A star rating of 3 out of 5.

New crime drama The Hunt for Raoul Moat airs across three consecutive nights on ITV1 and promises to be edge-of-your-seat viewing for everyone watching.


Whether your memory of the manhunt that this new drama is based on is vivid or lesser known, as is the way of many primetime ITV dramas, this one will grip you throughout its three episodes.

But in this case – and the case of similar true crime dramas – that's a little besides the point. Instead, this drama sets out to re-configure the memory of the case in the public's eyes by giving insight from the side of those who sought to bring Moat to justice.

At the time of the Raoul Moat manhunt, the ever-turning cogs of social media had a profound impact on the public perception of the criminal. Facebook groups were launched in support of Moat, people stated that they'd open up their doors to the fugitive, and many took to social media to blame the victims.

Of course now, with the fact that social media is something so many of us use almost every day, the drama provides an ever more pressing spotlight on the dark, insidious side of it that continues to platform alarming, dangerous and deadly misogynistic views.

It's this kind of shocking viewpoint that we're first confronted with in the opening scenes of The Hunt for Raoul Moat when a mother and her two sons are interviewed by a reporter, claiming that Moat is a "hero".

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We're then transported to one year earlier in June 2010 and for the first portion of the premiere episode, we see the love story between Samantha Stobbart and Christopher Brown unfold, from their meeting to their first dates.

But it's not long before Moat is mentioned and his incessant calls to Samantha anger her so much, she takes to seeing him in prison to tell him to leave her alone. In the tense meeting, she reveals she's moved on but Moat leans in dangerously close to her and shouts in her face, demanding to know who her new love interest is.

His manipulative tactics are already well displayed by Matt Stokoe, as he tells the prison officer that they're just "passionate", making excuses for his aggression and not allowing Samantha to leave or speak.

When pressed for something to stop him from attacking Chris, Samantha tells Moat that Chris is a policeman, hoping that "perhaps you'll leave us be now". We know what's to come in this case and the drama sticks close to reality, chronicling the events of that fateful night when Moat shot and killed Chris Brown at close range, then shot Samantha through her friend's living room window.

We follow his rampage in the three episodes through the eyes of those who are trying to take him down, Neil Adamson (played by Lee Ingleby) and local journalist Diane Barnwell (played by Sonya Cassidy). Adamson is based on the real-life Northumbria police detective when Moat went on the run, as well as being an amalgamation of other officers' experiences.

Barnwell is also a composite figure, representing the press and media landscape at the time and somehow being the only morally conscious person who thinks against platforming Moat's harmful rhetoric in her local newspaper. Both roles are played brilliantly by Cassidy and Ingleby, who also display the kind of fear and growing confusion at the public's reception to Moat.

Diane Barnwell standing on a residential road with a lanyard around her neck

Something we do get to see through the eyes of this drama is what happened behind-the-scenes of this event, if you will. The first episode shows the avoidable mishap of logged reports about Moat's threatening behaviour being missed at multiple junctures.

First, the prison officer's security information report is placed on a pile, and we then see how on 2nd July, the report still hasn't been flagged as immediate and is only then actioned. But then, when the urgent email comes through to Northumbria Police HQ, it's the end of the working day and officers have gone home. You can't help but feel a pit start to form in your stomach as you watch Samantha and Chris go out on a date, unknowing of what Moat is planning elsewhere.

The sense of impending doom is unavoidable when watching a series like this but while this three-parter seeks to focus on the victims of Moat's crimes, the general feeling of the drama is largely still revolved around Moat. And it's hard not to be when the show is titled after him and we follow his rampage around the North East.

We do follow the officers and the press, though, and get heartfelt glimpses of Brown's mother and sister as they struggle to comprehend what's happened to their son. Similarly, we see how Samantha is having to reckon with what has been done to her and the impact of her previous coercive controlling relationship.

These are all incredibly touching moments, but as is the case with true crime dramas, while the intentions of those involved may be to platform victims' stories, people often tune in for the macabre and the background information on the criminal, and it's a very hard balance to strike, as The Hunt for Raoul Moat proves.

There's no denying that this series is once again an example of how ITV continues to pull off heart-racing true crime dramas, but it never truly breaks out of the shadow of the killer.

You'll undoubtedly finish watching the drama infuriated by the public rhetoric around Moat and the hurdles that both Adamson and Barnwell have to face in order to apprehend Moat and to publicise the true story behind the fanfare.

You can only hope that a case that drummed up so much attention as this one is re-established in people's minds through this drama as more than just about Moat. Instead, hopefully people can understand Samantha, Chris and PC David Rathband's story a little more, even if they're not always given the main limelight in this series.

The Hunt for Raoul Moat airs on ITV1. For more news, interviews and features, visit our Drama hub or find something to watch now with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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