Adapted from Rebecca Godfrey’s 2005 true-crime book of the same name, new Hulu series Under the Bridge dramatises the death of 14-year-old Reena Virk and the investigation that followed.

Advertisement

On the evening of 14th November, 1997, Reena went to join friends at a party in Saanich, a suburb of Victoria, British Columbia, and never returned home. She was later found dead.

The series unfolds from the perspectives of police officer Cam Bentland (Lily Gladstone) and Godfrey (Riley Keough), a journalist who grew up in Victoria and was working on a novel about teenage girls in her hometown at the time of the incident.

Having aired earlier this year on Hulu in the US, the series is now available to stream for UK viewers on Disney Plus. With such sensitive subject matter, viewers will naturally be wondering what real events inspired the series and what actually happened to Virk (who is played by Vritika Gupta in the series) in real life.

Read on for everything you need to know about the true story behind Under the Bridge on Disney Plus.

More like this

Under the Bridge true story: What happened to Reena Virk?

Vritika Gupta as Reena in Under the Bridge
Vritika Gupta as Reena in Under the Bridge. Bettina Strauss/Hulu

Reena Virk was a 14-year-old girl living in Saanich, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, in 1997. She was the daughter of an Indian immigrant father, Manjit, and an Indo-Canadian mother, Suman, and the family were Jehovah's Witnesses.

Virk had struggled with bullying all her life and wanted to fit in, eventually becoming drawn to a group of outsiders who she found smoking in a park.

In order to fit in, she reportedly started smoking cannabis and cigarettes, while also listening to East Coast hip hop, painting her nails blue and changing her clothes.

Virk also started to argue with her parents and, at one time, ran away from home. In 1996, she accused her father of physical, sexual and mental abuse and was placed into foster care, but she later withdrew the allegation and, after her death, a report said that social workers had not investigated the veracity of her claim thoroughly enough before moving her.

Just before her death, Virk's new friends accused her of spreading rumours and stealing someone’s boyfriend. Then, on 14th November, she was invited to join them at a local field for a party. A large group attended, but at one point a smaller group moved to another spot, with Virk going with them.

Riley Keough as Rebecca and Lily Gladstone as Cam on the poster for Under the Bridge, stood next to each other
Riley Keough as Rebecca and Lily Gladstone as Cam in Under the Bridge. Hulu

Eight teenagers took part in the attack, which started when one of them tried to stub out a cigarette on her forehead. When she tried to run away, some of them surrounded her.

They then brutally attacked her, with one trying to set her hair on fire, another smashing her head into a tree, and a number of them kicking her in the head and body multiple times.

At some point, most of the teenagers left, but as Virk stumbled home, she was attacked for a second time, at which point she fell unconscious. The pathologist later said she would have likely died from these injuries, but several of the killers also dragged her to the river and drowned her in it.

It took a week for the police to locate her body, but they eventually found her submerged in the river.

They quickly started questioning the teenagers, who accused one another. Virk's jacket, covered in saltwater stains, was found in one of their closets. Eventually the only male involved in the killing, Warren Glowatski, confessed, while six of the girls later pleaded guilty to assault.

In total, it took over 12 years for the legal processes to complete, due to complexities surrounding the perpetrators ages, who were all aged between 14 and 16.

Who killed Reena Virk?

The main two perpetrators, Glowatski and Kelly Ellard, were charged as adults due to the severity of the crimes.

In 1998, six of the girls were given sentences ranging from 60 day conditional sentences to one year in jail.

What happened to Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski?

The next year, Glowatski was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after seven years. He was released from prison on full parole in 2010.

In 2000 Ellard was also found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after five years.

In 2004, Ellard received a retrial due to issues with questioning in the initial trial, and no agreement was reached. In 2005, a third trial was held, and she was again convicted of second-degree murder, and given a life sentence with the possibility of parole after seven years.

Ellard appealed her conviction in 2006, but in 2009, her murder conviction was re-instated.

Ellard was granted conditional day parole in November 2017.

Are the other characters in Under the Bridge based on real people?

Riley Keough as Rebecca in Under the Bridge, wearing a long, black coat
Riley Keough as Rebecca in Under the Bridge. Darko Sikman/Hulu

Riley Keough's character in Under the Bridge is based on a real person.

Keough plays a version of Rebecca Godfrey, the real-life journalist and writer who investigated the case and wrote a book on it, which was published in 2005.

The book, Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk, formed a large part of the basis of the Hulu/Disney Plus series.

Meanwhile, Gladstone's character Cam, a local police officer investigating the case, is not based on a specific real-life individual.

Instead, Cam represents the many officers and detectives who worked on the case in order to find the guilty party and get justice for Reena.

Under the Bridge is available to stream in full now on Disney Plus. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now.

Advertisement

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement