Line of Duty – review of episode 6

Last week’s review of episode 5 proved a big hit and sets the bar high (read here). There were some good calls, spectacular misses and a couple of shots hit the woodwork. I’m grateful to every one of the tens of thousands who read and shared the piece. This is all a welcome, if challenging, relief from my usual roles as investigative journalist and court reporter.

At the top of that piece was a note about audience ratings and a posit as to whether they will be enough, on their own, to persuade the BBC to commission another series, or maybe two.

Episode 6 was watched by a staggering, and record-breaking, eleven million viewers, but “no news” yet from the broadcaster about the show’s future.

Will Series 6 be the last we see of Line of Duty? With the body count increasing by the week, numerous loose ends being drawn together and so many of the characters from previous seasons back under the spotlight, it gives episode seven, more and more, the look and feel of a grand finale. As such, my confidence in a continuum is ebbing away.

Keeping up with the storyline

PC Ryan Pilkington’s long and extremely violent reign of terror has, mercifully, ended. Inserted into Central Police by a local, but big-hitting, Organised Crime Group (OCG), he was responsible, wholly, or in part, for the murders of at least six police officers.

As forecast in last weeks review/preview, a double-tap from a service issue Glock 17, wielded by Detective Inspector Kate Fleming, an authorised firearms officer (AFO), scored two hits in the upper left chest of the young, rogue cop. Kate, a former anti-corruption officer, is now attached to the force’s Murder Investigation Team (MIT), probing the assassination of investigative journalist, Gail Vella.

Ryan had been recently drafted in to the operation, codenamed Lighthouse, by Superintendent Ian Buckells, who gives the appearance of being under the coercive control of the OCG. He is currently being held on remand at HMP Blackthorn on conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charges.

Pilkington had been groomed, from a very young age, by the former, and now-deceased, OCG leader, Tommy Hunter. Ryan’s prone body was found in a deserted lorry park by Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael, Superintendent Ted Hastings, Temporary Detective Inspector Steve Arnott and Detective Constable Chloe Bishop as they arrived at the scene at which episode 5 had dramatically concluded, with a lethal face-off between bad cop Ryan and good cop, we very much hope, Kate.

By the time the three anti-corruption officers, all members of a unit codenamed AC-12 and accompanied by an AFO detachment, reached the deceased officer, Kate Fleming had fled, along with Temporary Detective Superintendent Joanne Davidson, another officer under the coercive control of the OCG. Kate had been lured to the lorry park by her prospective lover, Jo, on a false pretext. Jo had been instructed by the crime syndicate’s top man to ‘get rid of her’.

C/Supt Carmichael coolly assessed the situation of an, apparently, murdered young police officer, concluded that the other police officer known to be present, and the other suspected of being there, did not have reasonable, or any, cause to flee the scene and were ‘armed and dangerous’. She immediately instructed her junior colleagues to issue an all points alert for their arrest.

The fugitive cops, whose flight is as yet unexplained, had, in fact, driven to DI Arnott’s apartment block, unaware that their service vehicles had been covertly, and very recently, fitted with tracking devices on the orders of Chief Constable Philip Osborne, another proven liar and bent cop. The proof of which dates back almost twenty years to a corrupted investigation in which he was a detective inspector and leading light.

The increasingly obvious, and important, link between Patricia Carmichael and Osborne is underscored when she informs Ted Hastings, without rancour: “The chief and I don’t trust you”.

Kate Fleming, it transpired, has a key to both Steve’s apartment and his smart, and almost new, Mazda sports car. An expensive piece of kit to have lying around on a detective sergeant’s salary, most of which goes on natty, totty-magnet waistcoats (matching jackets and trousers are available).

It later emerged that the Arnott, Fleming house and car key arrangement is reciprocated.

Arnott told a doubting C/Supt Carmichael, later in the episode, it was “for emergencies”. Pressed further by poker faced Patricia, Steve volunteered an even more enigmatic explanation: “in case of an unexplained interruption in the chain of command”.

Friends with benefits (FWB in police jargon) was not mentioned.

As they retrieved a burner phone from a locker at the apartment block, Jo said she wanted to show Kate that she wasn’t bent and asked, in a touching show of trust, for the Glock to be handed to her. She then gripped the gun, ensuring her fingerprints were correctly positioned on the pistol with which DI Fleming had shot Ryan Pilkington.

