Unsurprisingly, viewing figures are rocketing as this season builds to a climax with another dramatic, twists and turns renewal last week.
Series six, episode one was watched by 9.6 million BBC One viewers, a record audience for Line of Duty, surpassing the series five finale, watched by 9.1 million people. By episode five this had grown to 9.92 million.
This is very good news for aficionados, as it now seems likely that another one and possibly two series will be commissioned. The BBC practice has been to order them in pairs so, hopefully, two.
Keeping up with the storyline
Increasingly difficult as Line of Duty creator and writer, Jed Mercurio, tests memories, investigative skills and powers of deduction to the limit. As with last week’s review (read here), we start at the end, rather than the beginning, of this week’s action.
In an ultra- tense closing scene, Detective Inspector Kate Fleming faces down Central Police colleague, PC Ryan Pilkington, in a Mexican stand-off at a deserted lorry park. She had been lured there by her prospective lover, Temporary Superintendent Joanne Davidson on the pretext of discussing their faltering personal relationship.
At the behest of Pilkington, the venue had been switched at the last minute from Federico’s Biergarten, their usual cosy wine bar venue in town. The rogue cops had travelled together in Jo’s upmarket 4×4 with the junior officer in the rear seats, carrying a workshop modified handgun. Last seen held to the back of Jo’s head during episode four as she entered what is surmised to be a heavily fortified dwelling owned by a local Organised Crime Group (OCG).
Kate had, shortly before, been authorised by the SFC (Specialist Firearms Commander) to carry a concealed weapon, a service issue Glock 17 9mm pistol, at the insistence of her former boss, Superintendent Ted Hastings, the Head of Central’s Anti-Corruption Unit, codenamed AC-12. When the venue change was texted to her by Jo, she copied the address and forwarded it on to Temporary Detective Inspector, Steve Arnott, a long-serving officer in AC-12. He was last seen rushing to the lorry park, along with other members of the anti-corruption unit, after he had showed the phone message to ‘the gaffer’.
The show closed with Kate, a trained AFO (authorised firearms officer), adopting the conventional legs astride, two-handed stance and barking orders to Pilkington to “drop the f*****g gun”, as they faced each other down at short range.
Jo had retreated screaming to a position near her car, a short distance away. It is not known if she, too, was armed. Pilkington fired a shot at her, but missed, after the rogue cop assumed he had been set up, and trapped, by AC-12 using covert surveillance teams to monitor the two of them.
Arnott, who took down a sniper with a well aimed single shot in episode four, is also a trained AFO and former counter-terrorism officer. Viewers were left on a knife edge as the TV screen was blacked out and two shots were fired in quick succession.
The rest of the episode, if not so dramatic was equally compelling, with the familiar mix of dots joined and more loose ends left dangling. Not least with Jo engaged with the on-line messaging service favoured for communication with the OCG boss or ‘H’ (or one and the same). The ‘Unknown User’ tells her to get rid of Kate Fleming. Pleading that this should be her last last job, the answer to Jo was: ‘Definately’.
As predicted in my review last week, bent lawyer, Jimmy Lakewell, was found hanging in his cell at HMP Blackthorn, to disguise the fact that he had been choked to death by OCG enforcer, Lee Banks.
The equally unsurprising revelation that Jo Davidson was blood-related to an OCG member was also flagged up in that same review.
However, the nature of that relationship is profoundly shocking and would defy almost every attempt at prediction. Former OCG boss, Tommy Hunter, had an incestuous relationship with his own sister, Samantha, and Jo was the product. Making the evil criminal both her father and her uncle. Samantha Davidson, listed as Jo’s next of kin on her police personnel record, is discovered to be, like Hunter, deceased.
“Homozygosity”, which describes a genetic condition where an individual has the same DNA sequence for a particular gene from both sets of biological parents, was present in the sample attributed to Jo.
