We don’t witness any attacks in Manhunt II: The Night Stalker, ITV’s fact-based drama about the serial rapist and burglar also known as the Minstead Rapist. But sensitive insights into the trauma experienced by the attacker’s victims – all elderly women – have an upsetting and powerful impact, on both the viewer and on Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, played by Martin Clunes for the second time.
The drama is a sequel to Manhunt, which aired back in 2019, and this latest follow-up (based again on the real-life Sutton’s accounts of his time in the London Met Police) picks up with Colin following his success at catching high-profile murderer Levi Bellfield.
At the beginning of episode one, Colin is asked to carry out a review on a lengthy enquiry, Operation Minstead, described by one colleague as a “black hole”. He’s there to shadow the investigating team, offering a fresh perspective – and puncturing a few egos along the way.
The long-running police investigation has so far failed to catch “the Night Stalker”, a man who targets, burgles, and sexually assaults older women, between the ages of 68 and 93, in south east London. He’s been active since 1992, almost two decades before our drama picks up.
Early on, one concerned colleague suggests that Colin has been handed a “poisoned chalice” in Operation Minstead. “I don’t think you take a scalp like Bellfield’s without making a few enemies,” the colleague warns.
Whatever the case, it’s clear that Sutton is going to ruffle some feathers, no matter how tactfully he inserts himself into the investigation. Armed with a clipboard, he’s tasked with making notes and offering suggestions. He gets a frosty welcome, and the more insight he offers, the frostier it gets.
On his first day on the job, a crime (suspected to have been committed by the Night Stalker) is committed, and Colin must argue his case to visit the crime scene.
Given a gloomy storage space as an office, he begins compiling his case notes – despite his colleague’s warnings to not get too involved. He watches back police interviews with the victims, his emotions clear. As his wife Louise (Claudie Blakley ), a police analyst, correctly surmises, Colin won’t be able to rest until he’s thrown his hat in the ring and offered his assistance to solve the Night Stalker case – poisoned chalice or not.
The format – following an old-fashioned copper who offers a fresh pair of eyes on a case – feels similar the to the recent Stephen Lawrence drama, Stephen (also an ITV series), starring Steve Coogan. It’s familiar ground, but no less addictive for it. By the end of episode one, Colin has identified the holes in the investigation. He’s hooked – and so are we.
Manhunt will return on Monday 20th September at 9pm on ITV. The four-part drama will be stripped across the week, continuing in the 9pm slot on Tuesday 21st, Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd.
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