The two officers then embarked on a short sports car tour of the city, with D/Supt Davidson guiding Kate first to Gail Vella’s home, then on to a site familiar to regular Line of Duty fans: The notorious Kingsgate Printing Services, an OCG front for a hugely lucrative counterfeiting and people trafficking business. Occupied in Series 5 by rogue, and now deceased, undercover cop, Detective Sergeant John Corbett and the now incarcerated Lisa McQueen. Corbett was one of Pilkington’s murder victims, slicing open his throat as almost his last act as an OCG enforcer and just before he went off to train to be a police officer.

Overlooking the print shop is Terry Boyle’s flat. Still in safe house custody after being released from the Gail Vella murder investigation and enquiries into another historic OCG murder; that of their own enabler, Jackie Laverty, in 2012.

During the car journey, Kate told Jo that AC-12 were now aware of her blood relationship to Tommy Hunter. In turn, Jo Davidson confirms that Hunter was her uncle, and had been controlling her since she was 16 years old, but added a surprise twist: ‘My mum was Tommy’s sister. My dad was bent. A police officer’. Kate then suggests to Jo that witness protection would be available if she co-operated with AC-12 and gave up what she knows about the OCG and the key figure(s) running it.

Jo is, understandably, sceptical at AC-9’s ability to keep her safe from the tentacles of the OCG and their coterie of bent cops, adding wistfully: “No matter who it is, how powerful, when they turn they get killed”. Recent history, and the trail of dead bodies, cops and robbers, shows that D/Supt Davidson did not float up the River Clyde on a down boat.

As they reached the print shop, an armed police vehicle arrived at the same time. Instead of surrendering, the two re-connected love birds decide to flee, once again. After a handbrake turn, and ‘doughnut’, that would grace any night-time B&Q car park near you, and a short ‘evade and escape’ chase (more cop jargon), Arnott’s sports car is completely boxed in by the police posse.

The spiked strips known as ‘Stingers’, last seen in action in episode 5 when they brought the prison van containing bent lawyer Jimmy Lakewell to an unscheduled stop, almost ripped the tyres off the Arnott boy racer. But Action Girl Kate, a cop for all seasons, performed a textbook emergency stop.

DC/Supt Carmichael is holding the megaphone and, after a short stand-off, Steve Arnott walks Kate and Jo towards the waiting police vehicles and custody. But not before DI Fleming had told her partner in crime, and romance, that Steve had, confidentially, shared with her “some pretty bad things about the gaffer [Ted Hastings]”.

At first, under the helicopter searchlight and surrounded by carbine-wielding AFO’s, and, particularly, as he was stood with Carmichael, Kate thought that DI Arnott had ratted on them. No way – and with the mystery of how they came to be caught resolved – Steve learned from her that Pilkington had killed Corbett and AC-12’s PC Maneet Bindra. Kate also tipped him off about the print shop link which, shortly afterwards, proved very fruitful.

Arnott, strangely, did not share the information about Ryan’s murderous past with his new boss, but acted immediately on the lead to Kingsgate Printing Services.

As the action switched back to Kingsgate House, AC-12’s plush, glass-lifted HQ, Chloe Bishop was ordered by Carmichael to remove Chief Constable Osborne’s picture from the mug shots adorning the incident room whiteboard. With a theatrical insistence that Chloe uses a shredder on a photocopy of a widely used photograph of a highly public figure, the new boss signals to the rest of the AC-12 unit that, as far as Passive Aggressive Patricia is concerned, Big Phil will not be a subject of investigation into police involvement with organised crime.

The alternative propositions that either she is also bent, and covering for him, or she’s blinded by the mutual loyalty that will earn her further elevation through the higher echelons of Central or East Midlands Police, are well rehearsed elsewhere.

A signal moment in Series 6, or another Jed Mercurio giant red herring? Before this weekend is over we will all know.

So began the longest AC-12 glass box interview in Line of Duty history. A few seconds over 29 minutes and a BAFTA-winning, acting master-class from the magnificent Kelly MacDonald, whose presence, throughout all six episodes, has contributed significantly to this season being the best ever for the show.

Will Jo Davidson survive the finale? A BBC trailer suggests that she is the bait in an AC-12 trap laid for the OCG and its leader(s) – and may have to survive another prison van ambush by murderous villains to do so.

So, what did we learn in that tense, frequently terse, half hour:

(i) First and foremost Joanne Davidson is plainly of the belief that, in the interview room, is an OCG plant. On her side of the table is Police Federation representative, Chief Inspector John Rix, and their appointed solicitor. On the other side of the table is Arnott, Carmichael and Hastings. Take your pick.

(ii) She answered ‘no comment’ on 33 occasions. Plus, when Ted insisted she tell him who ultimately gives the OCG orders, she said something along those lines, but altogether more startling: ‘I can’t. I’m sorry’. But with each of those 34 reserved responses we learned a little more. Another tribute to the formidable writing skills of creator, Jed Mercurio.

(iii) She was unaware that that Tommy Hunter is her father as well as her uncle and that a sample of her DNA taken from Farida Jatri’s flat (that they shared as lovers) revealed evidence of homozygosity, meaning that biometrics linked her both to her mother and her father. ‘No, no. He was my uncle. That…that… that’s not true’, she convincingly sobbed.

(iv) Hunter also forced his sister to go the full term of her pregnancy, and Samantha Hunter left the Central Police area and returned to Glasgow, taking on her mother’s maiden name. It appears that it was a long-term plan to breed corrupt cops and it may yet emerge that Hunter also fathered Ryan Pilkington (a point covered in more detail in last week’s review).

(v) She revealed that Tommy Hunter was a forceful character involved in criminal enterprise from a very young age and his sister Samantha, Jo’s mother, hated the association. She killed herself in 1996 when Hunter found out at that, at aged 16, Jo was doing well in school, had not been in trouble with the law, and he wanted her to join the police as his stooge. He, and the OCG, including its bent coppers controlled her life, thereafter. Maybe, even before.

(vi) She confirmed AC-12 suspicion that Hunter had threatened to rat out the OCG-linked corrupt officers, whom he felt had betrayed him, which is what led to his murder. An ambush organised, in the event, by former AC-12 leading light, Detective Inspector Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan. Also known as The Caddy. Not arranged and executed, as widely thought, by the OCG. Dot was, of course, shot by the OCG whilst shielding Kate Fleming at the conclusion of Series 3.

(vii) She also revealed that the OCG had splintered off into smaller groups, after Hunter’s death, but one bent officer was still at large as ‘H’ or ‘the fourth man (or woman?).

(viii) She was informed by Patricia Carmichael that there was ‘no institutional corruption’ in Central Police.

(ix) She admitted planting the incriminating burner phones in Farida’s flat.

(x) She says she didn’t know why Gail Vella was murdered.

(xi) She also admitted that documents relating to Operation Lighthouse were found at her apartment confirming that detectives were, at one point, pursuing a line of inquiry that Gail’s execution was carried out by a contract killer hired by the OCG (a newspaper clipping to that effect was highlighted in the first few seconds of last week’s episode).

(xii) She had planted documents in the boot of the service vehicle belonging to Ian Buckells. There was also her insistence that Buckells’ zealous pursuit of Terry Boyle as the Vella murderer was ‘an innocent mistake’.

(xiii) She halted enquiries into Terry Boyle because she ‘wasn’t prepared to see an innocent man go to jail for life for something he didn’t do’.

(xiv) She was hand-picked by Buckells to replace the previous SIO on Op Lighthouse, DCI McTulloch, after just one month.

(xv) She leaked the raid on Beechwood House, allowing prime suspect for the Gail Vella murder, Carl Banks, to escape. She also knew in advance about the raid on Hickey’s Bookmakers that was organised, by the OCG, as a distraction to the armed convoy en route to that address.

(xvi) She admitted to manipulating Buckells: ‘It wasn’t hard’, she revealed to a nation not even remotely shocked at this announcement.

(xvii) She learned that her tip-off to Kate, and onward to Steve Arnott, had borne fruit. Gail Vella’s computer had, very conveniently one might say, turned up in a raid on the print shop she identified to them as a location of interest. It contains full details all the Vella investigations linking the police officers involved in suppressing the child sex abuse scandal at Sands View Boys Home and the Lawrence Christopher murder. Marcus Thurwell and Philip Osborne being common to both.

