ITV drama Innocent season two presents us with another cold case whodunnit, after our protagonist Sally Wright (Katherine Kelly) is released from prison.
Former teacher Sally has spent the past five years behind bars for a murder she did not commit. She was wrongfully convicted of killing a schoolboy, Matty Taylor, whom she allegedly had a sexual relationship with.
Now she’s back in her hometown of Keswick (filmed around the Lake District – learn more about the Innocent filming locations) and determined to reclaim her old life (including winning back her ex-husband, Sam, who divorced her two years into her sentence).
But if Sally is innocent of murder, then a vital question remains for lead detective DI Mike Braithwaite (Shaun Dooley in the Innocent cast): who killed Matty Taylor?
Matty was a charismatic schoolboy and theatre lover in his late teens, and was killed with a broken bottle. The choice of weapon suggests that this was a crime of passion – but if so, who had reason to be angry with Matty? Or are we looking for a cold-blooded killer?
We’re now over halfway through Innocent season two, and the latest episode revealed that Matty had experienced a turbulent time in the run-up to his death, resulting in him lashing out and bullying none other than Sam’s future stepdaughter.
Let’s run through all the suspects and theories.
**Warning: spoilers below**
Sally Wright: the teacher
Viewers know that Katherine Kelly’s character is not guilty from the start. However, while former English teacher Sally Wright is definitely not guilty of murdering her late pupil, Matty Taylor, it’s clear that they had a close bond. Could she have had a relationship with him after all? Just because she didn’t kill him outright doesn’t mean she didn’t have a hand in his death somehow.
Anna Stamp has since confessed that she fabricated the alleged kiss between Sally and Matty Taylor, meaning Sally is looking less and less guilty of anything inappropriate. But it would hardly be the first murder mystery drama that’s pulled the rug out from under our feet.
Sam Wright: the ex-husband
Sam seems like he was the perfect husband to Sally (at least until he dumped her two years into her prison sentence). But could he have heard the rumours about his then-wife and pupil Matty Taylor, as DI Mike Braithwaite suspects? Might he have confronted the teenager, and things got out of hand?
The fact that he rushes to the police station straight after learning about his fiancée Karen’s confrontation with Matty (just hours before the schoolboy’s death) might suggest he himself has something to hide, and he’s keen to pin the blame on anyone but himself.
Back in episode one, Karen ominously told him that she would forgive him of “anything,” but what could she need to forgive? Does she know something about her soon-to-be husband that the police don’t (yet)?
Karen: the jealous fiancée
Karen is deeply insecure that her new fiancé Sam Wright will leave her for his ex-wife, Sally, and it’s clear that she’s not going down without a fight, even sneaking into Sally’s house at nighttime and slapping her in the face.
It might seem far-fetched that Karen would frame her rival Sally for murder, but it’s also clear that she’s borderline obsessed with Sam. Sally even found old photographs of Karen jealously looking on at the then-happily married Wrights. When Karen told Sam that she would forgive him “anything,” was it really her that was looking for forgiveness?
What’s potentially even more damning is the connection between Matty Taylor and Karen’s own daughter, Bethany.
In episode three, Sally discovers that Bethany was a victim of bullying at the hands of none other than Matty Taylor, and putting two and two together, DI Mike Braithwaite learns that the incident led to Beth’s hospitalisation for a suspected overdose.
When Sam privately questions Karen, she reveals that she angrily confronted Matty in the street just an hour before he died. But did it lead to a more violent exchange later on?
John Taylor: the aggressive dad
Matty’s father John Taylor has come across as aggressive and plain nasty right from the start of the series, even spying on Sally when she was relaxing at her friend’s home.
This could all be chalked up to grief, but the revelation that John is infertile – and not Matty’s biological father – could hint at a darker motivation behind his dogged insistence that Sally is the murderer. Yes, he’s angry and embarrassed that his infertility has become public knowledge, but could he have taken out his frustrations on Matty?
At the police station in episode three, he reveals that he blames himself for Matty’s death (even though he claims not to have laid a finger on him), but following the collapse of his alibi, was his emotion all for show?
Anna Stamp: the obsessive ex-girlfriend
Anna Stamp was the witness who alleged that she saw Matty Taylor and Sally Wright kissing shortly before his death. Her witness statement was key to Sally’s original conviction five years ago – but DI Mike Braithwaite has since discovered that Anna made it up.
Five years ago, Anna briefly dated Matty Taylor when they were at school together, and did everything in her power to remain close to him after he broke things off. She unsuccessfully auditioned for the school play he starred in, which may have triggered her growing resentment and suspicion towards the teacher who cast it: Sally Wright.
Anna eventually carved Matty’s name into her chest (which her present-day boyfriend spotted, before tipping off the police). When her house is searched, police find she has a box filled with memorabilia hidden under her bed. DI Braithwaite is now looking to charge Anna with giving perjured evidence in a court of law – but could she be guilty of something even worse?
It’s not looking likely anymore, as she has an alibi for the day of Matty Taylor’s murder, but it’s not beyond imagining.