Meanwhile back at The Hill (Hillside Lane Police Station), the probe into the murder of investigative journalist, Gail Vella, took on renewed life after the apparent hiatus last week, as the Operation Lighthouse team developed the intelligence worked upon by Detective Sergeant Chris Lomax and DI Fleming regarding workshopped weapons and ammunition.
Unknown to either her boss, DCI Davidson, or the rest of her Murder Investigation Team (MIT) colleagues, Kate tipped off Steve Arnott about armed police raids on three possible light industrial locations. She took them (deliberately, it seems) to a dud location first, Lochside Park, from whence AC-12 newcomer, Detective Constable Chloe Bishop, observed Ryan Pilkington tipping off the OCG about the imminent raids on the two other premises. Steve Arnott was at the second identified location, Ted Hastings was at the third. All bases covered by the corruption busters.
Two suspicious looking IC-1’s were shot dead at location two, Whiterock Park, including ‘Beardy Blue Van’ from the closing scene of episode 2, where he delivered a burner phone to a distraught Jo Davidson. Now identified as Lewis Polkard, Jo didn’t look quite so unhappy about the death of one of her OCG tormentors as she otherwise might.
The other man in receipt of at least one fatal AFO bullet was Darren Morgan. Polkard had a lengthy criminal records, involving serious and violent offences, and, of course, identified links to the OCG. Morgan had only minor offences on his record but may have been the engineer operating the specialist machinery converting guns and producing ammunition.
A burner phone recovered from Polkard had received a call from an unidentified number at exactly the same time as Pilkington had made the call from his own trouser-legged ‘burner’, observed by DC Bishop. All other phones belonging to the MIT team had been ordered to be left in the incident room, to avoid the possibility of leaks to the OCG.
Ammunition linking the Gail Vella murder to the failed OCG raid on Hickey’s Bookmakers (opening scene of episode one) was found at Whiterock Park, along with the tools and machinery used in the conversion of ‘workshopped weapons’ and ‘untraceable custom ammunition’. A huge step forward for the Op Lighthouse team.
In a scene memorable for a good helping of Ted’s culinary adages, sprat and mackerel was the gaffer’s rationale for leaving the permanently dangerous Pilks in situ. “He’s the new Caddy, he will lead us to the big fish”.
Washed down, inevitably, with: “Now we’re sucking diesel”. Red or white, asked no-one, in particular. But OCG’s usually prefer the former at half the price.
TV pictures of Chief Constable of Central Police, Philip Osborne, giving an impromptu press conference on the steps outside the force headquarters, articulating his views on politicians and bent cops, were viewed with dismay by the entire AC-12 team. Not least, Supt Hastings who sought, and was granted, an audience with the politician to whom the crooked chief had obliquely referred. PCC Rohan Sindwhani is resigning, we learned. Osborne had “thrown him under a bus”. But did he jump or was he pushed?
Forensic reports on banknotes drawn from a large stash found in Stephanie Corbett’s loft were returned to Steve Arnott in some secrecy. They were linked to the £50,000 recovered from Ted Hastings’ room at Edge Park Hotel in Series five. The crooked ex-cop turned Investment Manager, Mark Moffatt, centrally involved in the attempted bribe on Ted, had said in police interview that £100,000 was given to him. Hastings said there was only £50,000, and he was believed, as a police officer of good standing. He passed the ‘missing’ money to Steph, of course, to assuage the loss of her late husband, Sergeant John Corbett.
Whilst he was travelling in the armed convoy between HMP Blackthorn and AC-12 HQ, Jimmy Lakewell had, confidentially, revealed to DI Arnott that Gail Vella had been investigating Lawrence Christopher’s death in police custody in 2003. The young architect had been stabbed by a gang of five white youths near Edge Park Railway Station, but almost immediately labelled, by police, as a black gang member. Officers mocked him whilst he lay unresponsive in cell, making monkey noises, and the post-mortem examination found an undiagnosed skull fracture.
There were missed, and glaring, opportunities to arrest those responsible, forensic opportunities lost. Detective Chief Inspector Marcus Thurwell was the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). The subsequent Inquiry into police failures in 2005 was a ‘whitewash’.