(xviii) She heard C/Supt Carmichael deftly move the interview along when it was brought up that Gail had interviewed both Buckells and Osborne. Poker Pat also informed her fellow card players in the room that the case against Buckells was to be discontinued.

(xix) She further heard, but didn’t appear to notice, four taps of the pen on the desk by the crusty chief super. Fans seizing on this as a Morse Code signal for ‘H’.

(xx) She also learned that her cousin (and half-brother) Darren Hunter is one of five prime suspects in murder of Lawrence Christopher.

(xxi) She gallantly took responsibility for Ryan Pilkington’s murder, citing her first duty as a police officer in the face of threat to life, and, further, revealed that his insertion into Operation Lighthouse was no higher than a method by which to intimidate her. Thus clearing Kate and ensuring her release from custody. A move likely to be of great significance in Sunday’s finale.

(xxii) She refused to identify Detective Chief Inspector Marcus Thurwell as the bent cop and OCG controlling mind. But she looked uneasy, even fearful, when his image was shown on the AC-12 screen.

(xxiii) She was getting her OCG instructions from the messaging service at what appears, at its face, an internet protocol (IP) address in Spain, from where Thurwell was last seen. However, as many fans have pointed out, the OCG could simply be using readily available technology, such as a virtual private network (VPN) to disguise the true location of the ‘Unknown User’.

(xxiv) She said she couldn’t answer Ted Hastings’ question over whether it is Thurwell is the man giving orders from Spain. At that point Patricia Carmichael brings the session to a close with a curt ‘Let’s leave it there’ and instructs that Jo is charged and further detained.

(xxv) Jo is, according to her own account, a subservient and heavily coerced bit-part player in the OCG, and not the police officer, serving or retired at its head.

Altogether, an astonishing passage, and television drama at its finest.

But the show ain’t over until The Fat Lady sings. Or in the present case, the willowy, wistful one with an enchanting, lilting Scottish accent. Whom, in just under a half an hour turned herself around from the nation’s pantomime villain to potential heroine.

At the end of the interview, outsmarted or outranked by his new boss at every turn, a fraught Supt Hastings realises his time is running out to catch ‘H’, also known as (AKA) ‘The Fourth Man’. After a heated, and mostly losing, bout in the office formerly known as Ted’s Corner Retreat, he marches out of the confrontation with Patricia Carmichael. Pausing only at Steve Arnott’s desk: “Sometimes you don’t lose, son, you just run out of time”. Or friends, Ted?

DI Arnott has, however, his own past and present demons to deal with: Central Police’s Occupational Health Unit (OHU) informing him, via email, that he faces suspension from duty if he does not attend a medical interview within seven days of that notice of intention to serve a Regulation 15 notice. Will those crippling back injuries, or a painkiller addiction, achieve what the OCG has tried, and failed, to do for the past nine years: End his police career?

As a result of Jo Davidson taking the blame for the Pilkington shooting, Kate is released from police custody and the grey sweatshirt (the wearing of which follows an AC-12 garment of shame tradition started by Steve Arnott and continued by Ted Hastings), with a Carmichael caveat that Patricia is not to be seen as ‘gullible’ in accepting Jo’s unlikely account of the shooting of the rogue cop, but more in the line of ‘pragmatic’.

Undeterred by the OHU warning, Steve Arnott is almost immediately friends re-united with Kate and they head for the OCG gun workshop at Whiterock Park. Although the detectives and forensic scientists, already at the scene, are getting ready to pack up – Chris Lomax says ‘we’ll be in the Red Lion by eight o’clock’ – another more intensive, specialist search is ordered by the MIT/AC-12 hybrid team, this time taking up the concrete floor which shows signs of recent disturbance.

Lomax was also disturbed when Kate resurrected a variation of one of her best ever lines: ‘Don’t make a tit of yourself, Sarge, we are all in this together’.

Is this a clue that signals the brief return of the clanger-prone East Midlands AC-3 detective inspector, Michelle Brandyce, for the finale? Patricia Carmichael’s bag-carrier in chief and in receipt of a similar Fleming put-down at the end of Series 5.

