Line of Duty 6 – review of episode 1

The first episode of Season 6 of Line of Duty aired on BBC One on 21st March, 2021. The series follows investigations of AC-12, a specialist unit investigating police corruption (read more here). 

After a wait of almost two years, Central Police, and its controversial AC-12 team, burst back onto our television screens last Sunday evening, with the now familiar armed convoy gone wrong scene that also marked the beginning of seasons 2, 3 and 5.

The opening salvos are described elsewhere as returning the hugely popular police drama to what it does best, “dodgy coppers, tense action and characters who communicate almost exclusively in acronyms.” The three central characters remain in-situ: Head of AC-12, Superintendent Ted Hastings, Detective Inspector Kate Fleming and Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott.

Viewers saw Central Police delve into a new case, codenamed Operation Lighthouse, with show newcomer, DCI Joanne Davidson, tasked with detecting the murder of high-profile victim Gail Vella. A journalist, no less.

After Davidson diverted an armed police convoy she was leading, on the way to pick up a live suspect, AC-12 become suspicious of her actions. There are, of course, the usual strong inferences that the person(s) behind the Vella murder might well be connected to the omnipresent, police-controlled OCG (organised crime gang), the core of which anti-corruption officers have been pursuing since series one.

The deployment followed information from a CHIS (covert human intelligence source or police informant) who supplied the address of a man called “Ross Turner”, whom the CHIS claimed was involved in the Vella murder. 

These are some of the big questions for viewers ahead of Episode 2: 

Why and when did DI Kate Fleming leave AC-12?

First point is: Has she actually left or has she been inserted into the MIT (Murder Investigation Team, or in some forces the same initials are used for Major Inquiry Team) covertly? Without other AC-12 colleagues knowing. Including Hastings and Arnott.

An alternative theory is that she is part of the OCG and has wangled herself a position where she can frustrate the exposure of their nefarious activities and the identity of the cop leading it.

Another emerging theory is that she is the love interest of Jo Davidson, causing the latter to split with her previous partner, the exceptionally pretty, but emotionally fragile, Sergeant Farida Jatri.

Or it may just be, in her own words, that she was tired of nicking bent coppers. Whichever way it falls, Kate now has her old boss, Ted, investigating her new boss, Jo, and she’s faced with an unenviable conundrum: Whose side is she on?

Do Central Police still have confidence in Ted Fleming?

It seems not. The increasingly shifty-looking Ted is excluded from a senior police officer conference by waspish Deputy Chief Constable Andrea Wise. There is also the leaked memo from the chief constable that puts more pressure on our beleaguered superintendent.

Why does Sgt Steve Arnott want to move on from AC-12?

Another regular who looks shiftier by the minute. Not at all aided by the too-tight waistcoats. But that is no barrier, it seems, to a significant cohort in the female ranks of Central Police swooning when he enters a room. As far his planned exit from the anti-corruption unit is concerned, the present rationale is that he is fed up checking dodgy expense expense claims and he is not entirely happy with the present Hastings bona fides. All of AC-12 team may be suffering the effects of the gaffer being investigated by AC-3 and charged with conspiracy to murder. He eventually emerged, relatively unscathed, or so it seems, with a final written warning.

During a snatched meeting with an old flame, Nicky Rogerson, a murder detective who first appeared in series two, Steve told her: “I’ve reached the end of the line in Anti-Corruption”. But, now, with possibly the biggest case of all to get stuck into, will he tempted to stay with AC-12 for a little while longer and resume his love affair with Nicky?

Towards the end of the episode, Arnott is seen buying large quantities of what appear to be painkillers, paying cash at a number of different pharmacies, before taking a handful back at his apartment. Then washing them down with a bottle of Corona beer.

This might infer that he’s still struggling with back pain after being attacked by ‘Balaclava Man’, and thrown down three flights of stairs, in series four. The assailant was unmasked in series five as undercover officer John Corbett. The brutal assault left Arnott in a wheelchair for months afterwards.

4. Who is DCI Joanne Davidson and what is she up to?

At the end of last week’s episode, Jo returned to what we assume is now her home after just splitting from her life partner. But why so many deadlocks on Davidson’s front door. An unprecedented number. Is it meant to inform about her personality, or her genuine fears of someone in particular getting in (the OCG, terrorists, her ex-lover)?

The same scene posed some other questions. Why throw an almost full glass of wine, and the glass, at a picture on the sideboard (drinking the wine first might have been better)? Does she hate this person in the photograph, or is overcome by grief, and if so, in either or both cases, why?

There is social media speculation, well grounded one might say, that the older woman in the photograph is Anne Marie McGillis, the mother of series five’s undercover officer, John Corbett. Anne Marie and Ted Hastings were involved in a relationship of sorts when he was a young police constable serving in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. She was shot dead by terrorists as an informant. Corbett was convinced Ted was H. Jo Davidson may, therefore, be Hastings’ daughter, and brother or half-brother of Corbett.