Darren Hunter, son of Tommy, was one of the five suspects. Assiduous detective work by Chloe Bishop revealed that Ian Buckells (as a young DC) and Philip Osborne (as a DI) were both involved in the initial Lawrence Christopher murder enquiry.
Apropos of not a great deal, Janet Alder has been a good friend of mine for a number of years, and the association of the names and the circumstances of the deaths of her paratrooper brother, Christopher, in 1998, and Stephen Lawrence, five years earlier, are obvious. I remain unconvinced that such leverage is entirely appropriate, particularly without contacting the Alder (or the Lawrence?) family. Notwithstanding, deaths of black males in police custody, or following police contact, State-led cover-ups and institutionalised racism in the police service, are all topics fully worth their place in a mass audience production. Janet has kindly approved the reference to her and Chris in this piece.
Line Of Duty viewers and fans may have recognised Thurwell’s name from Series three: He was the SIO in the enquiry into the 1998 murder of Oliver Stephens-Lloyd, the care worker who reported allegations of child sex abuse at Sands View Boys Home. Where OCG members procured vulnerable victims for themselves, politicians and bent police officers.
Shades of Blenheim Vale that featured centrally in ‘Neverland’, the Series two finale of my all-time favourite TV programme, Endeavour. The episode opens with the apparent suicide of a journalist looking into alleged police and councillor corruption. One of the boys abused at the Vale was DC Morse’s skipper, D/Sgt Peter Jacques. He married and left for a new life in America in a bid to erase the bad memories.
An Inspector George Gently episode in 2009 also covered broadly the same topic where children were abused in an orphanage, over a long period, and the local police force failed them. Yet again, an abused boy became a scarred police officer in much the same way, and at the same rank, as Peter Jacques and Line of Duty‘s now deceased AFO Sergeant, Danny Waldron.
At the material time, the death of Stephens-Lloyd was written off as a suicide. But it was later discovered that he was murdered by the OCG, again strongly suggesting that the original investigation involved a cover-up. PC Maneet Bindra and one of the corrupt police “big four”, ACC Derek Hilton, also prematurely met their Maker at the same location. PC Bindra’s throat was gruesomely cut by Lee Banks, whilst being restrained by no less than Ryan Pilkington. She was being blackmailed by Hilton to leak sensitive information from AC-12. Hilton’s death was also written off as a suicide, from an apparent self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. He was assumed at the time, by AC-12, to be ‘H’.
Thurwell was also SIO on the Sands View investigation. He took early retirement in 2005, and now believed to be living in Spain. The subsequent AC-12 investigation convicted Patrick Fairbank, whom Gail Vella had asked to interview in prison, but she was killed the night before that was scheduled to take place. Gail had also requested interviews with Gill Biggeloe, Lisa McQueen, Roz Huntley, Jane Cafferty, Tina Tranter, Manish Prasad and Harinder Baines. A lengthy list, but all officers linked to organised crime and associated police corruption. Only convicted OCG criminal, Lee Banks (now casually revealed on screen that Carl was, in fact, his brother), agreed to an interview with the journalist, two weeks before Ms Vella was murdered. He was adamant that his brother was not Gail’s killer.
Jimmy Lakewell had been interviewed over the phone. The audio file of which the OCG were very anxious to discover, and its recovery may have led to her murder.
It was subsequently revealed that Hastings tipped off Lee Banks about ‘a rat’ in the OCG midst, during a clandestine visit to HMP Blackthorn in Series five. That informant turned out, of course, to be undercover officer D/Sgt Corbett whose throat was sliced open by Ryan Pilkington, as a consequence of that discovery. Revenge for Corbett beating and torturing his wife is mooted as a motive for Ted’s actions.
His oft-expressed obsession with rooting out bent cops, plainly, does not extend to himself. The catalogue of rule bending, disciplinary and criminal offences grows longer by the episode. Those who believe that Ted is a crooked cop will argue that the removal of Corbett from the land of the living was more nefariously grounded, and indeed essential, as he was convinced that Hastings was ‘H’.