Whilst at Whiterock, Steve receives a call from Chloe Bishop: AC-12 has tracked down ‘H’ suspect, Marcus Thurlwell to a location near Sevilla, in Spain. But, as forecast in last week’s review, it was too late. The grisly discovery of what appeared to be both his, and his wife’s, rotting bodies awaited the entry of the night-sighted Guardia Civil officers. They had been dead for quite some time, a clue of itself.

In the penultimate scene Jo Davidson is, ominously, seen being guided to her remand cell in HMP Brentiss, when the two OCG controlled prison officers, Jenny Leland and Alison Merchant, who has previously visited mayhem on Lindsay Denton and Farida Jatri, appear, checking out the range of the CCTV which has been specially commissioned by AC-12 to protect their star witness. Has the OCG and/or “H” given orders to get rid of her? Or hand down another violent, maiming attack as a warning?

The show ends with Ted Hastings, swiftly recovered from his mini-breakdown in the glass lift, ominously reviewing an extended version of a speech, previously seen in episode 5, where Chief Constable Philip Osborne, now Ted’s only living suspect, re-iterates his views on what he says are ‘false allegations of police corruption’ and says ominously, and ambiguously, that those found damaging Central Police reputation, from outside or within the force will be dealt with severely: “I will personally see to it that those enemies within are made to suffer the consequences”.

The questions still hanging from previous reviews

Ted Hastings, past present and future?

Quite apart from Kate Fleming sharing, briefly, with Jo Davidson that Steve Arnott knows some bad things about him – his part in the John Corbett murder and the £50,000 cash, obtained criminally, that he gave to Stephanie Corbett – the future looks bleak for Ted. Told to retire, or face disciplinary proceedings, by Deputy Chief Constable Andrea Wise; his job, and office, now taken by the wily Patricia Carmichael; and not trusted by either her or the chief constable. As he says, he is ‘running out of time’.

Not to mention running short of allies. Kate left AC-12 because of her doubts over Ted’s integrity – and now Steve and Jo both know he is bent.

There is also, still, the spectre of his friendship with retired and jailed ex-Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank – now a convicted paedophile – and their mutual Freemasonry connection. Plus the unjoined dots over his close relationship with John Corbett’s mother, Anne Marie Gillis, who was kidnapped, tortured and executed by an Irish paramilitary group, who suspected her of being a police informant.

Being close to Ted Hastings should clearly come with a health warning.

Will he survive the finale? My guess – and it is no higher than that – is that there is an ending that will enable his death, in a blaze of glory, and maybe, heroically, in a hail of gunfire, to be classified as ‘in the line of duty’ and his corrupt past and present smoothed over. Thus saving the reputation of Central Police and the honour of AC-12.

Who and what is Marcus Thurwell?

Last week’s review, on this website, covered the topic in some detail. Now it appears he is dead, and has been for some time, if the peremptory Guardia Civil identification is taken at face value. That would rule him out as the ‘Unknown User’ and sender of the encrypted message to get rid of Kate Fleming. As rehearsed previously (and below), Thurwell was a seriously bent cop with strong links to other OCG controlled officers. But is, or was, he the fourth man, ‘H’. I don’t think so. Is he closely connected to ‘H’ and knows his identity? Much more likely. Did his entry into AC-12’s enquiries present a risk to the OCG and ‘H’. Most definately.

How bent is Ian Buckells?

A previous review posited to what extent the errant superintendent was corrupt or inept. We now know it is at least some of the former and more than a little of the latter.

Since we last saw him, in Jimmy Lakewell’s cell at HMP Blackthorn, being forced to watch OCG leading light, Lee Banks, strangle the bent lawyer, it has emerged, from Jo Davidson’s interview with Ac-12, that Buckells was the officer who removed the original Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) from Operation Lighthouse, DCI Billy McTulloch, after just one month, and she was his chosen replacement. It was also Buckells who brought PC Pilkington into the Gail Vella murder investigation. As noted in the episode 4 review, a rookie cop on the highest profile Central Police case on its books, just didn’t make sense.