Do official police documents list her as ‘Samantha Davidson’, not Joanne. Or is Samantha a relative, perhaps?

5. What about her boss, Supt Ian Buckells?

In Line of Duty’s first series, as a detective inspector back then, Buckells was involved in the investigation into Jackie Laverty’s disappearance. Appointed to that take over that case by Superintendent (later ACC) Derek Hilton, later unmasked as being one of the highest-ranking corrupt officers affiliated with the OCG.

Buckells reappeared again in series four, replacing DCI Roz Huntley after her removal as SIO from Operation Trapdoor at Polk Avenue Police Station. That was where he worked out that Kate Fleming, whom he’d encountered previously during that Laverty case, was working undercover for AC-12. When Fleming’s cover was eventually blown, Buckells was summoned by AC-12 and faced some tough questioning. He denied ‘grassing up’ Kate, but once again made his disdain for the anti-corruption unit very plain (not at all unusual in the police service).

Against that background, it is a curiosity that DI Fleming, is now working under Buckell’s station command. Another puzzle is how the short-fused superintendent  was responsible for mistakes on the authorisation for the surveillance, and forcing the needless delay of one day (as a superintendent he has the necessary rank, but chose to seek higher authority), prior to Terry Boyle’s arrest.

To complete one particular circle, Parts of Jackie Laverty’s dead body were found in a freezer at Boyle’s flat in the last series. She was involved with the OCG and laundered some of their proceeds of crime. DCI Davidson has not yet, it seems, made the connection with the freezer now missing from recently purged Boyle’s flat. But the overarching question about Buckells, right now, is did he mess up the paperwork deliberately, for nefarious reasons. Or is he just incompetent and not up to the job?

6. Why was the armed convoy diverted?

A question that will thread its way through the whole of Line of Duty season six. While being driven purposefully, under blue lights, through urban streets towards the Tango’s address, DCI Davidson claims she saw a white van parked on a side road. This arouses suspicion, not least because it seems strange that she would see anything at all, given the speeds and angles involved. As Ted Hastings pithily observes, whilst reviewing CCTV footage with Steve Arnott: “That convoy is going like the clappers, you’d do well to spot a pipe band in there.”

Having spotted the innocuous looking van, Davidson peremptorily diverted the convoy, ignoring DI Kate Fleming’s suggestion to call it in for another response unit to deal with: “You know a getaway vehicle when you see one, Kate. Bookie’s right there. Can’t rule out an immediate risk to the public.”

DCI Davidson is either very astute, or was she was tipped off beforehand that a robbery was going to take place? In the event, she turned out to be spot on. Armed robbers, wearing balaclavas, emerged from the bookmakers shop and the firearms officers took them to ground. One of the robbers was shot dead after failing to comply with instructions to render his own firearm. Standard post-discharge procedure meant that all the armed officers had to stay at the scene for forensic recovery. All this meant Davidson had to urgently request a new armed officer team to facilitate the arrest of the murder suspect, Ross Turner.

Did Davidson know this was going to happen? Was it part of a plan, in which she may later be implicated, to allow the murder suspect to escape? We will see.

AC-12 later discovered that these ‘armed robbers’ had very little in the way of relevant ‘form’ before deciding to commit this very serious offence, carrying a sentence of up to 18 years imprisonment, and were certainly not hardened criminals. Anti-corruption newbie, DC Chloe Bishop (already a favourite of Ted Hastings), observes wryly: “Between them, these guys have never robbed anything bigger than their local Gregg’s.” Steve Arnott fired back with: “…and they just happened to be on the exact route and time of an op to bring in a suspect in an unsolved murder.”

7. Did the gap in the surveillance allow Carl Banks to escape?

That the delay had serious implications is not in any doubt, but it was amplified by a later discovery: There was a gap in surveillance of approximately three and a half hours, during which time the real “Ross Turner” could have left the flat at Beechwood House unnoticed, and by arrangement with a bent cop. This left Terry Boyle in the target property, seemingly being set up for the murder as part of an elaborate plot, implying strong knowledge of police procedures and how to frustrate them. Matters that would appear to be well beyond the known capabilities of Boyle. Or most other law abiding citizens, for that matter.

“I’ve taken reports from the surveillance teams in situ at Beechwood House, where Terry Boyle was arrested,” Kate Fleming reported to Jo Davidson. “When we were diverted to the armed robbery there was some confusion over the surveillance authority…. and the team was only in place under directed authority, and it got queried as requiring intrusive authority because they were using extreme high-powered lenses to view inside the property. Which means they had to pull out until it was sorted. Looks like the Super messed up the paperwork.”

Terry is a vulnerable adult with Down’s Syndrome, previously bullied and exploited by ruthless members of the OCG. Apart from his fingerprints, the flat was also covered in prints belonging to a yet to emerge, Carl Banks. Possibly related to Lee Banks, whom we last saw in jail during a visit an unauthorised visit by Ted Hastings, towards the climax of season five.