Which may be one explanation for cold fish, Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael (played by the utterly sublime Anna Maxwell Martin), making her Line of Duty re-appearance to take over Central Police’s merged, and now diminished, anti-corruption units. But she immediately arouses the suspicion of viewers and fans by pulling Ac-12 surveillance off Jo Davidson, Pilkington and Terry Boyle. She also informed a disturbed Hastings of the recommendation to the Crown Prosecution Service that they drop the criminal case against Ian Buckells. “To avoid the humiliation of a cracked trial”, she says (in this particular case, where the prosecutor would offer no evidence at a listed plea and case management hearing).
The big questions:
How did the lorry park shoot-out end?
Two shots rang out, in quick succession, following the Fleming/Pilkington showdown, which suggests a number of outcomes. The two most obvious being that they either shot one another, or a ‘double-tap’ was delivered by Kate, as she is trained to do in a life threatening situation.
A third and fourth, less obvious posit, is that a shot was fired by either Jo Davidson or an arriving AFO, despatched by AC-12.
A fifth is that the canny DI, sensing danger or a trap, had persuaded one of the surveillance team to remain in-situ and he or she fired at least one of the shots.
Of course, either or both of Kate and Ryan could have been injured and still alive; if so, will they die and be written out of the drama, thereafter?
However implausible it may seem to write out one of the three central AC-12 detectives, Line Of Duty fans will know that Jed Mercurio has ‘previous’ for killing off major players. ‘The Caddy’, Dot Cottan; the aforementioned Danny Waldron and Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (brilliantly played by Keeley Hawes), to name but three.
But if Fleming does survive, and I think that she does, it means the game is well and truly up for Joanne Davidson, with too many links to organised crime now out in the open. A return visit to the ‘glass box’ at AC-12 HQ now guaranteed.
Why was Ryan Pilkington left at large?
Previously, Ted Hastings pressed the case for AC-12 bringing in PC Pilkington, but he was dissuaded by Kate at a meeting in the notorious underpass, a regular covert meeting place over the years for Ac-12 detectives.
This week, those roles were reversed and DI Fleming urged the team to arrest and interview him, only for Hastings to persuade (ok, steamroller) her and Steve Arnott to keep him under surveillance, in the hope he would lead them to ‘the fourth man’.
But is there more to the Hastings U-turn? One theory, which fuels the fire that Hastings is that fourth man, ‘H’, and, with the Banks brothers out of service and Polkard, Morley recently deceased, he needs Pilkington at large to take out Fleming, due to shortage of available manpower willing and able to kill a police officer. Ryan has murdered more than he has fingers on one hand.
Ted Hastings, past present and future?
As alluded to earlier in this piece, Ted Hastings is actually one of the bent cops he professes, so often, to despise. A case of ‘he doth protest too much’.
The wistful look at a photograph of a younger self, and other uniformed colleagues, on the office window sill is, possibly, a nod to his service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. A weakness, or pressure point, yet to be revealed, having joined that force in 1982 and served for 7 years during ‘The Troubles’?
The Hastings, Ann Marie McGillis, John Corbett (mother and son) axis may yet have a part to play. As the relationship with Corbett’s wife, Stephanie, most certainly will. The forensics on the recovered banknotes guarantee that.
How long into episode six will it take before Steve Arnott escalates what he knows about the banknotes, Steph Corbett, Lee Banks and Ted, beyond sharing with Kate Fleming. Or will she do it for him? Or has he done so, already?
Ted’s police service of 38 years is not unprecedented, but extraordinarily long. As is the time he has spent at the rank of superintendent and overall in Professional Standards or AC-12. Fifteen years in total. That strongly implies a ‘glass ceiling’ and past misdemeanours.
But will he get to retirement before the anti-corruption tables are turned on him? He survived the full Patricia Carmichael treatment at the conclusion of Series five, but the wily and well connected chief superintendent looks very much up for a second bout.
