The most gripping drama on TV has been inspired by real life miscarriages of justice many times over its run, with creator Jed Mercurio reflecting famous cases in his work.
In fact, it was one such incident that inspired Jed to write the first ever scene on the show, kicking off the show millions of us know and love today.
While the series certainly takes artistic licence, many cases tackled by AC-12 reflect elements of reality – even if the plot lines faced by Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming are fictional.
Whether it be wide reaching investigations that tackle corruption at the heart of British institutions, or cases that shocked society at the time, art has imitated life throughout the nine years the show has been been on our screens.
These are the real-life cases that have inspired Line of Duty.
The killing of Jean Charles de Menezes
The very first episode of the series was inspired by the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at London’s Stockwell Tube station in 2005 by Met Police.
As viewers will remember, the drama opened with Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) working in Counter Terrorism and ordering a raid on a block of flats.
After the door number was misread as 56 rather than 59, an innocent man was killed after a baby harness is mistaken for a bomb.
Steve then ends up leaving Counter Terrorism after Chief Inspector Phillip Osborne orders that the team falsify their statements and he refused to follow suit.
Jed has previously spoken about the storyline and how it was influenced by de Menezes’ shooting.
The Brazilian man was shot in the head seven times after police wrongly believed he was a terrorist responsible for the 7/7 attacks. Three years after his death, a jury rejected the police account of his death and ruled that he was not lawfully killed as part of an anti-terrorist operation.
After Cressida Dick criticised Line of Duty back in 2019, Jed tweeted in reference to de Menezes, saying: ‘My inspiration for writing #LineofDuty was @metpoliceuk shooting an innocent man and their dishonesty in the aftermath, so thanks to Cressida Dick for reminding me of our connection.’
The false imprisonment of Stefan Kiszko
Scenes in series four of the drama shared parallels with the real life case of Stefan Kiszo, which has been described as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in UK legal history.
Speaking to the Express, Jed told how the impact of Stefan’s case has been felt across the series, saying there are ‘really relevant examples in British legal history of Stefan Kiszko.’
Stefan spent 16 years in prison after being wrongly convicted for the murder of schoolgirl Lesley Molseed. He was 23-year-old at the time and had the mental age of a 12-year-old.
It inspired the fourth series of Line of Duty, which focused on Michael Farmer – a man with learning difficulties who was fitted up for crimes he did not commit, and struggled to deal with questioning.
In the show, Thandiwe Newton’s DCI Roz Huntley was under pressure to convict Michael.
It shared comparisons with the case in 1975, which saw West Yorkshire police attempting to find a child killer responsible for Lesley Molseed’s murder.
Michael’s ‘confession’ came under pressurised circumstances, and Stefan later said that his admission had been bullied out of him.
Sixteen years after his conviction, Stefan was freed on appeal and Ronald Castree was convicted for the murder in 2006 following a DNA match.
The killing of Jill Dando
Former Crimewatch co-host Jill Dando was killed on the doorstep of her home in south-west London in a crime which shocked the nation back in 1999.
The similarities between the murder of Gail Vella (played by Andi Osho) in series six and Jill’s killing are clear. Both were killed on their doorsteps by a single gunshot by what’s believed to be a lone gunman.
The person who was initially sent to prison for the crime, Barry George, has also had an impact on the show.
When Mercurio told the Express that some plots are inspired by real life cases, he also said one of them was ‘Barry George, who was convicted and then acquitted of the Jill Dando murder.’
At the time, Barry George was convicted and imprisoned for the killing, but after eight years in prison he was acquitted following retrial.
Defending the use of the term, Jed said the term came from a direct quote from Barry George, who said the word referred to the way police perceived him during their investigation.
Viewers were shocked during recent instalments of the series after Jimmy Savile became part of the investigation into Gail Vella’s death.
The series included a connection to the real-life paedophile ring led by Savile. It was one of the things murdered journalist Gail had been looking into when she was shot dead outside her home.
Footage of Gail covering the child sex abuse court case of Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank – a character from the third series of the show – saw her suggest that senior police officers could be connected to Savile’s crimes.
Operation Yewtree was launched by Metropolitan Police Service into the sexual abuse allegations against Savile and others in 2012.
Since Savile’s death, more than 450 people have come forward with accusations against him. He died aged 84 without ever being prosecuted for his crimes.
A full inquiry led by Dame Janet Smith determined in 2016 that the BBC – during the years of Savile working there – had missed out on at least five opportunities to stop the misconduct of him and It’s A Knockout host Stuart Hall, who was jailed in 2013 for indecent assault of 13 girls.
Daphne Caruana Galizia
Jed has also confirmed that Gail Vella’s murder on Line of Duty was also inspired by the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Galizia was a journalist and anti-corruption activist who reported on political events in Malta. She died in October 2017 aged 53 when a car bomb was detonated inside her vehicle.
Viewers pointed out the similarities between the journalist’s death and the death of Gail, which prompting creator Jed to confirm the resemblance was no coincidence.
When one viewer pointed out the similarities between Vella’s murder and Galizia’s murder, Mercurio wrote on Twitter: ‘The Gaffer [Ted Hastings] has been complaining that none of the detectives out there had spotted this clue. He’ll probably ask you to join AC-12.’
Line of Duty airs on Sundays 9pm on BBC One.
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