“Carl Banks has an extensive history of violence, including firearms offences, and a long association with organised crime… it would appear that DCI Davidson deliberately delayed the operation to arrest the suspect, and it’s possible this was instrumental in enabling Banks – the real killer – to flee.” says Steve Arnott.

8. Is Farida trying to take revenge on her ‘love rival’?

Sergeant Farida Jatri first appeared in Line of Duty as a police constable working under DCI Roz Huntley at Polk Avenue Police Station. Since then, she’s joined the MIT at Hillside Lane.

It was Farida who contacted AC-12 over alleged professional misconduct of her erstwhile live-in lover, DCI Davidson. Notably raising concerns about the suspicious armed convoy diversion. The two of them, however, are in the midst of an unpleasant separation, visibly marked by the slashing of a leather jacket belonging to Jo, seemingly caused by Farida’s jealousy and paranoia over Jo’s perceived interest in other women. Including, of course, Kate Fleming. About which, she may have a point.

Jo has now removed all her belongings from Farida’s house. 

9. Why was Gail Vella killed and who was responsible?

Not much has actually been revealed about the Gail Vella and her unfortunate end. But this is what is known so far:

  • The reporter was murdered on 10th September 2019.
  • She drove home late in a Dark Grey Peugeot 108, parked outside her house in Kingsgate, and was shot dead as she got out of the vehicle. The muzzle of the firearm was pressed against back of skull , suggesting a professional, stranger hit.
  • One month later, DCI Davidson was posted to Hillside Lane Police Station, taking over the case from the original SIO (a regular occurrence in Line of Duty).
  • Police have two working hypotheses: A crazed stalker, or a contract killing. Newspaper headlines at the time screamed: “Murder Inquiry Probes ‘Stalker’ Theory” and “Police Seek ‘Hitman’”.

The latter seems more likely. As is the theory that Gail was investigating a story that someone didn’t want reporting? Series 6 episode 2 will fill in more of the gaps.

10. Why is Terry Boyle being set up?

As a convenient, largely helpless fall guy would appear to be the obvious answer: After his arrest in the armed raid on Beechwood House, DCI Davidson questioned him twice, under caution and the presence of his solicitor and an appropriate adult. Strangely, she appeared to consider him a plausible suspect, positioning him as the ‘crazed stalker’.

Terry initially admitted to being “Ross Turner”, when the name was put to him in interview (large parts of the interview would not pass ‘achieving best evidence’ (ABE) muster it must be said), he later retracted that and then gave his real name, and authentic address at Dorton Villas, in the Kingsgate Area. Opposite the now closed Kingsgate Printing Services which featured heavily in series five and for whom Terry acted, under coercion, as ‘lookout’.

Forensic scenes of crime officers quickly deduced that both addresses had been comprehensively deep cleaned. Also in both, a collection of articles about Gail Vella had been pinned to the wall. Later, some of them were found to have traces of Terry’s semen on them. Cocaine and heroin deposits were also found, as well as gunshot residue on an item of clothing.

Other than agreeing that he recognised Gail Vella – and saying that she was a “nice lady” – not much else was learned from Terry in his police interviews. But most viewers would say that he’s been set up. But, by whom, is the big question?

After those interviews, it seems that Terry is now of much lesser interest to DCI Davidson, despite the mounting forensic evidence against him, “Don’t look so surprised Kate,” she told DI Fleming. “I wasn’t born yesterday. The gunshot particles aren’t enough without spatter of Gail Vella’s blood or tissues. And the CHIS, Carl Banks, Terry Boyle’s flat, something doesn’t add up… no way am I going after someone like Terry Boyle because he’s the easy way out.”

Upon leaving the police station, after release from police custody, “You’ll be safe there, Terry” his lawyer said, about a safe house to which he was being transported. Not many viewers would have shared her optimism on that point.

12. How did the CHIS die?

After passing on the information to his handler, Detective Sergeant Marks, about “Ross Turner”, the police informant (CHIS) went to ground fearing his life. With good reason, as it turns out. Shortly afterwards, he was found dead, having fallen from a high structure in what appear to be suspicious circumstances. There were no witnesses to the fall (or push?), but neighbours say they heard a scream.

Before his untimely death, Jo Davidson was very keen to track him down. She told DS Marks that, after questioning him about what he knew, he would be conveyed to a place of safety. Marks, understandably, was unable to assist her. His first duty was, understandably, to welfare of the CHIS and preservation of life. Futile though that turned out to be.

This was unwelcome news to Davidson and she was heard telling her boss, Buckells, privately: “If this is going to go the way we want, we’ve got to find out who he [the CHIS] is” and “F**k the handler, f**k the CHIS.”

So, the usual twists and turns in the Line of Duty plot, the complex character building, the red herrings, the cleverly concealed clues and some brilliant acting are all still there in Series Six. Roll on 9pm Sunday.

Page last updated: Sunday 28th March, 2021 at 1755 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Picture credit: BBC

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Author: Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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