Viewers have previously spotted, in Ted’s hotel room, a laptop belonging to Hastings complete with the same encrypted messaging service that the OCG are known to use. That now comes into sharp focus again with the mis-spelt word, ‘Definately’. A form of spelling previously used by Ted. Deliberately, or otherwise. He claimed the former when he made the same ‘mistake’ in front of a group of surprised AC-12 colleagues.
It’s a big call, but, one way or another, I think that Series six is Adrian Dunbar’s last as Ted Hastings, beyond the occasional cameo appearance.
Who and what is Marcus Thurwell?
Marcus Thurwell is a retired detective chief inspector and was Senior Investigating Officer in three crucial cases in recent Central Police history:
(i) The Stephens-Lloyd murder. (ii) The failed investigation into child sexual abuse at Sands View (iii) The Lawrence Christopher death in custody.
He was, in fact, mentioned several times during Series three, and was briefly pursued as a suspect in the Sands View cover-up; so, last week’s episode was not the first viewers had heard of him. But the first time we had seen his face (that of iconic actor, James Nesbitt, of course).
A curiosity is that Thurwell was allocated the Stephens-Lloyd investigation whilst an inspector in the Vice Squad, an unusual appointment. The Head of that squad, of course, was the now disgraced Patrick Fairbank. Amongst other connections, the convicted paedophile was a Freemason alongside Ted Hastings.
During a visit to HMP Queen’s Chase by Steve Arnott and Chloe Bishop, Fairbank claimed he didn’t recognise Thurwell from a large photograph shown to him.
The Thurwell connection to these cases is crucial, as they appear to be the focus of journalist Gail Vella’s investigations. She was looking to add flesh to the bones of her hunch that senior police officers were in cohoots with serious and organised criminals. Gail was murdered, to all intents and purposes, to put a permanent stop on her work..
His strong links to Ian Buckells, on whom the corruption, unwitting, compliant or just plain stupid, jury is still out; bent chief constable, Philip Osborne; and the convicted and now, apparently, senile Patrick Fairbank, mark him as a person of very serious interest to AC-12.
The Belfast and Northern Ireland links to ex-DCI Thurwell may well, also, be of interest to Ted Hastings, in particular. They may have served together in the RUC in the mid to late 1980’s.
So, does Marcus Thurwell hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the OCG, and the elusive and enigmatic ‘H’? Or will the crime bosses, or ‘H’ (or both), get to him first and rub him out? As a retired officer he is beyond disciplinary sanction and it will need suspicion of a criminal offence, and a necessity test, in order to detain him for questioning. It seems unlikely that he would attend a voluntary interview.
He was last photographed in Spain in 2015, through the telescopic lens of what appears to be a police surveillance camera. This might indicate that he is, or was, on the radar of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera, a specialist law enforcement and surveillance agency likened to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in the United States).
Thurwell could, also, be already dead.
Is DCS Patricia Carmichael another bent Central Police cop?
The Head of AC-3, the East Midlands Police anti-corruption unit, swept into AC-12 HQ and made sure that the incumbents are keenly aware, if they did not know already, that she will not be entering Central Police’s ‘Most Popular Cop Awards’. This year, or any other year.
Her first actions, and the animated exchange with the officer she is set to replace, Ted Hastings, immediately cast suspicion on Patricia Carmichael.
Is she a stooge of Chief Constable Philip Osborne, put in place to make sure any enquiries into police corruption, and its links with organised crime, are stifled?
She claimed this was down to budget constraints, but is there something more sinister to her promotion and consequent decision making?
The motive for Gail Vella’s murder?
As alluded to earlier in the piece, Gail had begun to fill in the blanks in the police corruption, organised crime matrix and was plainly on a roll. The list of potential prisoner interviewees strongly suggests that she was about to blow open at least part, if not all, of the high profile Central Police cover-ups. It also opens up the possibility that her crusade was motivated, and more directly linked, to one or both of those investigations, beyond a journalist’s enquiring mind, and she was, perhaps, also receiving assistance from inside AC-12 in identifying potential leads.
