been struggling financially since at least series two, after a property investment in Ireland went wrong. His wife left him, he lost his home, and now he’s stuck in a shabby hotel. We also know that the balaclava gang typically prey on coppers in need of cash; and the re-appearance of Mark Moffatt (Patrick Fitzsymons), a former DCI who acted as Roz Huntley’s Police Federation representative during her AC-12 interviews, was wildly suspicious from the start. Our fears were confirmed when Moffatt handed Hastings a large brown envelope full of £50 notes, but the real shock came with Hastings’ reaction: instead of immediately rejecting this blatant bribery or reporting it to his superiors, he drank a glass of whisky and stared at all that money. (And this is a man who is meant to be cleaner than clean!)
HOWEVER, we still have our doubts about the idea of Hastings as ‘H’. Here’s why…
- If Moffat is trying to recruit him as a bent cop and bribing him with thousands of pounds, surely that means Hastings isn’t the top dog – and that he isn’t already bent? And if he were ‘H’, surely he’d be able to pay his hotel bill and maybe even upgrade to a room with a functioning toilet flush?
- Hastings actually gives quite a lot of good reasons why Steve should have shot Corbett, who had pulled a gun on a police officer in a public place. Also, Corbett had just admitted to torturing his wife Roisin Hastings. There may have been nothing more sinister at play.
- Hastings may not have ordered Lisa McQueen to kill Corbett; she could have worked out his duplicity by herself.
So is Ted Hastings ‘H’? It’s hard to see how all this evidence could be explained away – but equally, there are still some things that just don’t quite fit. How will Jed Mercurio solve this riddle?
Les Hargreaves (Tony Pitts)
DCS Les Hargreaves made a brief return to Line of Duty for series five, only to be gunned to death by John Corbett (who was apparently only “aiming for his legs”) and sensationally revealed to be the corrupt senior officer in the balaclava at Eastfield Depot. So what do we know about Hargreaves, and how does he fit into this puzzle?
- Hargreaves’ surname began with H, and he held a senior position in the police force. He was never a big fan of AC-12, and at this point it’s 100% clear that he was a “bent copper”.
HOWEVER, by the end of episode four, it is increasingly clear that this man was NOT ‘H’. Semen deposits recovered from the freezer at the brothel, where they were kept by the OCG to blackmail police officers like Hargreaves, were analysed – and they only came from the last few months; as Kate said, “There’s no way he could have been H. H goes back much further.”
- A couple of comments from Lisa McQueen also suggest that Hargreaves was simply another cop recruited by the OCG, and that he didn’t even know where their headquarters were located: “We never told Hargreaves about the print shop, the leak came from somewhere else.”
- We do know that he was involved in organising the OCG’s raid on Eastfield Depot, getting the security guards on side and having PC Bloom call in a “status zero” report about a fake ambush nearby; we also know that he somehow got information about AC-12’s trackers placed on the valuable goods, which he passed on to the OCG.
- What we still don’t know for sure is whether Hargreaves was the ‘flat cap man’ who Lisa McQueen met at the gang’s brothel, perhaps in response to instructions from ‘H’ via instant messenger that told her “you know what to do.” It does seem likely that this was when she blackmailed Hargreaves into helping with the depot raid, but at the same time, he doesn’t 100% fit with Mariana’s description.
So, is Les Hargreaves ‘H’? It no longer seems possible that Hargreaves was ‘H’.
Derek Hilton (Paul Higgins)
After a multi-year AC-12 investigation, Hastings declared that slimy DCC Derek Hilton was ‘H’ and sent his team off to the pub to celebrate. So, was he right?
- As a Deputy Chief Constable whose surname began with H, Hilton was a prime suspect.
- Before his death, Hilton was shown to be involved with the balaclava gang and was one of the highest ranking police officers to be implicated. He made a call to have Steve killed by a balaclava man at Nick Huntley’s offices, and he blackmailed Maneet to get vital documents and files from AC-12.
- He was the one who suggested Dot Cottan – aka “The Caddy” – for a promotion. Cottan knew him personally from series one.
HOWEVER, Hilton is now dead and ‘H’ is still active. Does this mean Hilton isn’t our man? Or maybe he used to be ‘H’ and then another bent copper came along and took over the ‘H’ codename once Hilton was out of the picture, having him killed in a staged “suicide” on the jetty? Or was he always just a cog in a bigger machine?
