Line of Duty, the acclaimed BBC procedural drama, first premiered back in 2012, going on to become one of the broadcaster’s best performing series.
But in eight years, viewers still haven’t got an answer to the show’s fundamental and nail-biting question – who is ‘H’?
The villainous and mysterious figure ‘H’ has long been AC-12’s number one target, the spider at the centre of a giant web of bent coppers and balaclava-clad criminals.
However, season five provided both the AC-12 team and viewers more questions than answers.
*SPOILERS for Line of Duty series 5 episode 6*
After an explosive Line of Duty series five finale, it now emerges that there are (or were) FOUR people working as ‘H’ – and we’ve only caught three of them. With a fourth to identify, we’ve rounded up the possible candidates – including (“Mother of God”), our beloved “fella” Ted Hastings…
What do we know about the final ‘H’?
- 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. At first, it was assumed this was the first letter of a surname (like Hastings, Hargreaves, Hilton or Huntley), but John Corbett’s old covert operations manager suggested it was a codename. Now, Dot’s dying declaration seems to bear this out.
- By using his left hand to tap out “dot dot dot dot” (‘H’) in Morse Code, Dot was apparently trying to tell Kate that there were four “Caddies”. We now know that three of these were Dot Cottan, Gill Biggeloe, and Derek Hilton. But who else?
We’ve pinned a big ‘H’ at the top of a virtual blue board – and put together our own collection of suspects from the Line of Duty cast.
Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar)
AC-12’s beloved crusader against police corruption, Superintendent Ted Hastings, has had a shocker in series five – and at one point, it even looked like he’d be going to jail as Carmichael built a solid case against him. Ultimately, his “best team” came to his rescue and presented new evidence, clearing his name. But some things are still unexplained. Could Hastings still be an ‘H’?
- Did Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) use his visit to Lee Banks at Blackthorn Prison to blow the cover of UCO John Corbett (Stephen Graham)? (“Sit down, fella. This b***ard’s got a thing or two to say to you. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.”) Lisa McQueen (Rochenda Sandall) said it was Lee who told her there was a rat in the OCG – and if Hastings didn’t tell him, how else did Lee suddenly know this? Like Carmichael, we’re still wondering if Hastings really did pass on information that led to Corbett’s murder. (HOWEVER, if he did, he may have been motivated by his personal hatred of Corbett for the assault on Roisin Hastings – without meaning that Hastings is an ‘H’. Or he could have been trying to get Corbett to take ‘refuge in a police station’ by blowing his cover and forcing him off the job.)
- When messaging John Corbett and Lisa McQueen, “UNKNOWN” (who we presume is ‘H’) spelled “definitely” with an “a”. Later, Ted hijacked a conversation AC-12 were attempting to simulate between ‘H’ and the OCG via the same messaging system, writing that he could “definately pull the right strings”. Does the spelling error indicate that ‘H’ and Hastings are the same person? During the interrogation, Hastings’ defence was pretty shaky: he said he’d consciously mimicked the mis-spelling, which is not a fully believable answer. It’s still possible that Hastings was the one communicating via that live-link with the OCG.
- We’re still doubtful about Ted Hastings’ real reasons for turning off his phone so he was un-trackable, wrapping his laptop in bubble wrap, and taxi-ing to an electronics disposal shop to get it professionally destroyed. Hastings’ eventual confession that he was “looking at pornography” doesn’t really stack up, especially as we’ve seen his laptop open in his hotel room with a line of text popping up – just like the messages ‘H’ used to communicate with the OCG. If the porn was “nothing illegal, nothing extreme”, why go to such lengths to destroy the entire machine unless there was something else incriminating on there?
- While using this messaging system and ‘pretending’ to be ‘H’, Hastings also repeatedly took matters into his own hands and ignored the suggestions of cybercrime expert Amanda (Rosa Escoda). He correctly guessed (or was it a guess?) that ‘H’ had never even known about the Palisade Shopping Centre meet-up (as it was a ruse from Lisa).
- He then went rogue with a new plan to go “undercover” as ‘H’ – a plan which contravened all regulations, and completely ignored the fact that AC-12 had been taken off the case earlier that day. He also seems to have hidden and kept £50k of the bribe money from Mark Moffatt (later giving at least some of it to widow Steph Corbett). What happened to the stickler-for-the-rules Hastings we knew and loved? Is there another side to Ted that we still haven’t really met?
- It was Hastings who told Steve to respond to the “status zero” in the middle of the depot raid, ignoring the 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?
- And when Ted met the OCG at the nightclub and was taken to the warehouse, what would have happened if Miroslav hadn’t accidentally left his (traceable) burner phone on? Carmichael’s accusation does actually make some sense: “The net was closing in, your identity was slowly being unmasked. You’d reunited with the OCG in order to share in the profits of the Eastfield robbery.”
So is Ted Hastings ‘H’? There are still some details that we’re puzzling over. Series five has exposed Hastings as a complicated fella with an intriguing backstory, and it’s possible he’s not as straight-laced as he’d like everyone to believe – but at this point, it seems doubtful he is an ‘H’ himself, given how hard Gill Biggeloe (Polly Walker) worked to bring him down and prevent his anti-corruption crusade.
He also is clearly not a rich man, and Mark Moffatt’s attempt to bribe him makes it clear that (at least as far as Moffatt knew) Hastings was not already top dog within this network of corrupt police officers.