Steve Arnott believes that the reporter was murdered in order to protect another officer in the original enquiries into both Sands View and Lawrence Christopher, putting forward that the same officer wields a high level of influence over the OCG, with his suspicion now falling firmly on Marcus Thurwell. My own instinct is that, if still alive, he is a player, but not the captain.
Why has PCC Rohan Sindwhani resigned?
Having appeared to obstruct Ted Hastings at every turn, and enthusiastically endorsed the ‘whitewash’, no police corruption, Operation Pear Tree outcome (which Gail Vella was also challenging), the PCC has now turned turtle and is, seemingly, encouraging Hastings to pursue his own chief constable.
But front of mind of the author of this piece, also an investigative journalist who probes alleged police misconduct and corruption, is that sly-looking Sindwhani, took off his microphone and earpiece and walked out of an interview with Gail Vella, as she questioned him over the Sands View scandal. PCC’s blanking questions over police force misdemeanours is routine on my beat, most notably in North and West Yorkshire, but also in Cleveland, Durham and Greater Manchester. The PCC in South Yorkshire does not, however, fall into that category. You may not always get the response you were looking for, but Dr Alan Billings and his team will always engage.
Why was Billy McTulloch removed from the Gail Vella enquiry
DCO Jo Davidson was the second SIO to lead the Operation Lighthouse investigation, taking over from DCI Billy McTulloch in October, 2019. No explanation has yet been offered for the switch, or details of which senior officer made the decision and why. In the ordinary course of events that would fall to Superintendent Ian Buckells, in conjunction with Central Police’s Head of Crime or the assistant chief constable holding that portfolio.
Two of the Line of Duty Twitter fraternity, @CapitalG5000 and @DCottan (both must-follows on that social media platform) have identified two other McTullochs of interest. One is a training officer at the police college at Ryton in Warwickshire, who trained Ryan Pilkington, and the other, Thomas, is one of the five suspects in the Lawrence Christopher murder, along with Tommy Hunter’s son.
Will they, won’t they?
Even before the confrontation at the lorry park, Jo had asked Kate to transfer out of The Hill, following a disagreement of Ryan Pilkington, and it seemed that their relationship is over. Now, even if both survive the shoot-out, it is surely doomed? Unless they both resign from the police service and elope to consummate their affair. A step too far, surely, even for a Mercurio-written drama?
One national newspaper, not exactly renowned for its truthful reporting has speculated, quite grandly and with a photograph, that Kate and Chris Lomax have an affair in the not too distant future. Kate has ‘previous’ on the affairs front, having conducted one with Richard Akers in Series two. He was the husband of D/Sgt Jayne Akers who died in the ambush of the armed convoy accompanying Tommy Hunter. DI Fleming and Mrs Akers had trained together before joining the police service.
In other news, Mrs Corbett and DI Arnott’s fledgling love life appears to be faltering. “Shall we leave it, leave it” asks Steph. “I’m still at work and can’t talk” says Steve. You may be a heartthrob, with gorgeous women falling at your feet, mate. But you are a lousy liar!
How good is DC Chloe Bishop?
Steve Arnott and Chloe have begun to really gel as a team and the bright young detective, convincingly played by Shalom Brune-Franklin, has carried the AC-12 investigation into OCG links with the Vella murder, and connected links to the ‘fourth man or woman’, almost single-handedly.
Is she bent? Hopefully not, as a distinct preference would be for her to be promoted to detective sergeant in a forthcoming Line of Duty series, in an anti-corruption unit headed by DCS Carmichael.
Is she the daughter of bent cop Tony Gates from Series one? Pure guesswork, and I’d rather waste one on a link to the family of Lawrence Christopher, or their justice campaign, and a further professional, or personal, link to Gail Vella.
So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over the closing two episodes, including a 29 minute AC-12 interview scene. Buckle in at 9pm on Sunday, BBC One. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer.
Page last updated: Sunday 25th April, 2021 at 1405 hours
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Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.
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