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Downing drama set to hit our screens

The TV drama In Denial of Murder, based on investigative journalist Don Hale’s battle to free Stephen Downing from prison, is due to be screened this spring.

Don’s determination to prove Downing’s innocence captured the imagination of the press and public alike, resulting in him being awarded the OBE for services to journalism.

The drama, due to be screened by the BBC in March, explores the controversial case of Downing and the murder in 1973 of Wendy Sewell in Bakewell cemetery in the Peak District.

It is based on extensive research and tells the moving and tragic story behind the headlines, combining the story of Don’s campaign with an account of the life of the murder victim.

Stephen Tompkinson (below left) plays the former Matlock Mercury editor, while Caroline Catz takes on the role of Wendy Sewell, whom it was claimed was beaten sexually abused and then murdered by Downing, then 17 years old.

Downing, who always maintained his innocence, was freed after serving 27 years.

He was ineligible for an earlier release or parole as he remained “in denial of murder”.

After his release in 2002 following a Court of Appeal quashing of the conviction, the case became recognised as one of Britain’s most significant miscarriages of justice.

Yet after further investigations by detectives, the police announced that Downing was still the only suspect.

BBC head of drama commissioning, Gareth Neame, said: “The facts of this case, together with a renewed examination of the concept of double jeopardy, make this a fertile area for drama.

“Neil McKay’s script has a perfect combination of personal determination and tragedy against a background of far-reaching social and legal themes.”

Final editing of the drama was due to be completed this week.

  • Stephen Tompkinson is best known for his roles in Ballykissangel, Grafters and Drop the Dead Donkey. Caroline Catz has starred in The Vice and The Bill.

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