So who controls Buckells, as it appears not be Jo, herself controlled and intimidated by Ryan? Maybe, one of the splinter OCG’s mentioned by Jo in interview? Is he the fourth man, ‘H’? I would not rule it out completely, he may have inherited the mantle as others such as C/Supt Fairbank, Assistant Chief Constable Hilton, Deputy Chief Constable Dryden (and his predilection for young girls), and now DCI Thurwell fell away through death or incarceration. But he remains an unlikely leader, as he wouldn’t have the rank or authority to organise some of the more resource intensive police capers but, more particularly, with the even more bent Philip Osborne still very much on the scene.

Whatever the outcome, take a bow Nigel Boyle for an utterly convincing, and suitably confusing, portrayal of this key character, all the way back to Series 1.

Is DCS Patricia Carmichael another bent Central Police cop?

Their is plenty of evidence that points that way. Alternatively, is she a super-efficient, career orientated, box-ticking sycophant so favoured by the police service’s current crop of chief constables. I’m going with the latter: Her principal function as a Professional Standards or Anti-Corruption officer is to protect the reputation of the police force by whom she is engaged and the wider police service. Not a search for the truth. Expediency, and her own self-admitted ‘pragmatic’ nature, particularly over the death of Ryan Pilkington are significant clues in that direction. Why have a ‘blue on blue’ murder trial when a convenient scapegoat presents herself?

‘Noble cause corruption’ is practiced, routinely and assiduously, in all the six police forces I scrutinise as a journalist. On that basis, Patricia Carmichael – so brilliantly played by Anna Maxwell Martin – will survive the finale carnage.

Is Chris Lomax another OCG stooge?

Suspicions have been there from an early stage: The likeness to Dot Cottan, both in physical appearance and deed; the even more concerning similarity to one of the five suspects in the Lawrence Christopher murder and another image that could be mistaken for him on the AC-12 incident room whiteboard. Add to that his failure to notice, or report, key files go missing that were crucial to solving the murder of Gail Vella, his loud objection to having to hand over his phone prior to the raid on the OCG’s weapons workshop, or the weak handling of the forensics team there, particularly his apparent failure to look closer at the concrete floor.

An intriguing call, with so much else going on. Will Detective Sergeant Lomax slip under the radar or die at the hands of the remnants of the much depleted OCG?

But whichever way it falls, Perry Fitzpatrick has been another top class addition to the cast throughout this sixth in the Line of Duty series.

Will they, won’t they?

It very much looks like they will. Jo Davidson has proved that her romantic overtures to Kate Fleming were not faked and that she demonstrated the depth of her feelings, unconditionally, by taking the rap for the shooting of Ryan Pilkington.

Can Kate return the favour by saving Jo’s life during the ambush of the prison van as she is being transferred from HMP Brentiss to an, as yet, unknown location?

Will Kate sail into the sunset of witness protection with Jo? For their safety’s sake, yes. The cards of both are well and truly marked by serious criminals, whether or not they survive the Series 6 finale.

The remaining questions

Why did Fleming and Davidson flee the lorry park?

One of the biggest mysteries in the entire Line of Duty season. Or any other from 1 to 5 for that matter.

Firstly, there was no apparent necessity for Kate, in particular, to flee the scene. She was fully authorised to carry the Glock 9mm pistol that fired the fatal rounds, and, plainly and lawfully, shot Ryan Pilkington using lethal force to preserve life. Her own, in this particular case. Both Kate, and AC-12, already knew that he was an OCG plant in Central Police.

There would have been the usual irritating Post Incident Procedure (PIP), but, surely, Kate’s only sensible course of action was arresting and detaining Jo, then staying put until Steve Arnott, and the AC-12 cavalry, arrived a few minutes later. All the known facts, evidence and forensics would back up what actually happened.

Instead Kate and Jo made a sharp exit in her Audi service vehicle, which even without the recently attached tracking device would be readily traceable through conventional police systems.

So what had Jo said to Kate to prevent her arrest, encourage flight from the lorry park and then, even more astonishingly, think more than once about resisting the blockade and more than a large handful of armed officers and the entire AC-12 hierarchy?

Other than if she and Jo had more time before the police located them, they may have been able to get first dibs at Gail Vella’s computers at the print shop – and furthered a satellite investigation into who, or what, was behind the OCG.

