Who killed Hayley Reid in Unforgotten series three? The human remains under the central reservation of the M1 motorway belong to a teenager who disappeared on New Year’s Eve at the turn of the Millennium – and DCI Cassie Stewart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) are on a mission to bring her killer to justice.
But as they re-open this cold case, it becomes clear that the original investigation missed some vital clues. It seems Hayley’s disappearance could be connected to a group of four men and their families who were staying in a rental home nearby.
One vital clue was missed in the original investigation: it turns out that Hayley visited the group’s holiday home for a cleaning job shortly before she disappeared. And Hayley vanished in her seaside town and turned up 18 years later near London – so was the person who murdered her actually a visitor to the area?
Let’s take a closer look at the evidence against each of our suspects…
Homeless artist Chris Lowe
Chris Lowe (played by James Fleet) has had a tricky few years with mental health issues, and he is now living in a minivan with his dog and trying to make a go of it as a painter. Initially he was the most likeable of all the suspects as we followed his romance with a Syrian refugee – but is there a darker side to him?
According to James’ first wife Mel, who was staying in the house that night, Chris ran out of the house that evening in the middle of a massive mental health breakdown made worse by drugs and alcohol. He came back two hours later covered in mud and went straight to bed, but she has no idea where he went.
Chris has finally admitted to his absence from the house that night, but says he was in a state of such distress that he has no memory of where he went other than that he walked a lot.
If Chris obtained any drugs locally, did he use the same drug dealer as Hayley did on her way to the New Year’s Eve party, and if so could that be a connection?
Startlingly, his estranged daughter told Sunny that the reason his first marriage (and whole life) fell apart all those years ago, and the reason she has kept well away from her father, is that he was accused of paying for child pornography on his credit card. Is Chris actually a paedophile – and could that have something to do with the teenager’s disappearance?
BUT there’s evidence in his favour. Chris says he never bought the child porn, and actually couldn’t have been guilty because he was out of the country when the purchase was made from his company computer.
Even better, the police dropped the investigation and now admit he should never have been charged in the first place. He was granted a record deletion, which is why Cassie and Sunny are only finding out about this now.
Useless salesman Pete Carr
Right, so Pete Carr (Neil Morrissey) is now dead after being stabbed by a vigilante – but he could still be our murderer, even if that would be a little unsatisfying as an ending. Still…
We know that dad-of-two Pete Carr did a number of unethical and illegal things when he felt backed into a corner. We saw him rob £3,000 from a vulnerable pensioner by selling him an ISA and then cashing the cheque to his own bank account. There was a nasty side to Pete which made him a plausible murderer, although he was perhaps too inept to be a criminal mastermind.
His police record in Hong Kong revealed that he’d been jailed for draining the funds from a disabled charity.
The DNA sample he (reluctantly) gave connected him to a break-in and robbery at a church in Middenham that night, which definitely means he had left the house on the evening Hayley was murdered nearby. Are the two events related?
In his favour: the church was nowhere near Hayley’s most likely route through town, and in terms of the Hayley Reid case is that all his crimes were financial, not violent.
Pete was the only one to admit he recognised Hayley as the cleaner who came to the holiday rental a couple of days before her death, because he was home alone with a hangover. He claimed that he never mentioned this encounter to the police because he never heard about her disappearance – which seems unlikely with such a high-profile case that was in all the papers. Why didn’t he come forward?
Dr Tim Finch
Dr Tim Finch (Alex Jennings) has now been formally accused of the murder of Hayley Reid and hauled in to the police station – so is he guilty?
In terms of his character, the daughter of an elderly dementia patient recently accused him of verbal abusing her mum. He’s been cleared, but could there be any truth in her allegations?
James’ first wife Mel says he left the house after Chris’ breakdown, meaning he was in town at the same time as Hayley disappeared. That’s something he lied about to the police, although his explanation is that he was trying to protect his famous friend James Hollis’ reputation.
Tim’s ex-wife says he was mentally and physically abusive during their marriage, presenting the police with photographic evidence of her bruises – although her face is obscured, leaving room for reasonable doubt.
One of his daughters is adamant in his defence when Sunny and Cassie get them together for a chat, but the other one seems hesitant. Does she remember something about that night? And does she believe her father is capable of having beaten her mother?
Damningly, Tim picked up a speeding offence on 3rd January 2000 at 6.20am, the day after he got back to London – perhaps an indicator that he had a dead body in his boot and wanted to dispose of it in a hurry. He had just left Middenham.
Tim claims he returned to the holiday rental to pick up a laptop he’d left behind and had been in a hurry to get back for work – but if that’s true, why not mention it before? And why had the lettings agency not mentioned this to the police either?
After his arrest, his house was searched – and police found some damning evidence. In a box in his cellar was a pair of knickers, a crucifix necklace with hair in the clasp, and a scrunchie.
Quiz show host James Hollis
James Hollis (Kevin McNally) was set up to look pretty guilty from the start, although he could be our red herring. Now it seems there’s more to his story…
He had an extreme emotional reaction after hearing that Hayley’s body has been found. Panicky and distracted, he took a break from filming to call his troubled son Elliott. (There was no response.)
When the police came to the door, James didn’t seem entirely blindsided. He refused to speak to Cassie and Sunny without his lawyer present, lied to his wife about who was at the door, then immediately locked himself away to make a call: “Ells, it’s Dad again. It’s happened sweetheart. They’ve come. The police. About her.”
His first wife Mel says he left the house that night despite his claims he stayed at home, meaning he was in town at the same time as Hayley disappeared.
He owned the same make and model of the car (with the trailer attachment) as was seen in town at the time of Hayley’s murder, which police believe could be connected.
BUT James now has a plausible story about why he has been lying, and it relates to his son Elliott…
Did Elliott kill Hayley?
Although the four men are initially implicated, as the series goes on, evidence has emerged against Elliott. But now things aren’t so clear.
As Pete told Tim just before he was stabbed, he’d seen Elliott climbing back in his bedroom window around 2am – so he was also out in Middenham that night. At the time of the murder, Elliott was a rebellious teen with a criminal record and a history of stealing his father’s car, and that’s what he did again that night.
In episode five, James admits to the police that, for 18 years, he believed his son Elliott (who was at the time just shy of his 16th birthday) had accidentally run Hayley over while drunk driving that night, and that her body had been washed into the nearby flooded river. Elliott himself had told James that he’d hit a deer.
When her body turned up in London instead, James worried that Elliott had been more calculating: had he driven back up to Middenham to collect the body a few days later?
But now Elliott has pointed out that he has an alibi for the few days after Hayley’s disappearance: he was on a school ski trip in Switzerland.
So unless somebody else disposed of the body, it’s pretty unlikely that the “deer” Elliott hit was Hayley. And the route that police now believe the teen took to her New Year’s Eve party did not take her near where Elliott was spotted driving erratically
Did several people conspire to kill Hayley?
Given that each of them had a reaction to discovering that Hayley’s remains had been found, it has to be a possibility that one or more of the men were involved in Hayley’s death.
Hayley visited the house where all four men were staying for a cleaning job a couple of days before she died. Did she meet them all then? What happened? And could it have taken more than one person to transport and dispose of the body so cleverly?
Also: the four men are initially set up as suspects – but is this a massive red herring? Cassie and Sunny have so far entirely discounted the other people staying in the house, but it’s entirely plausible that Chris, James or Pete’s wife could be involved in the murder in some way.
We’ll find out the truth next week…
Unforgotten season three airs on Sundays at 10/9c on PBS Masterpiece