True-crime drama The Long Shadow brings a new perspective on the Yorkshire Ripper

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Monday: The Long Shadow (ITV1, 9pm)

As a society, we are obsessed with true crime. But there is one case that continues to capture the nation’s imagination, arguably above all others.

Between 1975 to 1980, Peter Sutcliffe, commonly referred to as the Yorkshire Ripper, killed 13 women, usually hitting them on the head, brutally stabbing them and often removing their clothes.

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During their investigation into the murders, the police made mistake after mistake as they chased the killer, interviewing Sutcliffe nine times over five years.

Emily JacksonEmily Jackson
Emily Jackson

This desperate cat-and-mouse hunt for the serial killer has been chronicled no end of times in print and on the screen.

But now ITV are airing a meticulously researched true-crime drama which promises bring to a new perspective to the well-documented story.

Based on Michael Bilton’s critically acclaimed account of the case, Wicked Beyond Belief, The Long Shadow places the victims, their families, survivors and police officers at the heart of the story, rather than fixating on the graphic murders and glorifying Sutcliffe’s violence.

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Written by award-winning screenwriter George Kay and directed by Sherwood and Des’s Lewis Arnold, the seven-parter has a superb ensemble cast including Toby Jones, David Morrissey, Lee Ingleby, Katherine Kelly, Daniel Mays and Jill Halfpenny.

Writer Kay, whose previous work includes Hijack and Criminal: UK, says: “The case of Peter Sutcliffe – never before fully dramatised on television – is a story about far more than a murderer and his unprecedented number of victims. Its legacy and its effects, which changed British policing forever, are much more far-reaching.

“There are the victims, whose lives were ended; the surviving victims whose testimonies were never believed; and the victims’ families, whose lives were ruined by the loss of their mothers, sisters and daughters.

“And then there are the detectives. While old-fashioned, unpalatable, misogynist attitudes were ever-present and contributed to the many missteps that drove the flawed investigation, not all were the blinkered misogynists that many might believe them to be.”

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In tonight’s first episode, Wilma McCann’s four young children wake up to find their mother missing.

After her body is discovered not far from her house, DCS Dennis Hoban (Jones) takes charge of the investigation.

Conscious that young women, of what the police would term ‘loose morals’, do not often inspire public sympathy, Hoban directs media attention onto her role as a mother, and on her children who have been taken into care.

Meanwhile, across Leeds, Emily (Katherine Kelly) and Sydney Jackson’s (Daniel Mays) marriage is faltering in the face of financial hardship.

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With Christmas looming, she is desperate to scrape together some money, and when a man mistakes her for a sex worker in a pub, she sees no other way to keep the family afloat.

As Hoban continues to be frustrated in his efforts to find Wilma’s murderer, Emily tentatively begins sex work on Spencer Place.

While an arrest is made, Emily gets into an unknown car that drives off into the night.

This drama is a reminder while one murder has the power to cast a long shadow, the infamous case of the Yorkshire Ripper plunged a whole society into darkness.

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