But surely, Jo knows most of that already? Or did she convince Kate that, apart from the depths of personal feeling she has for her, one of her former AC-12 colleagues is one of Jo’s suspects as H and the best chance of unmasking him (or her) is by them working together, alone?

Whom did Samantha Hunter think Jo’s father was?

A sub-set to that question is, of course, to whom was Jo referring to when she talked to Kate Fleming about “my dad”?

There are two obvious hypotheses:

(i) Was she referring to a man whom she believes was her biological father? Jo told Kate that she was ‘never told the details’ of her mother’s rape by whom Samantha believed, or at the very least told Jo, was a police officer. That is, maybe, what she has regarded as the truth ever since.

(ii) Was Jo referring to an adoptive father, who brought her up as his own child? This seems more likely, particularly as Jo now refuses to give AC-12 any further insight into her father, or identify him: ‘This person, did he control you the same way Tommy Hunter did?’, Steve Arnott asked her during the glass box interview. A terse, and fearful, ‘no comment’ was the reply.

The only officer that has featured in Line of Duty that appears old enough, and with a sufficient length of police service, to have been considered as an adoptive parent is Patrick Fairbank. Whose sexual predilection in later life, at least, appears too have been young boys.

Overlaying all that, is the fact that Samantha had sex with her own younger brother, an illicit, but possibly unforced, union that, unexpectedly, produced Joanne. Was Tommy, already at 14 years old a hardened criminal, pimping out his sister to at least one paedophile police officer? The man thought to be Jo’s father.

Marcus Thurwell is ruled out as he was born in 1966 and, as such, only 13 years old at the material time. Curiously, there is no Thurwell father listed on the Central Police records. Could, therefore, Jo and Marcus have had the same adoptive father?

Who was the author of this report?

This is a publicity pic released by the BBC. The mis-spelling of ‘definate’ or ‘definately’ has always been put forward as a big clue to discovering the identity of ‘H’ or the fourth man (or woman). It has been seen at least twice in messages from the OCG’s Mr Big – and used by Ted Hastings once.

My guess is that this is part of a ‘wash-up’ report, authored by C/Supt Patricia Carmichael, near the conclusion of the finale. Revealed after ‘H’ is, purportedly, unmasked. If there is to be another season of Line of Duty this is what would provide a link.

An alternative, or possibly collateral, explanation is that if, as predicted, Ted dies ‘in the line of duty’, this is part of damage limitation exercise by Central Police to divert attention away from institutionalised corruption within the force and links with the now heavily disrupted OCG.

Well done if you have followed all that. I almost lost myself writing it!

How bent was the Central Vice Squad

Even a cursory look back is very revealing and may yet unlock the mystery of the fourth man, or ‘H’. Is the dementia of Patrick Fairbank an act and does he still wield influence from the relaxed regime of the open prison, HMP Queen’s Chase. To a sufficient extent that he is able to instruct a proxy. Perhaps his old friend and fellow Freemason, Ted ‘I hate bent coppers’ Hastings? Thurwell was also believed to be a Mason.

With the murders of John Corbett at the end of Series five and that of Marcus Thurwell last week, Fairbank is now the only survivor. Like Ted Hastings, he is not a good man to be around if you were planning a long and happy retirement.

What is in the West Yorks Police folder on Steve Arnott’s PC desktop?

This, of course, is mostly irrelevant to the vast majority of viewers residing out of the force’s operational area. But to one who has spent over 10 years exposing corruption, and cover-up after cover-up involving this police force (‘a mountain’s worth’ to borrow the phrase of Ted Hastings’), its incompetent, inefficient ‘there is no corruption in West Yorkshire’ Police and Crime Commissioner and his shifty, shady chief executive (think of a supercharged male version of Gill Biggeloe), it is highly intriguing to me.

A recent case (read in full here) involved a stone cold conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by a Professional Standards detective inspector in 2012, hung by his own petard, whom regardless, travelled up the ranks to become a chief superintendent and the Head of Crime in West Yorkshire Police. He retired soon after that article was published and readers, and Line of Duty fans, are invited to draw their own inferences from that.

Every conceivable effort to have the matter re-investigated by another police force has been rebuffed, all the way up to the Home Office. Reputation is everything, especially under Priti ‘I’ve got the police’s back’ Patel.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to in this season’s cliff hanging finale. ‘Buckell’ in at 9pm on Sunday, BBC One. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Page last updated: Sunday 2nd May, 2021 at 1715 hours

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Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© 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.

