Manhunt writer Ed Whitmore has said reading through victim accounts whilst penning the upcoming second series was a “very distressing” experience.
Series two of Manhunt, which arrives on ITV later this year, will see Martin Clunes reprise the role as real-life detective Colin Sutton as he tracks down a notorious serial rapist who terrorised east London over 17 years.
Speaking at a Q&A for the show’s second series, Whitmore said he found dealing with source material from the real-life case “very distressing”.
“When you read victim account after victim account and, at a certain point, you just have to put it down because the terrible thing is that so many lives of these elderly victims ended in the most awful circumstances.
“Although technically he wasn’t a murderer, there’s no doubt that he hastened their ends in what he did and there’s no sort of redemption there. Many of the victims died before he was apprehended.
“So the awfulness of that I found particularly hard to bear [was] the injustice of it and just the sort of extraordinary fact that he was offended so, so regularly – not exactly the same streets, but he would reappear in the same streets and they just couldn’t catch him.”
He added that, with the police force’s frustration at being unable to catch him at the time in mind, reading account after account “definitely has an effect on you”.
“That ultimate realisation that, for many of the victims, there was no silver lining, they died before he was apprehended – I found that particularly affecting.”
Sutton, who worked with the team behind Manhunt and is played by Clunes in the series, added that he found re-living the case through the show “emotional” and that one particular scene is “still at the front of [his] mind” to this day.
“I found it emotional in the same places where it was emotional when it happened for real and happened the first time, which is probably testament to the scripts and to the acting, I suppose.
“I think these stories need to be told. I think there’s a great good that’s done by telling these stories and in some ways that’s to reassure, to show people that even when these wicked people do these really wicked things, there are still good people who can do something about it.
“There are police officers and there are lawyers and the whole system, if you like, can still work. And I think, because there are many that like to take the opposite point of view to that, it’s good for us to be able to highlight and showcase those occasions where the system has worked – where ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs have succeeded in keeping people safe.
“You have to have thick skin to do the job that I did for so long, but very occasionally there are some things that do pierce that and stay with you. And in one or two occasions in this case, the scene will stand out to people as the one that is still at the front of my mind every time that I think about this case.”
The first series of Manhunt followed DCI Sutton as he investigated the murders of French student Amelie Delagrange, which was later linked to the deaths of Marsha McDonnell and Milly Dowler.