So is Derek Hilton ‘H’? Definitely bent, but probably not ‘H’.
Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker)
Legal counsel Gill Biggeloe is not actually a police officer, let alone a senior police officer, and she seems to be more at the periphery of events rather than at the centre. But her behaviour in series five has been strange and, even if she’s unlikely to be ‘H’, we have some suspicions…
- Gill clearly still has the hots for Ted Hastings – but is her behaviour towards him motivated by more than her attraction to him, or by her frustration at his loyalty to his wife? First of all she urged him to retire before he damaged his reputation for ever, and now she is suddenly throwing her support behind him and vouching for his talents in front of DCC Wise. Perhaps she thinks he’s on the verge of being recruited to the network of bent coppers by Mark Moffatt, and will now be an asset rather than an obstacle for the OCG?
- The last time Gill appeared in Line of Duty, she was very keen for AC-12 not to catch too many bent coppers – pressuring Ted to drop prosecutions. Was this motivated by legal and PR concerns, or was she assigned to the anti-corruption team to stop them doing their job?
- She also gave Ted a piece of evidence from which key information had been removed, by none other than DI Matthew “Dot” Cottan – i.e. The Caddy. She said she had no idea it was doctored by the time she got her hands on it, but could she have been lying?
So is Gill Biggeloe ‘H’? Probably not, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she was working for somebody.
Alison Powell (Susan Vidler)
A newcomer to our suspects list is Alison Powell, the shifty boss of Operation Peartree – the undercover operation that has gone embarrassingly pear-shaped. Here’s what we know:
- Alison Powell, who is on first-name terms with Ted Hastings, was placed in charge of a mission to place undercover officer John Corbett inside an organised crime group. She kept this out of AC-12’s sight with a MOPI notice to block the files on the police database, and failed to report that Corbett had gone AWOL for months.
- So far she has been extremely reluctant to cooperate with AC-12, and key information is missing from files.
- Former covert operations manager Inspector Cameron told Kate and Steve that she’d been dismissed by Powell for apparently “mismanaging” Corbett, but according to her account, it was actually Powell who was mismanaging the whole operation: “John thought Peartree was showing signs of mission drift,” she said. “I agreed with him. Our brief was to identify high level links between organised crime and corrupt police officers. Instead, Powell was pushing us in the direction of low level targets.”
- Corbett believed he was on to the “top man” with the codename ‘H’ and planned to climb the ranks of the OCG to make contact with the “highest echelon of corrupt officers.” Powell vetoed that. Is she protecting ‘H’? Or could she be ‘H’ herself?
So is Alison Powell ‘H’? It seems possible that Powell is implicated in some way, but whether she is the top dog remains to be seen.
Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton)
Admittedly, series four’s guest lead Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton) is out of the game and serving ten years in prison; when arrested, she also exposed other members of the balaclava gang as a gesture of redemption, so it would be VERY weird if she turned out to be ‘H’. But there are a couple of reasons we’re still wondering how she fits into the puzzle:
- DCI Roz Huntley’s Police Federation rep during AC-12 interviews was DCI Mark Moffatt, who has now retired and started working in real estate investment. But it seems increasingly clear that Moffatt is involved in organised crime, and was probably a bent copper in his time; nowadays he spends his days hanging round Ted Hastings’ hotel, trying to get the AC-12 boss involved in a scheme to recover his money from the Kettle Bell Complex and giving him brown envelopes full of shiny new £50 notes. We’re curious about whether there is still any connection between Moffatt and Huntley.
- She was originally a key candidate for ‘H’ as she was a senior officer whose surname was Huntley.
So is Roz Huntley ‘H’? Probably not. But we’d love for her to make a reappearance, Lindsay Denton-style.
DCC Andrea Wise (Elizabeth Rider)
As a newcomer to Line of Duty, we haven’t seen much of DCC Andrea Wise yet. But she is a senior police officer in a position of power (even if her surname doesn’t begin with ‘H’) and we have to throw her into the mix.
So is Andrea Wise ‘H’? Probably not, but we’re keen to find out more about her.
At this point, ‘H’ could be anyone. Frankly, you could be ‘H’. And if none of these suspects quite fit the bill, perhaps we simply haven’t been introduced to the Big Bad yet?
Line of Duty continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1