From series chronicling the actions of notorious male serial killers to stories told through the perspectives of male detectives and police officers, all too often, women only make an appearance in true crime when they’re the victims of male violence.
It’s this fact that makes the female viewpoint at the centre of Channel 4’s new true crime drama Deceit so refreshing.
Although the series still chronicles the events surrounding a young woman’s murder – the devastating 1992 killing of Rachel Nickell – it tells the story from the perspective of the undercover female officer who took part in the controversial ‘honeytrap’ at the heart of the investigation. And it’s coming this Friday, so you don’t have long to wait until it hits screens.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new series.
What is Deceit about?
Centred around the real-life police investigation into the 1992 killing of Rachel Nickell, Deceit tells the story of the female undercover officer (codename ‘Lizzie James’) who was asked to become sexual bait in order to obtain information from Nickell’s suspected killer, Colin Stagg.
Against the backdrop of second-wave feminism and “the complicated and toxic sexual politics of the early 90s”, the series follows Lizzie as she embarks on her mission to try and ‘trap’ Stagg – who was first identified by a Crimewatch phone-in – and get the evidence the police need to convict him.
As the show’s official synopsis reads: “With access to previously unheard audio, video and written materials, Deceit includes scenes of verbatim dialogue as part of a fictionalised retelling of events, taking viewers behind the scenes of one of the UK’s most flawed and controversial police investigations.”
Who stars in Deceit?
Niamh Algar (The Virtues) stars as Lizzie, while Sion Daniel Young (Keeping Faith) plays Colin Stagg.
Other prominent cast members include Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty) who plays Lizzie’s friend and colleague Lucy; Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) who plays the young Detective Inspector in charge of the case, Keith Pedder; Eddie Marsan (The Pact) who plays the famous criminal profiler Paul Britton; and Nathaniel Martello-White (I Hate Suzie) who plays Lizzie’s confidant, Baz.
Is there a trailer for Deceit?
Yes! And you can watch the full clip below:
In the trailer, we see the police identify Stagg as a potential suspect and ask Lizzie to go undercover to get them the information they need to convict him.
“You must be Colin,” she can be heard saying, as she meets Stagg in a park.
What has been said about Deceit?
Writing about creating the series in an exclusive column for Radio Times, the series’ writer Emilia di Girolamo said the lack of women’s perspectives in British crime dramas was something she wanted to address in Deceit.
“With factual crime stories becoming increasingly popular, I’ve felt for a while that other than as victims, one perspective seems to be missing from the majority of British true crime dramas: women’s perspectives,” she wrote. “I knew from the start that was something I wanted to redress.”
She continued: “For me, taking a feminist perspective on crime means finding alternative, less familiar, female-focused access points and exploring how women specifically are affected, which is why I chose to focus on Lizzie James.
“Looking at the case through a modern-day prism and knowing that the real Lizzie James is protected by a lifetime anonymity order, it feels important to ask questions about how she was treated, what it was like to work in a male-dominated, hierarchical organisation and the duty of care or lack of that was afforded to her.
“What are the long-lasting effects of carrying out an undercover role like this and how should we look after the officers who undertake this difficult work?”
When and where can you watch Deceit?
The four-part drama series begins on Channel 4 at 9pm on Friday 13 August.
Images: Kevin Baker/Channel 4
As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.