Popular policing drama set for return

The highly acclaimed Line Of Duty is back on our TV screens on Sunday March 21st, 2021, the BBC has confirmed. Particularly popular in this quarter, as much of the content elsewhere on this website features policing issues and officer misconduct, writes Neil Wilby.

For two years, devoted fans have been keenly anticipating the sixth instalment of the highly acclaimed police drama, based around an anti-corruption unit codenamed AC-12, and racking brains as to whom, or what, the enigmatic ‘H’ could be. A very corrupt and influential senior officer (or policing official) as yet to be unmasked or a Morse Code signal (H = dot dot dot dot) that indicates there were four corrupt officers in league together.

In the last series, an attempt to frame Superintendent Ted Hastings as ‘H’ failed, as a result of the efforts of his resourceful subordinates, who thwarted AC-3’s Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael – and a conspiracy to murder charge.

There were also dark references to Masonic influence earlier in the piece.

Series five, the most edgy yet, and featuring undercover officers inserted into a serious and organised crime group, aired between March and May 2019, left viewers on that particular cliff edge – and reeling as it was revealed these corrupt officers at or near the top of the hierarchy: Gill Biggeloe (senior aide to the police and crime commissioner), Assistant Chief Constable Derek Hilton and AC-12’s own DI Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan, with the final member, or members, remaining at large.

Filming for series six began in Belfast in February last year. However, the virus epidemic halted shooting in its fourth week, a fortnight before the UK went into lockdown. Some of the cast and crew had been experiencing COVID19 symptoms.

There were rumours at the time that the schedule may be completely overhauled as a result, but it was later confirmed that the cast returned to Belfast to continue filming in October 2020 with rigorous safety measures in Place. Including the building of a complete new, better ventilated set for the AC-12 interview room, where a good deal of action takes place.

Regular stars Vicky McClure (Detective Inspector Kate Fleming), Adrian Dunbar (Hastings) and Martin Compston (Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott) all return, whilst the show also sees Shalom Brune-Franklin play a new recruit to the AC-12 team, Detective Constable Chloe Bishop.

Kelly Macdonald (best known as Trainspotting star, Diane Coulston) makes her debut as guest lead: Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Davidson, the senior investigating officer on an unsolved murder case whose suspicious conduct attracts the attention of anti-corruption officers. Kelly also appeared in a supporting role in one of my all-time favourite films, Gosford Park.

Also set to appear for the first time is Andi Osho who will take the part of Gail Vella, a name that may ring a bell amongst Line of Duty aficionados: In the trailer for series six publicising this season’s extra episode (watch here), Steve Arnott tells the boss: “Regardless of the personnel involved, Vella’s still the highest-profile inquiry engaging this force.”

It is hoped the brilliant, deadpan Anna Maxwell Martin will return as DCS Carmichael. She made her debut in the fifth season of Line of Duty as she stepped in to shake things up at AC-12, getting under Ted Hastings’ skin in very short order.

As fans continue to speculate over the identity of the remaining ‘bad apple’, some have even put Patricia Carmichael onto their suspect list. But in truth, everyone is now under scrutiny following Steve Arnott’s morse code discovery at the end of the last series when reviewing Dot Cottan’s dying declaration.

One superintendent definitely re-appearing is Ian Buckells (played by Nigel Boyle), a Line of Duty veteran from series one. He has an adversarial history with AC-12, and with Kate Fleming in particular, having rumbled her undercover identity in series four.

Polly Walker and Maya Sondhi will be missed as Gill Biggelow and PC Maneet Bindra. Two fine actresses who contributed significantly in the previous series. But the outstanding actress, or actor, across the history of the programme will not be appearing again: Keeley Hawes who played Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton in series two and three.

Line Of Duty returns in the prime 9pm to 10pm slot on BBC One. It will air weekly at the same time. The series features seven episodes, making it the longest to date. The extended break did, in the event, create an unexpected bonus, as it allowed series creator Jed Mercurio to write and produce the extra programme.

Who else can’t wait?

Page last updated on Saturday 20th March, 2021 at 1035hrs

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