Patricia Carmichael (Anna Maxwell Martin)
AC-3 boss DCS Patricia Carmichael was brought in to investigate Ted Hastings in series five, and was ruthlessly determined to prove he is ‘H’ – although, just when she thought she had won, her case completely fell apart. But was her desire to bring down Hastings motivated by something more sinister?
- Anna Maxwell Martin is a big enough name that she could easily return as guest lead for series six. Perhaps Jed Mercurio has introduced her at this point in the story so that she can be our final ‘H’?
- This Detective Chief Superintendent is a very senior police officer in charge of her own anti-corruption unit, so she’d be well-placed to get involved in organised crime.
- Carmichael was utterly determined to prove Hastings’ guilt – and, at times, seemed more focused on bringing him down than on finding the actual truth of the matter. Is she just ambitious? Or was she trying to make him the “fall guy” by pinning the title of ‘H’ over his head? Perhaps to cover her own tracks and, like Gill said, show he is a rotten apple?
- When DI Kate Fleming cautioned Gill and it became clear where things were going, it was Carmichael who says: “I think we need to take a step back, actually” – though this was ignored. She may have been trying to prevent AC-12 from uncovering the truth about Gill.
- HOWEVER, Gill and Carmichael did not seem to really know (or like) each other, and during the interrogation scenes they dod not seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
- But could it be Carmichael who ordered a member of her own team, PS Tina Tranter, to take Gill for a toilet break and then kill her? She was the one who accepted Tina’s offer to deal with Gill (while she went down in the lift with Hastings).
So is Carmichael ‘H’? She’d be well-placed, but there’s no conclusive evidence against her (yet).
PCC Rohan Sindwhani (Ace Bhatti)
Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindwhani was a new addition to Line of Duty for series five. He first entered the picture in episode two after asking to be “in on” a meeting between DCC Andrea Wise and Superintendent Ted Hastings, introducing himself to the AC-12 boss as they met for the first time – but despite his promises to fight police corruption, in reality he is happy to sweep things under the carpet. Why?
- On meeting Hastings for the first time, Sindwhani – who is one of the police’s few elected officials – announced: “You’ll know I was elected to shake things up… for too long, the extent of police corruption has been covered up for fear of losing public trust.” But with the guidance of his senior legal counsel Gill Biggeloe, Sindwhani was actually happy to collude in downplaying the impact of “bent coppers” and protecting the reputation of the force. He was relieved when Gill told him: “Fortunately it will all be covered by our application for public interest immunity. Nothing need ever come out.” While he did say: “Unless Carmichael proves a link between Hastings and organised crime. We’d have to go public with that,” he was clearly happy to be dissuaded.
- Despite the mess that was Operation Pear Tree and the revelations about Gill Biggeloe, PS Tina Tranter, and a whole network of corrupt cops, Sindwhani gave the following public statement: “The Deputy Chief Constable and I are pleased to report Operation Pear Tree has completed a thorough investigation into institutionalised complicity between organised criminals and corrupt police officers. Its robust findings couldn’t be clearer. There is no institutionalised corruption in this police force.” This was entirely in bad faith.
- HOWEVER, Sindwhani seemed mainly to have been guided by Gill and used as a pawn in her game. She was calling the shots, making decisions on his behalf, and stepping in to choose John Corbett as Operation Pear Tree’s UCO because “The PCC required assurances that Operation Pear Tree was legally watertight.” Gill did not treat him like a fellow ‘H’.
So is Rohan Sindwhani ‘H’? Probably not – but his attitude towards police corruption is one of the reasons bent coppers have been able to prosper within Central Police.
DCC Andrea Wise (Elizabeth Rider)
Detective Chief Constable Andrea Wise has been another newcomer for series five, and her position of power within the police would certainly make her well-placed to be an ‘H’.
- Throughout the series, DCC Wise has been reluctant to support AC-12’s investigations, and only gave them access to Operation Pear Tree after Rohan Sindwhani (with Gill Biggeloe’s encouragement) asked her to take a “pragmatic approach” to Ted Hastings’ request. Later, she was the one to remove AC-12 from the investigation into Operation Pear Tree (perhaps to avoid them getting close to the truth?). She also ordered a separate inquiry into Hastings (perhaps in a bid to frame him as ‘H’?).
- It was DCC Wise who called an end to investigations, telling DCS Patricia Carmichael: “It’s a dead end, Patricia, close the case. You had a bent officer on your team. Glass houses.”
- Like Sindwhani, DCC Wise seemed extremely keen to sweep police corruption under the rug, and paint the issue as a few isolated examples rather than a institutional problem. In a public statement at the end of the final episode, she said: “This constabulary will work tirelessly to root out rotten apples in its ranks.”
- If she sits on top of a network of bent coppers, DCC Wise could have been the one to order PS Tina Tranter to kill Gill Biggeloe.
- HOWEVER, she may also have simply been a useful player in Gill’s game, rather than working hand-in-hand with her to bring down Ted Hastings and frame him as ‘H’.
So is Andrea Wise ‘H’? Possibly – but DCC Wise might just be averse to bad publicity.
If none of these suspects quite fit the bill, perhaps we simply haven’t been introduced to the final ‘H’ yet? With series six of Line of Duty still to come, Jed Mercurio may be planning to bring in a brand-new guest star to who will turn out to be that fourth ‘H’.
It’s all to play for.
Line of Duty season six will return to the BBC. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.