It has become all too apparent that many of Line Of Duty’s current storylines are based on real criminal cases…
And these real life parallels feel all too apparent this season, as AC-12 investigates the murder of journalist Gail Vella (Andi Osho) – something which the showrunner is all too aware of.
“It’s not possible [that they’ve been inspired by real life], because police corruption doesn’t exist in the real world,” he told The Guardian recently, sarcasm dripping from every word.
With those words ringing in our ears, then, here are just a few of the tragic true stories that have bled into Line Of Duty season six.
The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia inspired Line Of Duty’s Gail Vella storyline
Daphne Caruana Galizia (née Vella) was a journalist and anti-corruption activist, who reported on political events in Malta.
In 2008, she set up a hugely successful blog entitled Running Commentary, which allowed her to publish her investigative reports and commentary on some of Malta’s biggest public figures – and she soon found herself being threatened on an almost daily basis.
Still, though, Galizia continued in her quest for the truth. And, in 2016 and 2017, she published controversially sensitive information and allegations relating to a number of Maltese politicians and the Panama Papers scandal.
Not long later, on 16 October 2017, Galizia died close to her home when a car bomb was detonated inside her vehicle, Vincent Muscat was found guilty of murder in February and sentenced to 15 years after being convicted.
It is understandable, then, that so many LOD viewers believe that Gail Vella is based largely upon Galizia. Indeed, Mercurio recently responded to these fan theories and apparently confirmed them, tweeting: “The Gaffer has been complaining that none of the detectives out there had spotted this clue. He’ll probably ask you to join AC-12.”
The death of Christopher Alder inspired Line Of Duty’s Christopher Lawrence case
We know, thanks to the investigative efforts of DI Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) and DC Chloe Bishop (Shalom Brune-Franklin), that Line Of Duty’s Vella had been investigating a case involving “a racist element” in the lead-up to her murder.
We’re talking, of course, about the death of Lawrence Christopher, a Black man who was attacked by a gang of white youths in 2003 and left to die in his cell by racist police officers.
“The custody suite video shows the officers mocking Christopher while he lay unresponsive in his cell,” explained Bishop in the episode.
If the circumstances surrounding Lawrence’s death sound familiar, that’s because they mirror the death of Christopher Alder, a Black man who died in police custody at Queen’s Gardens Police Station in 1998.
After becoming involved in an argument at a local pub, Alder was punched in the head (which an autopsy later ruled would not have killed him). When Humberside Police officers arrived, they took Alder to the police station in a barely conscious state and, as he lay on the floor, were captured on CCTV mocking him, laughing and making monkey noises.
When an officer stepped in and noticed that Alder was not breathing, they tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late and he was pronounced dead. Two years later, coroners ruled that he had been “unlawfully killed” and the officers involved were put on trial for manslaughter and misconduct.
A judge found that they were not guilty on all charges, despite a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission accusing them of being “unwittingly racist” and “the most serious neglect of duty”.
To this day, Alder’s family are still hoping to get justice. And, responding to the Line Of Duty plot in an interview with Hull Live, his sister, Janet, said: ““I am so happy people have not forgotten what happened to my brother. I didn’t see the programme, but I have seen a clip since. It was very clever the way it got the point across.”
The death of Stephen Lawrence inspired Line Of Duty’s Christopher Lawrence case
Stephen Lawrence, a budding 18-year-old architect, was killed after being stabbed multiple times as he waited for a bus in 1993. It took almost four years for an inquest to rule that the racist attack had been conducted by five white youths, and, in July 1997, a 350-page report into the cast, titled the Macpherson Report, found the probe into his death faced “institutional racism and a failure of leadership”.
Again, it seems the tragic death of Lawrence provided the inspiration for Line Of Duty’s Lawrence Christopher.
In one episode, Bishop explained to Arnott that the fictional Christopher had been attacked outside a railway station in 2003. And, despite police first assuming that his death was gang related, Christopher was later discovered to be an architect who had never had any trouble with the law.
As she went on to state that the officers involved in the case took early retirement and claimed thousands of pounds in compensation, Bishop became visually distressed, prompting Arnott to ask if she was OK.
“How could anyone be OK?” she replied.
The shooting of Jill Dando inspired Line Of Duty’s Gail Vella storyline
Much like the fictional Vella, Crimewatch presenter Jill Dando was killed by a single gunshot to the head (thought to have been fired by a lone gunman) outside her home in 1999.
Police followed a theory that the culprit was an obsessed fan. It led them to look at Barry George, who lived near Dando’s West London home. But, while he was convicted in 2001 and jailed, he was acquitted seven years later.
“Parts of the [Line Of Duty] plot seem to draw on the Jill Dando murder and the subsequent arrest of an ‘oddball’ with a fascination for celebrities, firearms residue found, a hitman-style killing,” tweeted former BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, noting the similarities between Vella and Dando’s deaths.
It is worth noting that, in 2014, a former colleague of Dando’s came forward and said she was trying to expose a VIP paedophile ring just months before her death.
Speaking to the Daily Express, they said that Dando had raised concerns to her BBC bosses about allegations of sexual abuse happening at the corporation.
“I don’t recall the names of all the stars now and don’t want to implicate anyone, but Jill said they were surprisingly big names.”
And, as we’ve seen in this season of Line Of Duty, Vella was attempting to expose a very similar crime.
Operation Yewtree inspired Line Of Duty’s conviction of Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank
Many viewers were startled when Line Of Duty season six opened with several references to real-life Operation Yewtree as AC-12 reviewed Vella’s reportage on the conviction of Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank – a character who had fictional links to the “clapped out DJ.”
“We now realise what Savile was getting out of those relationships with senior police officers, but what remains unknown, and uninvestigated, is what those officers were getting out of their relationship with Savile,” says Vella.
While Vella (and LOD writers) leaves this comment open to interpretation, the implication is clear; after his death, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse were made against Savile, leading the police to conclude that he had been a predatory sex offender – possibly one of Britain’s most prolific.
You can watch Line Of Duty on BBC One on Sunday nights at 9pm.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.